Re-enactors teach students about Civil War

Monday, May 1, 2006

Some students at Sykesville Middle School are thankful that they live in 2006, and not the early 1860s, after a special history lesson.

More than 300 of the school’s eighth-graders trekked to Cooper Park for the activity today, trading desks for a seat on the grass, fascinated by the sight before them.

Under the shade of trees and among the chirping of happy spring birds lay a gruesome scene – an ‘‘injured” Civil War soldier on a makeshift operating table surrounded by medical tools, muskets, medical drawings, and plenty of blood. Above the victim stood Robert Urban, a surgeon re-enactor, who demonstrated how injuries were treated in the field during the American Civil War.

‘‘In the field, they didn’t have the technology to make everything better, so like now, they had to make split-second decisions. This was the typical decision for a limb injury,” Urban said, chopping off a wax wrist and tossing it into a bloody basket filled with severed hands, feet, arms and legs. ‘‘It most cases they cut it off. The original instructions from the Civil War were to cut the arm off.”

Urban went on to explain how blood vessels at the end of the limb were tied off and sutured and how the soldier often felt everything because modern advances such as anesthesia were not invented yet,

‘‘Seven out of 10 died from shock,” Urban said, adding that chloroform was used to put the patient in ‘‘la la land” because ether was too flammable and often knocked out attending physicians.

Read the whole story in Thursday’s edition of The Gazette.