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8th Grade Civil War Unit Goes Hands-On 3/21/2024

No bones about it, doctors during the Civil War had it rough. This past Monday, students in Mrs. Lual’s 8th grade history classes got some hands-on experience of what it was like to be a surgeon on the battlefield during the Civil War.


2010 National History Teacher of the Year, Nathan McCalister, returned to SHMS with cow bones, saws, and sledgehammers. This time the objective was to reflect on how Civil War surgeons should be remembered. Investigating this topic took the form of discovering the challenges medicine faced in the 1860s, discussing the spread of infections, and recreating surgical amputations.


Students saw what a bullet could do to bone when volunteers bludgeoned a cow bone with a sledgehammer. Viewing a shattered “femur,” they were able to understand why so many injuries resulted in infection and thus amputation. When asked how long an amputation would take, one student commented, “At least ten minutes. The saw wasn’t very sharp. You had to push hard.”


Student sentiments on the lesson varied from “very cool” to “I had to leave the room. I was feeling sick.” One can be sure that this is a lesson they won’t forget for a long time.