On the day we visited the forts in Richmond, we also visited Chimborazo Medical Museum. This museum building was built in 1909 and served as a Federal weather station. It now houses information on the medical hospitals in and around Richmond as well as facts, equipment and pictures of the Confederate medical service.
The site of the Chimborazo hospital was named for a dormant volcano in Ecuador. There was a lovely painting of the volcano done by Frederic Church, whose paintings are also at Olana.
Below is the diorama of the 40 acre plateau and it had the appearance of a small town. They even had their own bakery and brewery. Also below is an old photo of the actual site.
78,000 sick and wounded Confederate soldiers passed through the hospital in four years. The hospital consisted of 150 wooden structures spaced far enough apart for air to get through, which aided in healing. There were approximately 8,000 Confederate physicians and research has shown that 70% of them graduated from medical school. By the end of the war, over 7,000 of those were appointed to be surgeons or assistant surgeons. The physicians had two sets of equipment…a small set and this larger one.
They would give a man a dose of ether or chloroform, amputate a badly wounded appendage and the patient would be awake within 15 minutes. How times have changed, thank God.
On one of the museum walls was an excerpt from a poem (perhaps a letter) written by Walt Whitman. Walt’s brother, George, served in the 51st NY Infantry Division. Walt discovered his brother had been listed as wounded in Fredericksburg. He went in search of George and in so doing, acted as a nurse and got to know many of the soldiers. The poem really touched me.
I wish I had liked Walt more in high school and I also wish they had taught history less boringly!