Before my visit to the National Museum of Civil War Medicine in Frederick Maryland, the most I knew about Civil War Medicine came from passing remarks in memoirs, books, and the acclaimed series “Mercy Street”. My understanding of the subject was minimal and cursory at best, and tainted by myths about amputations and inept physicians at worst. The museum goes above and beyond to educate the masses and set straight the story of the nurses, doctors, and wounded of both sides. A museum of its depth and thoroughness in one singular subject is rare.
Situated in a historical part of Frederick, the façade is deceiving. It may look narrow from the front, but the length of the building is evident as visitors travel from room to room. The flow of exhibits takes a chronological look at the advancement of medicine before, during, and after the war, beginning with the education of doctors in the first half of the 19th century and ending with the treatment of wounded veterans in the latter half. Rooms are packed with artifacts and panels that add details to the lives of those who experienced and administered medicine during the war. Everyone from nurses, doctors, the soldiers themselves, and their animals (horses) were impacted by the leaps and bounds made in the field. Notable figures and their contributions are seen everywhere, such as Clara Barton and Johnathon Letterman. No study of the Civil War is complete without the comprehension of this topic, and all may benefit from a visit to the museum, no matter their level of study.
Since Covid has limited visitation and outreach, the museum took to the internet in 2020 to continue their education efforts of the subject they know so well. Via Facebook and YouTube, the staff and education coordinators of the museum have been able to interview countless historians about both medical practices as well as a variety of doctors and nurses who made a huge difference. During their live sessions, they also take questions from the audience, staying connected with those they are devoted to serving.
The National Museum of Civil War Medicine is also associated with the Clara Barton Missing Soldiers Office in Washington DC and the Pry House Field Hospital on the Antietam Battlefield in Sharpsburg, Maryland. Membership with the NMCWM means access and benefits from all three entities. Membership, especially during the Covid crisis, has kept their ship afloat and is a message you will hear frequently at the beginning and the end of their videos. You can access the archives of their past interviews and on-location sessions on their YouTube channel (link below). You can also find plenty of blogs and articles about Civil War Medicine on their website, as well as the opportunity to become a member (link also below).
When visiting the museum, keep in mind of the Covid safety requirements and that they are opened at reduced capacity so that social distancing may be maintained. While they are open seven days a week, Monday through Thursday is only available for visitation BY APPOINTMENT ONLY (as of the time when this blog was written). You have two options for parking, the most reliable for any time of day being the Carroll Creek Parking Garage located at 44 E Patrick St, Frederick, MD 21701. Parking fees are $1 per hour and to be safe, plan for being away at least 2-4 hours for the museum, plus any time you give yourself to go grab a cup of coffee or a bit of dinner (recommendation to follow). They have an excellent gift shop where you may purchase books as well as craft beer. Their online gift shop recently opened and can be navigated to via their website.
I can’t recommend this place enough. I’ve included some photos below from my personal visit to give you just a taste of what this amazing museum has to offer.
Friday – Saturday 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Sunday 11:00 PM – 5:00 PM
Monday – Thursday by appointment only (call ahead to ask how appointments can be made)
Last admittance to the galleries at 4:15 PM
The Museum is closed on New Year’s Day, Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and at 2 pm on New Year’s Eve.
Phone: (301) 695-1864
Address: 48 East Patrick Street, Frederick, MD 21701