Stepping back in time

Civil War Living History Day brings past to life

Union Civil War soldiers marched in tight formation with a drummer boy steadily keeping time on a field as a fire warmed up a pot of food and surgeons prepared to amputate an arm.

The Civil War Living History Day at Mabee Farm Historic Site, in Rotterdam Junction, on Saturday, April 16, brought to life conditions faced during the civil war. The event was tied to One County, One Book, which is a historical novel about Mary Sutter, a midwife dreaming to become a surgeon who finds the Civil War gives her just the opportunity she needs. The event started at 10 a.m. with President Abraham Lincoln arriving, and throughout the day there were demonstrations and speakers focusing on the time period.

There were a few medical displays set up on the farm, but one focused on reenacting the gory details of what soldiers went through during an amputation. There was a pile of fake limbs in the corner of the tent, because surgeons would just toss the amputated limbs aside.

"Not that many men were brought in by an ambulance to a field hospital. They were either brought in by a friend or they walked in on their own," said Wayne Waite, portraying a major and surgeon with the 117th Regiment New York Volunteers Field Hospital. "They might have been out there for days before they came to the hospital."

If a solider was brought in the first day of being wounded, depending on the severity of the wound, there was a 60 percent chance of a successful recovery after an amputation, said Richard Swalgin, portraying Waite's hospital steward. The survival rate dropped significantly the longer the wait for treatment. Soldiers didn't carry any first aid kit or items with them, and they often wouldn't even have any identification on themselves.

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