"The Heart of the Matter"

brought to you by NEMA - The National Emergency Medicine Assoc.

Return to Topic List

Transcripts: 532-3 and 532.4

Week: 532.3 Guest: Bert Kumerow, Exec. Director, Natl. Museum of Civil War Medicine Topic: Nat'l. Museum of Civil War Medicine- Part One Producer/Host: Steve Girard

NEMA: The National Museum of Civil War Medicine has just opened with a look at the great war from a different angle...Executive Director Bert Kumerow says the museum's location in Frederick, Maryland is a natural...

KUMEROW: Its one of those places that was in the war from the very beginning, to the very end because it was a crossroads...practically everybody went through there on their way to these battles that are sort of imprinted in the American mentality, y'know, Gettysburg, Antietam, Harpers Ferry...all those battles occurred in the vicinity of Frederick and, so we located here just to draw attention to the fact that these communities really struggled with this war and after the battle of Antietam, about eight thousand Confederate and Union...both sides,wounded, were brought over the mountains, about 25 miles...and just put in every nook and cranny they had available here, every public building, every church. And those are the kinds of stories, of course, that we're after with this museum...we can really draw attention to what poet Walt Whitman, who was a nurse in the hospitals of Washington during the war, called the real war, the hospital part of the drama.' There's been so much interest in the Civil War's battles, but if you look in the books you see very little attention paid to what Clara Barton called 'the mischief and the misery' that the armies strewed in their tracks....I mean they lost 32 men a minute for 12 hours at the battle of Antietam....and what we're trying to do with the rest of the story is to talk about what happened after the battles were over, how medicine changed as the result of this enormous emergency, how people stepped up, I mean, just thousands of women and men stepped up to try to make this terrible situation better.

NEMA: What were the maladies of the day going into the war....?

KUMEROW: Medicine in the middle of the 19th century was really at a crossroads... trying to figure out what caused disease, that whole energy that was going on in that time was fragmented into all kinds of areas. And eventually, out of that, came the path toward modern medicine. But the medical community was pretty helpless, I think, in the face of these widespread epidemic diseases that were going on, but this great leap for humankind, this enormous moment when men discovered germs....when Louis Pasteur and Joseph Lister and these other great medical geniuses came along and really started medicine on its modern path. They did begin to understand that sanitation was important, that hygiene was important....they didn't know exactly why....anesthesia had been around since 1846, and they were beginning to understand how they could intervene in the body with surgery and solve some problems. All the war did was to bring along this enormous amount of emergency and tragedy, and this great laboratory, all these men went out and with very little experience, and got enormous amounts of experience because of the human wreckage that occurred in these battles and the enormous numbers of men who got sick in the camps...and they learned a lot and they went on to improve medicine very dramatically after the war. It's what Dr. C. Everett Koop called, A watershed in the history of medicine'...not only in the United States, but in the entire world.

NEMA: A lot of things change during a war....and The National Museum of Civil War Medicine in Frederick, Maryland shows not only the medical improvements, but the civilian awareness and commitment to caring for the injured brothers who lived and worked for common goals before the conflict. I'm Steve Girard.


Week: 532.4 Guest: Bert Kumerow, Exec. Director, Natl. Museum of Civil War Medicine Topic: Nat'l. Museum of Civil War Medicine/ Part Two- Tour and Emphasis Producer/Host: Steve Girard

NEMA: We're with Bert Kumerow today...he's the Executive Director of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine...just opened in Frederick, Maryland. What is the emphasis of the museum?

KUMEROW: Everyone, I think, knows that museums are about objects, and I feel that objects sort of verify, they give you that important link with the past..It's the stories that go along with these objects I think that have made this museum very, very unique to me and hopefully will make it unique to the visitors as well. What we're doing is we're giving people, with this museum, a chance to sort of, re-live the experiences that people went through during the Civil War. Not only the soldiers themselves, but the people who sent loved ones to the army, to the campaigns, and the people who stepped up in towns like Frederick to try to make this situation better. I mean when you have as many wounded come into this town as there were men, women and children who lived in the town, it was an emergency that nobody would ever forget. When people go through the museum, you start with this 90 day adventure that everybody was flocking towards, y'know, they wanted to get in there for the one battle that was going to occur...and we have this recruiting area where all the images come through. All the patriotic images on both sides...and then you go on to the camps, where these hundred thousand man armies started creating enormous numbers of casualties before the fighting even started. You go on from there to the battles themselves...and these bone shattering wounds that happened as a result of new technology, that they had never really faced before with such large armies, they couldn't meet the emergency with the resources they had and, of course, they started building these resources up, and, at the end, you come through to this wonderful hospital ward, where the modern hospital is born, where these tens of thousands of wounded and sick soldiers went and by the end of the war, over a hundred thousands beds on each side, where they had no hospitals before. And then finally, when you come out of this experience, you see a Victorian parlor and you see this image of the homefront, the whole civilian community trying to cope with so much emergency and the women of the country really stepping up and not only creating the nursing profession, but moving into places at home they'd never been in before, because there were so many men away from home.

NEMA: What types of advances did the War help create in medicine?

KUMEROW: The Civil War pointed out to the medical community what it didn't know ....and created a need to get better... Of course, in the Civil War they had a really difficult time finding talented doctors, after having so many problems getting up to speed to handle this emergency, they really did get a lot better... and they invented so many things....a lot of them administrative, a lot of them just really good organizational approaches to large campaigns and large numbers of casualties...look at the positive aspects...besides the solution of some of the political problems that were going on in this country, the changes that occurred in medicine and the enormous amount of change in the civilian community's philanthropy to try to help the soldiers....all those kinds of things, are really the positive part of that war that come out at the other end.

NEMA: The National Museum of Civil War Medicine...in the midst of all the famous battlefields of Maryland and Pennsylvania...in Frederick, Maryland. I'm Steve Girard.

Return to Topic List

Send mail to info@nemahealth.org
Copyright © 1996 National Emergency Medicine Associations, Inc.
Last modified: November 01, 2021