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Civil War Reenactors Revere, Learn From the Past

Thomas B. Cole, MD
JAMA. 1996;275(15):1146-1148. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03530390010004.
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AT THE THIRD Annual Convocation of the Society of Civil War Surgeons, held last month in Harper's Ferry, WVa, reenactors and historians met to consider not only what happened during the war but how and why it happened that way. Rather than sail, fly fish, or pursue some more usual avocation, these men and women (not all of them physicians) devote themselves to reenacting as authentically as possible or studying intently the events of those four awful years.

James Ellison, for example, assumes the role of a medical officer in the 33rd Virginia Regiment, Stonewall Brigade, to provide some context for the popular image of the Civil War surgeon. "We were bloody surgeons, yes, but forget Hollywood. Think why." He explains: Before every battle, the surgical team would take the smoothest, most solid wooden door they could find off its hinges and lay it across two supports. They might cover


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