PA Volunteers re-enactors pose for a photograph
Professor Charles Dumas as Frederick Douglass
Grand Review Flag Ceremony
A second difference between the summer version and the SEP version of this program is the degree of audience participation. Ranger Troy Harman began the program by asking the students why an individual would join the Sanitary Commission/Ambulance Corps/Medical Corps/Nurse Corps. This type of question allows the students to recall information, while simultaneously encouraging them to reflect on the intangible reasons for joining such organizations. After this discussion was over, the students then actively took both the Hippocratic Oath and Army Oath, declaring their promise to save lives and defend their country. In the summer version of the program, rangers might explain these oaths, but they do not invite audience participation in reciting them. After the students took the oaths, Ranger Harman described the experience of sick soldiers when they were in camp. To further illustrate the stark reality of the debilitating diseases and wounds that soldiers risked, five students volunteered to read aloud descriptions of symptoms of common diseases that many soldiers endured. After each reading Ranger Harman asked the remaining students to guess the disease. One of the student volunteers read a description of self-inflicted symptoms to demonstrate that soldiers would occasionally "fake" a sickness in order to avoid camp work or marching. Ranger Harman then asked the group if any of them had ever faked being sick, thereby encouraging students to make connections between their personal experiences and the experiences of soldiers, particularly in these tactics of resisting authority.
After this portion of the program ended, the students were broken into three squads. The first squad was ordered to set up the medical tent; the second squad was put in charge of transporting the wounded; the third squad was ordered to set up a surgical table under the medical tent. These orders allowed the students to become actively involved in the program and gave them some insight into the division of labor and duties in the Civil War armies and medical corps. These activities required the squads to work together to accomplish a large task. Participation in this kind of program is essential when the audience is comprised mostly of children, for it encourages active engagement and learning. In other words, the program became both an informative and team-building exercise.Following the establishment of the medical services, the group was then instructed on the concept of "triage" - the method used by Civil War doctors to determine which patients needed to be attended to immediately (those in danger of dying), and those who were not in dire need of treatment. Volunteers again read descriptions of their wounds and the group had to decide what level of care was necessary for that particular case. Students then performed the roles of wounded soldiers and surgeons. Wounded soldiers who needed to be treated immediately were quickly taken to the surgeon's tent to be prepared for surgery.
Ranger Harman acted as the head surgeon, while four students acted as assistant surgeons. He then proceeded to explain and "demonstrate" the amputation process. This, of course, was the highlight of the program for the students, for they had the opportunity to inspect the surgical tools up close, particularly the saw that would cut through the bones of soldiers. Viewing the tools allow the children to imagine the gruesome and painful realities of Civil War surgery. The surgical kit is sometimes used in the summer version of this program, but it usually is up to the ranger's discretion and thus is not a standard part of the event.
Overall, the same interpretive principles are used in both versions of the "Care of the Wounded" program; however, the main differences lay in how the principles are implemented. The student version is much more interactive and challenges the students to compare their lives and experiences to those of actual Civil War soldiers. The summer program is simply informative, appealing to a typically larger and more heterogeneous group, ranging from children to senior citizens. The SEP program is not only informative for the children, but it also temporarily transforms the battlefield into a living history site that intimately connects the students to the past. Both versions of the program are extremely informative and perform a valuable educative service, and I encourage anyone interested in Civil War medicine to attend the program in the summer months.