Civil War era returns to Octagon House MuseumOn a warm, muggy, overcast Saturday afternoon, the front lawn at the Octagon House in Hudson was turned into a Civil War era encampment for Union troops.
By: Jon Echternacht, Hudson Star-Observer
On a warm, muggy, overcast Saturday afternoon, the front lawn at the Octagon House in Hudson was turned into a Civil War era encampment for Union troops.
The Prescott Guards, Company B of the 6th Wisconsin Volunteers (Iron Brigade), led by Sgt. Doug Harmon, set up a replica camp and field hospital while members of the company in full period uniforms answered questions and displayed artifacts of the Civil War.
The original Prescott Guards fought in the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg.
Union Surgeon Gary Krueger, Hudson, and Mike Baurichter stood duty at replica of a field hospital, which was nothing more than a tent and a hard table draped in a blood-soaked sheet for operating under an awning.
Krueger explained that the size of the lead slugs used by both sides caused severe damage, and amputation of limbs was a common occurrence. Chloroform and ether were available during the war, but supplies quickly ran out and many procedures took place with little or no pain killers.
Krueger said the phrase ”bite the bullet” literally came from the operating tables at field hospitals of the Civil War where, in the absence of chloroform and ether, the patient was given a lead bullet to bite during a procedure.
”But the bullet wore down the soldier’s teeth that they needed to tear open rifle cartridges,” Krueger said. ”So the bullet was replaced with a leather strap,”
Sgt. Harmon, in the meantime, showed visitors various cannon projectiles including a 24-pounder handed around for a hands-on experience.
The event was planned along with the Sesquicentennial of the start of the Civil War, a theme carried throughout the Octagon House Museum this summer. The Civil War started on April 12, 1861, and ended April 9, 1865, with 620,000 dead in the conflict.
On the back lawn of the house, built in 1855, Heidi Rushmann, museum director, and two young helpers, Jessie Moore and Sam Parsons of Hudson dressed in period-style civilian clothes, displayed common household items and tools of the era. Visitors were invited to name as many of the items they could, while the museum team helped them with the tough ones.
In the garden house in back, Renee Snow guided visitors through a combination of displays that included general store items and a blacksmith shop.
Back on the front lawn, Kim Holbrook explained how patch quilts were used to guide slaves to freedom.
The events on the lawn were free to the public.
The Octagon House Museum is open for guided tours with Civil War Revisited as the theme. Regular admission is $7 for adults, $3 for students 12 to 18 years old and $2 for children 5-12. Hours of operation are noon to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday.