Because 2013 marks the middle of the sesquicentennial of the American Civil War, programming on this topic is particularly relevant, so this month we’re highlighting Peru (Ill.) Public Library for its full day of programs about what medicine was like during this period. In partnership with the Canal Corridor Association and LaSalle Public Library, the library played host to the 17th Corps Field Hospital. The group of medical re-enactors gave demonstrations of medical procedure and brought a traveling museum of medical equipment, some of which was actually from the time period of the Civil War.
All audiences were welcome to the day’s programs, beginning at 10 a.m., but the first program presented was intended for elementary and middle school children and explained how the military recruited during the Civil War. During the second program, at noon, the costumed “surgeons” demonstrated a bullet extraction, considered a minor surgery. While treating the patient, the presenters also shared facts about nineteenth-century medical practices as well as soldiers’ physical and emotional reactions to operations.
At 2 p.m., pharmacy personnel showed how pills and medicines were made. A major surgery was performed at 4 p.m. on a soldier who had lost feeling in his foot after the bone had been shattered. After concurring that amputation was necessary, the surgeons demonstrating giving the patient anesthesia and operated. As they removed the foot, they explained the procedures they were following and the tools and medications they used—all standard of the time period. For those brave enough, watch this amputation—and how the library was converted into a period hospital—for yourself below.