We had a great turn out of members and friends at our March meeting for Brandon Bies’ discussion of “Broken Lives and Shattered Bones: Discovering a Field Hospital at Manassas Battlefield.” The program was, in a word, fascinating. Brandon outlined the unexpected discovery of a field hospital surgeon’s pit during a trench excavation at Manassas National Battlefield Park. He expertly described the challenges associated with the excavation and analysis of the nearly complete remains of two Union soldiers who were comingled with other amputated limbs. The discussion was wide-ranging, including the techniques and limitations associated with that type of battlefield discovery, the methods used to examine the remains, determinations made and hypotheses drawn from the examinations, the limitations of Civil War-era surgical techniques, the collaboration between the National Park Service, the Smithsonian Institution, and the United States Army, attempts to identify the remains, and a general discussion of surgical interventions associated with various battlefield wounds. Brandon’s presentation was, simultaneously, sobering, revealing, and much appreciated by all.

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