The past couple of years we’ve seen sesquicentennial observances of many of the Civil War battles. Last year the biggest one was for the Battle of Antietam. This year July 1 will mark 150 years since the start of the Battle of Gettysburg. Any museum which deals with the Civil War is probably going to have an exhibit or special event to mark the occasion. Last week though, I was able to visit an entire museum which is opening for the occasion!
The Seminary Ridge Museum in Gettysburg will be officially opening on July 1. The historic building was the part of the Lutheran Theological Seminary campus, but was used during the Civil War as an observation point and a field hospital. Their exhibits are titled, “Voices of Duties and Devotion” and they cover three main areas, the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg on Seminary Ridge, the use of the building as field hospital, and some of the moral and spiritual debates of the time. The description from their website summarizes it well: “The new Gettysburg Seminary Ridge Museum….will allow visitors to walk the halls of a building where wounded soldiers suffered, hear voices of duty and devotion and stand in the spot in the Seminary cupola where Union Gen. Buford observed approaching Confederate forces.” I must admit that I was most eager to see the view from their famed cupola! Here’s a view of Gettysburg from the cupola. The red flag you see on the rail was used to designate this building as a field hospital. Though it was raining and misty on the day I visited, and the parking lot would not have been there in 1863, you can still the tactical advantage which General Buford and his signal officer, Aaron Jerome, had from this spot. From here, they were able to observe the Confederate troop strength and movements. Back inside the museum, I was impressed to discover three full floors of exhibits and interactive displays, which I thought were very well done. Of course, I was most interested in the displays which dealt with the building’s use as a field hospital. I was intrigued by this prosthetic arm made of leather and metal, which had hook, brush and knife attachments. This arm belonged to Private Levi Sorrells, Company B, 10th Illinois Volunteer Infantry, who was wounded July 27, 1864 at Atlanta GA. A hospital scene depicts the crowded conditions for patients at the field hospital. They included many interesting details and even added flies to patients! Of course, no Civil War hospital scene would be complete without an amputation! Notice that anesthesia is being administered to the patient here. These artifacts look familiar! The surgical kit, Grey’s Anatomy book from 1859, capital saw, and surgical needles and suture are here on loan from my museum, the National Museum of Civil War Medicine. Here are more familiar artifacts; an embalming kit and peppermint bottle. You can read more about this bottle in one of my previous posts: http://guardianoftheartifacts.blogspot.com/2012/09/my-favorite-things.html I was glad I had the opportunity for a “sneak peek” at this new exhibit. If you’re in the Gettysburg area, you should go for a visit! Photos courtesy of the Seminary Ridge Museum, http://www.seminaryridgemuseum.org/.