Memorial Day

Honoring the Civil War’s Army Doctors

On Memorial Day weekend, Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan, hosts a Civil War re-enactment. It’s an annual ritual Maryanne and Paul, who enjoy history almost as much as beer. One of the things they learned at the Village was that Civil War medicine wasn’t practiced by saw-wielding hacks.

Speaking of which, Flying Dog Ales and the National Museum of Civil War Medicine, both located in Frederick, Maryland, collaborated on a beer called Saw Bones Ginger Table Beer, which was released today. “Saw bones” was the derisive term soldiers used to describe army doctors. Table beers, with a light body and low-alcohol concentration, were popular during the Civil War. So was ginger which, according to the museum’s executive director David Price, was used to fight gangrene, dysentery, and other ailments that killed far more soldiers than enemy bullets.

Price also disputes army doctors’ “saw bones” reputation as butchers. He went on to say that those doctors and other medical personnel set the foundation for America’s modern healthcare system.

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