Wounded Civil War soldiers and their fight to cope with disabling battlefield injuries will be featured in an upcoming National Library of Medicine exhibit at the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine (WVSOM).
“Life and Limb: The Toll of the Civil War” will explore the experiences of disabled Civil War veterans who were forced to sacrifice their limbs in order to save their lives.
This is WVSOM’s third National Library of Medicine exhibit, which will be on display Feb. 11 through March 23 at the library on the Lewisburg campus.
Mary Essig, WVSOM library director, said the exhibit focuses on the stories of disabled veterans rather than the surgeons, physicians and nurses whose stories are richly documented from that time.
“This is more than just the general history of Civil War and Civil War medicine,” she said. “There’s a lot of interest in that history, but the contribution of disabled veterans often gets forgotten.”
The Life and Limb exhibit will offer WVSOM students and local community members a glimpse into the medical field between 1861 and 1865 — from common surgeries to medical instruments to the creation of an “Invalid Corps” in 1863. According to the NLM, about 60,000 surgeries during the war were amputations. Many times the surgeries were completed without anesthesia and in some cases left patients with painful sensations in the severed nerves.
The practice of medicine has certainly evolved in the past 150 years, but perhaps not as much as some might think.
“For our medical students, this is part of the history of medicine and how things developed,” Essig said. “It’s interesting to see the surgical implements of the past and see how far we’ve come, but yet how similar some of them are to what we still use today.”
Exhibit hours are 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday through Thursday; 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Friday; 12 to 6 p.m., Saturday; and 2 to 10 p.m., Sunday.
For more information about the exhibit, contact the library at 304-647-6261. Information can also be found online at http://www.wvsom.edu/Academics/workshops-events/lifeandlimb.