Carroll County Times

Toasting Civil War's 150th anniversary: Frederick museum uses beer events as way to spread word about the role of medicine

FREDERICK - When Kyle Wichtendahl leads National Museum of Civil War Medicine tours, he discusses wounds, surgeries and amputations.

The museum attracts Civil War aficionados curious about how soldiers were treated, but the staff there must diversify to attract a broader base.


So they drink beer.

In a joint effort with Frederick's Brewer's Alley and the Monocacy Valley Bottling Company, the National Museum of Civil War Medicine introduced Civil War Beer: The Sesquicentennial Series this year.


The beers were created to coincide with the 150th anniversary of nearby Civil War battles, including Antietam in Washington County and the Battle of Gettysburg. The beer tastings are among many events scheduled throughout the region in the quest to attract tourism and spark interest in the roles nearby communities played in the Civil War.

Antietam Ale and Proclamation Porter have already been released in honor of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. First Draught will be released at a first taste party from 4-6 p.m. March 5.

The idea is a simple one, said George Wunderlich, the executive director of the Civil War Medicine museum, located off Patrick Street in Frederick.

Our ancestors drank beer, he said. The beers created for the 150th were inspired by actual Civil War recipes.

In a laid-back setting like the beer tastings, the Civil War medicine staff can spark interest in their encyclopedic knowledge about the Civil War.

"You're having a shared experience that a Civil War soldier would have had," Wunderlich said. "You can experience a part of history."

Spreading Civil War knowledge

Wunderlich, a resourceful type, will take advantage of any excuse he can to share Civil War knowledge. The beer tastings and the 150th anniversary of the Civil War offer that chance.

Like so many museums in the region, the Civil War Medicine building features exhibits that focus on Gettysburg, the pivotal battle where Union soldiers sent Gen. Robert E. Lee's charges retreating back to the south.

But Wichtendahl, who has studied the Civil War extensively, notes during his tours that the residents in communities throughout the mid-Atlantic were also affected by the clashes, including many where major battles did not take place.

One display at the Civil War Medicine museum features a scale model of Hammond Hospital located in Point Lookout, a peninsula between the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay in St. Mary's County.

The hospital was originally built in 1862. A prisoner of war camp was set up on the same peninsula, Wichtendahl said. The structure wound up taking in both Union and Confederate soldiers.

The hospital was torn down after the war. Only a monument remains, located at Point Lookout State Park near a lighthouse.

This site, vital to the Civil War effort, is now a mecca for vacationers in the summer looking for a day by the water. But at one time, it was part of an elaborate system set up to care for the war's wounded.

At field hospitals closer to the battlefields, amputations, done by trained surgeons, were completed with great care.

"These were actual professional, educated medical practices," Wichtendahl said. "They aren't simply lopping off the leg. They are going to provide a detailed surgical operation with precision cutting to actually make a safe and practical amputation."

Carroll cares for soldiers

Near the railroad tracks in Westminster, a triage site was set up to care for wounded soldiers from the Battle of Gettysburg.

Even though Gettysburg was fought 25 miles to the north, Westminster and the surrounding areas played a vital role in the care of wounded soldiers, said Tom LeGore, a Carroll County Civil War historian and author.

Prior to the Battle of Gettysburg, Gen. George Meade, the commander of the Army of the Potomac, set up his headquarters in Taneytown in June 1863.

Union soldiers received mail and were paid in Taneytown, handed a series of bills cut off from a large roll of cash.

Meade thought he would fight Gen. Robert E. Lee's Confederate troops in the area. Turns out he needed to scoot north to meet the Confederacy just over the Maryland-Pennsylvania line instead.

The Union supply train, featuring 5,000 wagons, stretched all the way back into Carroll, LeGore said. At first, many of the first aid wagons were located miles away from the battlefield itself.

Before they were repositioned, doctors from the area went to the battlefield to treat soldiers.

The Emmitsburg-based Daughters of Charity were among the first to care for soldiers on site, according to first-hand accounts from the Daughters of Charity Provincial Archives in Emmitsburg.

Some Confederate soldiers also staggered their way back to Emmitsburg after the battle, where the Daughters of Charity cared for them and gave them hot meals.

The wounded were also transported back to Westminster. Many were then taken from Westminster by rail to hospitals in nearby cities, including Baltimore and Washington.

"Really, moving the wounded out of Gettysburg was a massive task," LeGore said. "Thousands of wounded came through Westminster and Union Bridge."


Remembering true costs of war

The National Museum for Civil War medicine serves as a sobering reminder of what wounded troops went through after battle.

One exhibit there shows what a field hospital would look like. They were located usually in a barn or tent near the fighting, where soldiers were grouped into one of three groups: mortally wounded, slightly wounded and those who were candidates for surgery.

In Civil War related operations, 95 percent used some form of anesthesia,according to the National Museum of Civil War medicine.

Medical practices adopted by the Civil War, including the transporting of sick and surgical advancements, served as the basis for medicine today, Wunderlich said.

It's his mission to tell those stories in any way he can. And if that means through the introduction of beers similar to what soldiers drank, so be it.

"We're trying it take it outside and say, 'Not only can you learn about what a Civil War soldier did, you can taste it,'" Wunderlich said.