Monday, November 8, 2010

In Which Jim Visits New Iberia - Part the Second - The Encampment

As mentioned in the previous post, the reason my family and I visited the historic Shadows-on-the-Teche in New Iberia, LA, this past weekend was to attend their annual Civil War Encampment. Ms. Catherine Schramm - the Shadows' Director of Educational Services - kindly invited me to come and speak about Civil War medicine.

I gave three different talks, all with different content as they were different audiences:

First, on Friday evening, I gave a talk to area Cub Scouts, Webelos, and Boy Scouts and their families who had gathered for a night of fun and camping at the city park. In my talk - just 10 or 15 minutes - I concentrated on what the Scouts had in common with the Civil War soldier on both sides: the vast majority of their time was spent in camp and not on the battlefield. If anyone of the Scouts could get in a time machine they could save a lot of lives by telling soldiers what they know about how to choose a good campground, why it is important to keep your camp and yourself clean, how to prepare food, etc. I also talked just a bit about Civil War surgery, told them how important and fun it is to study history, and answered some (great) questions from the kids. Thanks to Dr. George Cousin for the invitation! Some Civil War reenactors followed up with great demonstrations of cavalry and infantry drilling and firearms!

Next, on Saturday morning, I gave a talk on 19th-century medicine in general. Thanks to Catherine Schramm, I was able to include excerpts from correspondence and other archival material from the Weeks family that lived in the Shadows before and during the war. In 30 minutes or so, I emphasized the role of women in medical care in the home in the early- and mid-1800s, the scourge of disease among soldiers during the war, myth-busting of conventional wisdom about Civil War surgery, and - in keeping with the theme of this year's encampment - talked a bit about advances in medicine in the post-war/Reconstruction era.

Finally, on Saturday afternoon, just after the skirmish scenario, the soldiers brought a "wounded" drummer boy to the speaking area and I gave another 30-minute talk, concentrating on Civil War surgery. Again - some GREAT questions from the audience!

In between and afterward, I enjoyed watching and listening to the living historians! It was a terrific event!

I took this video of an artillery demonstration:

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