Civil War demonstrations
Where: Crawford W. Long Museum, 28 College St., Jefferson
When: Amputation re-enactments 11 a.m., 1 and 3 p.m. today and Saturday; authors Barry Brown and Gordon Elwell, book signing and discussion, 2 p.m. today
Admission: $5 adults, $4 seniors, $3 students
More info: 706-367-5307, www.crawfordlong.org
The Civil War, a conflict that brought unprecedented change to a fledgling America, began 150 years ago this week.
The Crawford W. Long Museum in Jefferson is honoring the anniversary with an exhibit exploring Civil War medicinal practices, from the use of herbal remedies to battlefield medicine.
An unveiling ceremony is set for today and Saturday, with activities to include amputation re-enactments and a book discussion and signing.
Authors Barry Brown and Gordon Elwell will discuss their book, "Crossroads of Conflict: A Guide to Civil War Sites in Georgia" at 2 p.m. today. Brown works with the Georgia Department of Economic Development, and Elwell is a former staff member for the Georgia Civil War Commission.
Copies of the book will be available for purchase at $22.95.
Amputation re-enactments will be held at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. today and Saturday. Valarie Cox, a registered nurse and member of the Society of Civil War Surgeons, will discuss the history of medical and surgical procedures during the war.
Choosing an exhibit focused on the war's impact on medicine seemed a logical choice, said Lesa Campbell, the museum's project manager.
Dr. Crawford W. Long, credited with being the first person to discover that ether could be used as an anesthetic, treated both Union and Confederate soldiers during the war, which spanned 1861-65.
"What we decided to work with that draws off of Dr. Long is we're going to talk about what conditions were like in the Civil War medically and what was going on with trying to treat the troops medically," Campbell said.
When the war began, not much was known about disease, what caused it and how it was transmitted.
People didn't understand germ theory and army conditions were anything but clean.
In fact, more soldiers died not from battlefield wounds, but from disease. More than 1.5 million Union forces fought in the war compared to 1.1 million Confederates.
Of the 359,528 deaths the Union suffered, 249,458 were a result of disease. Similarly, the Confederates suffered 258,000 deaths, 164,000 from disease.
"Weaponry had improved a great deal," Campbell said.
"Medicine was just on the edge of improving a great deal, so it really got caught at a bad time with things going opposite ways."
At that time, Campbell said bullet technology had improved so when one struck an arm, leg or other extremity, it would shatter the bone. Amputation was the only treatment.
"All those horror stories of there being piles of limbs and all that, yeah, that happened because that was the primary treatment they could do that might be successful," she explained.
Doctors could perform an amputation in as little as two minutes. Following major battles they sometimes operated for 36 hours straight.
An amputation kit will be among the items on display in the exhibit, as well as a collection of plants Confederate forces readily used for medicine.
When the Union began blockading southern ports, Confederate troops no longer had access to medicine, prompting a return to more homegrown remedies.
"We had just gone from having manufactured medicine and doctors not having to make all of their own ... but all of the (manufacturing) plants were up north so after a while they couldn't get stuff," Campbell said.
If unable to attend this weekend's festivities, the exhibit will remain on display for the next four years.
Admission to the museum, located at 28 College St. in downtown Jefferson, is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and $3 for students. For more information, call 706-367-5307.
For more information on the 150th anniversary of the Civil War and other planned events, visit www.civilwar.org/150th-anniversary.