America Civil War Family Travel Maryland Travels

National Museum of Civil War Medicine in Frederick, Maryland

The last Civil War-related stop on our trip was the National Museum of Civil War Medicine in quaint Frederick, MD. Civil War Medicine is of particular interest to me because of my training in medicine, so we scheduled an extra day in our itinerary to be able to visit.

I wasn’t sure, however, if the children would find it especially interesting. Perhaps it would be a bit too complicated for them? Not at all. It turns out they were very interested. And the museum itself had exhibits for many different interest levels.

Civil War medical supplies
Civil War stretcher

One of the things my children enjoyed learning was that once an enemy was wounded, he was no longer considered an enemy. That wounded soldier would be treated at whatever makeshift hospital was nearby.

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My two 6-year-olds were already familiar with this idea after reading the book Civil War on Sunday by Mary Pope Osbourne (part of the Magic Treehouse series). The characters in this book travel back in time to meet Civil War nurse Clara Barton and end up offering help to a confederate soldier, even though they were part of the Union side in the story.

Life-size diorama of Civil War-era ambulance

One important link from the past to the present that the children were able to grasp was that the idea of the ambulance was not very widespread before the Civil War. I asked them the following: “If you have a hospital and everything you need in one place, and a sick person in another, what else would you need?” They really didn’t get it at first. They came up with the answers: “A doctor.” “A nurse.” “Medicine.” But they did not understand that they would need a way to transport the sick person to the hospital. I love making these interesting little connections in their brains.

Life-size diorama of an amputation

The thing that my kids liked most about our visit to the National Museum of Civil War Medicine was the life-size dioramas. Some of them had buttons that you could push to hear what might have been being said by the people in the diorama.

My favorite exhibit was one containing this Civil War-era History of Present Illness. We all know this as the questions the doctor asks you when you visit her at the office. There are a few questions on the Civil War HPI that aren’t really used anymore, like “Have you ever had the horrors?” and “Are you subject to the piles?” Interesting.

Civil War-era History of Present Illness

I recommend stopping here if you are in the area.

Janette DeFelice, MD, MA is a writer currently focusing on how the changing environment affects our health. Her essay collection Resistance Essays from the Heartland and her new novel Delia Rising: A Ballet in Three Acts are both available now. She has also published at Be The Change Mom, ChicagoNow, and She holds a Doctor of Medicine degree from Chicago Medical School and a Master’s degree in Humanities from the University of Chicago, where her major essay was Hegel and Ibsen: The Evolution of Consciousness in Ibsen’s Prose Play Cycle. She also has a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Indiana University. A former professional dancer, former adjunct Humanities professor, and former lecturer in Medical Clinical Skills, as well as a mom of 9-year-old twins, she currently finds herself at a career/life crossroads at which she is trying to figure out how to use all aspects of herself (her art, her medical and scientific knowledge, her philosophical explorations, her interest in popular culture as a teaching tool, and her unique perspective) for the good of humanity.

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