Thursday, October 3, 2013

A Window to the Museum


“Figuratively speaking this city [Frederick] is one vast hospital, and yet hundreds of poor fellows continue to arrive, who have their wounds attended to, and away they go, uncomplaining.” -Philadelphia Inquirer, September 25, 1862
 
      Even before our museum visitors see the displays in our galleries, they see our big front window display.  This display is our chance to grab people’s attention and to interest them in what they will see if they choose to walk through our front doors.  While our former display certainly served its purpose in presenting an aspect of Civil War medicine, it had been there for several years.  It was time for a change!
 
 
  
Our previous display depicted Mary Ann “Mother” Bickerdyke tending to a wounded soldier on the battlefield at night.  Mother Bickerdyke served as a nurse during the Civil War.  She was known for her dedication to “her boys,” to the point of scouring the battlefields after dark with a lantern, in case any of the wounded men had been overlooked.
 
     Our new window display still deals with the treatment of the wounded soldiers, but it also highlights our tie to the city where our museum is located, Frederick, Maryland.  Now you may wonder what Frederick has to do with the Civil War.  After all, there was no Battle of Frederick (though we did have the Battle of Monocacy).  Frederick’s biggest contribution, at least to Civil War medicine, was actually due to the Battle of Antietam.   

     After the Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest single day of battle in U.S. history, Frederick was transformed into a major medical center for the military.  Twenty-seven of the city’s buildings, including churches, schools, hotels, and meeting halls, were taken over for hospital use by the Union Medical Department.  At one point, the wounded soldiers outnumbered the residents of the town!  Many of these historic buildings are still standing, and some of these are featured in our window display. 
 
The only drawback to our new window display is that it does not photograph well due to all the reflections in the glass!  Here you can see a portion of it, which shows three of the historic buildings in Frederick that were used as hospitals during the Civil War.  I’ll just have to give a shameless plug for my museum and advise you to come and see the rest of the display in person! 
 
     The display also features a theme which can be seen throughout our museum, "Civil War Medicine; It’s not what you think!"  It’s not just about the surgical instruments and medical procedures of the time.  It’s about the men and women who cared for the sick and wounded soldiers, and the medical innovations which were developed as a result, innovations which are the basis of some of today’s medical knowledge and procedures. 

     Civil War Surgeon, Henry Stewart Hewit summed up Frederick’s contribution well:   

"The city of Frederick is pleasantly situated in a fertile and beautiful valley with an environment of distant hills.  The town has the combined advantages of a compact well built city in the midst of a rural agricultural district.  It is paved, lighted with gas, and supplied with pure soft water brought in pipes from mountain springs.  It is in those respects admirably adapted for the sudden emergency it was called upon to fulfill in affording accommodation for the hospitals improvised after the great battles of the 14th and 17th of September.  The completeness and efficiency with which the emergency was met, will live in all future history, and will reflect honor upon the inhabitants who ministered with boundless charity to the wants of the wounded, and the Medical officers who knew how to avail themselves of the local advantages.”

     To hear more about why the National Museum of Civil War Medicine is located in Frederick, Maryland, click here.

 
Photos courtesy of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine.

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