Web Exclusive: The Father of Battlefield Medicine

Sep 16, 2012

One hundred fifty years ago on September 17th, Union and Confederate soldiers met up near Sharpsburg, Maryland by Antietam Creek. The ensuing battle would become known as the bloodiest single day of fighting in American history, claiming 23,000 casualties. It would also mark a turning point in the American Civil War, committing the country to a prolonged and deadly conflict.

Jonathan Letterman, the "father of Battlefield Medicine"

Yet in one of history's great ironies, this horrific battle also marked the first time major steps were taken to bring medical attention to the front lines. Antietam was in many ways the birthplace of battlefield medicine.

Earlier this month, the Civil War Museum of Kenosha hosted its fifth annual Great Lakes Civil War Forum, dedicated this year to examining the Battle of Antietam in its 150th anniversary year.

One of the presenters was Dr. Gordon Dammann, a dentist and Civil War enthusiast (and dad to Civil War Museum curator Doug Dammann). He's also the author of Civil War histories, including Images of Civil War Medicine: A Photographic History. And he's the founder and chairman of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine, located in Frederick, Maryland.

He tells Lake Effect's Stephanie Lecci about the challenges of war-time medicine in the past and the man behind this noble development, Jonathan Letterman - the so-called "Father of Battlefield Medicine."