The deadliest weapon of the Civil War was one that nobody could see, killing two soldiers for every one felled by gunfire. The extraordinary casualties caused by that invisible killer, disease; the conventional weapons used to create slaughter on an unprecedented scale; horrific injuries suffered on the battlefield; and the heroic efforts of medical personnel to treat soldiers on both sides are described in detail in “To Kill and to Heal: Weapons and Medicine of the Civil War,” a new exhibit that opens May 11 at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum in Springfield.
This Civil War 150th anniversary exhibit runs through 2013 and features original images and artifacts from the Presidential Library and Museum’s collections supplemented by unique artifacts from the Illinois State Military Museum, The Museum of the Confederacy, Rush University Medical Center Archives, Fort Sumter National Historic Site, Nancy Ross Chapter of the DAR from Pittsfield, University Museum of Southern Illinois University Carbondale, and the Old State Capitol State Historic Site. Visitors can see an original Civil War hospital flag; a field stretcher; a door used as a surgical table; original weapons; a tree trunk from the Battle of Chickamauga with an embedded artillery shell; various medical and surgical tools, including an amputation kit; a crude leg prosthesis; a drum carried by a wounded soldier; and original letters, journals, drawings, clinical photographs and medical records.
“To Kill and to Heal: Weapons and Medicine of the Civil War” opens about a month after the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Shiloh, the first Civil War battle with massive casualties on a scale that indicated what the remaining years of the war would bring. Glenna Schroeder-Lein is the curator, and she worked closely with an exhibits team consisting of John Malinak, Michael Casey, Carla Smith, Katie Grant, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation, staff from the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, and numerous community groups, institutions, and individuals to create the exhibit.
Paid admission to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum is required to view the exhibit. Admission prices are $12 for adults, $9 for senior citizens, and $6 for children. A special admission rate of $5 is available to those who want to visit only the new exhibit.