Artifact of the Week — September 22, 2022

Posted by on September 22, 2022
Surgeon's Kit - CSA

A Confederate States of America (CSA) surgeon’s medical kit with 10 instruments used by Dr. L.A. Dickson during the Civil War. (See his biography in Goodspeed’s North Central Arkansas book.) Written on the back of the kit is the name R.C. Newland. R.C. Newland was Dr. Robert C. Newland of Batesville. His wife was Nancy Newland, a future Batesville postmaster. Robert C. Newland and Nancy H. Woodland were married June 5, 1832 in Washington, Indiana. Robert C. Newland died circa 1846.

Dr. Dickson, who originally owned this surgeon’s kit, practiced medicine in Jamestown, Arkansas, in 1879, with his partner Dr. Jeffery.

CSA Surgeon's Kit
CSA Surgeon’s Kit

The rather large, foreboding knife in the surgeon’s kit was a bone knife. During the Civil War, painkillers were in short supply and a huge percentage of amputations were performed without anesthesia or painkillers. The knives and scalpels were similar to what is in use today, and the pointed instrument is a pick, often used during the Civil War for bullet extraction. The Civil War was a harbinger for the minie ball, which was made of lead and could easily poison a soldier and lead to not only one amputation due to lead poisoning, but several if the poison lingered past the amputation site.

Find out more about the effects of lead and other chemicals and elements we thought were innocuous until they were proven otherwise by attending the “Poisons to Potions” class on October 1, 2022, from 9:00 – 12:00. Cost is $10 a person.

At this class, we will not only talk about mercury, laudanum, radium, and other medical aids believed to cure almost any ailment, we will also be visited by Ms. Vicky Schoeneweis as she presents her old-fashioned medicine cabinet.

Dr. Sam Taggart will also join us to promote his book, Country Doctors of Arkansas. We will have his book for sale and Dr. Taggart has agreed to autograph any books sold!

Dr. Taggart is in the midst of writing another book about doctor stories. If you have a compelling story about your local Arkansas doctor you wish to share, please contact Cathy Shonk at Better yet, meet Dr. Taggart in person on October 1!

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