Recently, I was fortunate that Todd Owens granted me an interview. Todd is Commander of the Army of Trans Mississippi for the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Every Halloween weekend, you can find him and others at the Battle of Mansfield State Park, http://www.mansfieldbattlefield.org/state.asp, where they will “reenact” field hospital procedures in the true spirit of Halloween and a haunted battlefield. In this interview, Todd shares a bit of information he has learned regarding Civil War medicine.
1. What misconceptions do people have about Civil War medicine and physicians? The main misconception is that the doctors were butchers, operating without any type of medicine to help relieve the pain.
2. What was the job of a nurse in the Civil War? The main job of a nurse was the same as it is today, the care and comfort of the wounded soldiers.
3. Tell me about your persona and the work of a Civil War Doctor. I do the persona of the War Between the States undertaker/dentist. The late 1850 was when the use of embalming came into it’s heyday. The first well known case of the use of an embalmer was when the son of Union President Abraham Lincoln died in the White House. President Lincoln would go to the tomb of his son, the workers would remove the lid of the vault and it is said that the President would sit there for hours just staring at the face of his dead son.
4. How did the Confederate medical system differ from that of the Yankees? There was not that much difference in the medical system between the North and the South. The only main difference was that the South had a Dentist Corps. The North did not see the advantage to having dentist in the ranks.
5. What are some comments regarding your presentation you’ve heard from people that are interesting? The most often made comment is that they did not realize that there were undertakers during the war. I have even, while doing living history events, made several of the students on the school days sick to their stomachs when doing my demonstrations. That is when you know that you are doing something so good that the people think it is real.