National Medical Museum To Update Ongoing Exhibit Showcasing Civil War Medicine

Dec. 29, 2014, Silver Spring, Md.: The National Museum of Health and Medicine (NMHM), a Department of Defense museum, will unveil its 1865 Civil War exhibit – the final temporary installation of artifacts and specimens commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War – this January.

NMHM has featured artifacts and specimens related to the four-year war in its ongoing exhibit dedicated to Civil War medicine at its home in Silver Spring, Maryland. A central element of that exhibit has been a rotating display from each year of the war – featuring artifacts, specimens and photographs from battles or events during that given year, 150 years later.

In 2013, NMHM featured numerous specimens from the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863. Throughout 2014, to further recognize the sesquicentennial anniversary of the Civil War, the museum featured specimens and artifacts from conflicts including the Battle of the Wilderness - the first battle between Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's 1864 Virginia Overland Campaign and Gen. Robert E. Lee's Confederate Army of Northern Virginia.

"Not only was 1865 a significant point in the war, but it was pivotal in the foundation of the museum," said Gwen Nelmes, NMHM tour program coordinator, who coordinated the yearly Civil War exhibit updates. "This is the final year of the war and the beginning of this museum and its role in understanding military medicine."

One of the specimens featured in the 1865 exhibit contains an embedded piece of fabric in the actual wound. That fabric appears to be from a Union soldier's uniform, according to Brian Spatola, NMHM anatomical collections manager.

Other events from 1865 include Lee's surrender at the Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia, the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, the beginnings of medical photography, and the culmination of the data collection for the "Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion," one of the foremost documents relating to battlefield medicine. "Medical and Surgical History" synthesized statistical data describing diseases that ravaged both the Union and Confederate armies, as well as case studies that discussed the treatment of wounds and included long-term, individual patient histories. (An exhibit on "Medical and Surgical History" will open at NMHM in February 2015.)

Media Availability:

Media representatives are invited to visit the updated Civil War medicine exhibit. Advance notice is required. Contact Paul Bello, NMHM Public Affairs Specialist, at (301) 319-3313.


Caption: Left femur of Pvt. Jeremiah Nolf, Co. A, 155th Pennsylvania Volunteers, age 23. Gunshot wound at the Battle of Petersburg, Va., on March 25, 1865. Treated by amputation on April 7, 1865; died April 22, 1865. Note the blue fibers seen to the right side of the bullet hole: a woven pattern is visible under microscope and the fabric is believed to be part of Nolf’s clothing. (AFIP 384926) (Disclosure: This image has been cropped to emphasize the subject.) (National Museum of Health and Medicine photo by Matthew Breitbart/ Released)
Caption: Left femur of Pvt. M.D. Clark, Co. D, 6th Ohio Volunteers, age 18. Gunshot wound at the Battle of Petersburg, Va., on March 31, 1865. Treated by amputation on April 5, 1865. (AFIP 1000306) (Disclosure: This image has been manipulated by using dodging and burning techniques. It has been cropped and rotated to emphasize the subject.) (National Museum of Health and Medicine photo illustration by Matthew Breitbart/ Released)
Caption: Staff of the Army Medical Museum (AMM) and Office of the Surgeon General’s Library in 1865. Standing (left to right): Major Surgeon William G. Spencer, Assistant Surgeon Alfred A. Woodhull, Surgeon General Joseph K. Barnes, and Assistant Surgeon Edward Curtis. Seated (left to right): Assistant Surgeon George A. Otis (Curator of the AMM), Assistant Surgeon Charles H. Crane, and Assistant Surgeons John S. Billings, and Joseph J. Woodward. (Reeve 045344) (Otis Historical Archives, National Museum of Health and Medicine photograph/Released)