Armed With Interesting Finds
- February 10, 2012
- on 2/10/2012
- MoJo: want2dish
Perfectly preserved hand.
Perfectly preserved hand.
Inside look of arm.
Hand showing tendons.
By Mojo Sara Krome
The Civil War may have ended over 147 years ago, but artifacts remain which remind us of this momentous event in United States history. Bullets found on wide battlefields, tattered uniforms hung in museums, still-standing buildings where ghosts supposedly lurk ... and arms.
No, you didn’t misread that last one. An arm from a Civil War soldier is just the newest addition to the National Museum of Civil War Medicine. The arm is in conservancy at the museum until it is seen as fit to display.
Thinking of mummified bodies and limbs conjures visions of Ancient Egypt and the Pyramids. Nevertheless, the arm that is currently in conservancy in the museum has undergone a mummification of its own rendering it intact, down to the last fingertip.
Found on the Antietam battlefield by a farmer who submerged it in brine about three weeks after the action, the arm was passed onto the town doctor who furthered preserved it in a formaldehyde. These solutions, combined with the exposure to the elements the arm was subjected to prior to its discovery have preserved it so that museum-goers can marvel at it once on display.
If arms could talk, one can’t help but wonder what this one would say, or what it has seen. Before the arm was donated to the National Museum of Civil War Medicine a pathologist from another museum determined it probably belonged to a 19-year-old male, like a southerner. This supposition, however, has yet to be confirmed, leading to the arm to be dubbed “The Arm of the Unknown Soldier.”
While the identity of the soldier is unknown, it is certain that the arm was blown off, not amputated. Collection & Exhibit Manager Lori Eggleston explains the museum can identify this because there are no saw marks. One bone was clearly broken and one came apart at the joint, probably due to an explosion from a shell of some sort. According to Eggleston, the extent of the wound makes it unlikely the soldier survived. Eggleston also pointed out that this mummified limb is an extremely rare and incredible acquisition. Bones have been found, and there have been stories about mummified limbs, but these are unverified.
It is easy to dismiss events that occurred so many lifetimes ago, viewing spent bullets and now-prisitine relics of battlefields as mere artifacts from a time long gone. However, when an actual arm with the flesh mummified to the bones that was once attached to a living, breathing participant of the Civil War is ultimately displayed, one will be thrusted into the reality that many people lost life and limb (and in this case, probably both) during this war. One wonders, who was the soldier that lost the arm? Where was he from? Did he survive his extensive wounds?
While these questions will likely never be answered, more details can be found by visiting www.guardianoftheartifacts.blogspot.com. Watch for announcements from the National Museum of Civil War Medicine on East Patrick Street on when the arm will be ready for display.
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