I arrived in Salem, MA on very hot but overcast day.I was met by my fellow members of the 2nd Massachusetts, who were in the process of setting up camp. It was a lovely location, as we were encamped under a very large shade tree (although, being overcast it didn’t help at the moment) that may be a good thing if the clouds break for the afternoon. My work ahead of me was to establish my small hospital table.
I began setting up the table at the main entrance to the house, aside the stone walkway. I decided to cover the table using a striped linen cloth I had amongst my medical equipment. I setup my scales, ointment pots, medicinal ingredients, pill tile, and my new box of medical instruments (see my projects page). It was all laid out, but being so hot, I decided wearing my woolen coat would be to the detriment of my health…so, I spent the day in only my weskit and small clothes, topped with a flat brimmed hat instead of my tricorn.
To my right were the other members of the 2nd Mass, all demonstrating their own handiwork. There was Pvt Dan Lacroix and Sgt Mark Nowacki with their leather work, Mrs. Penny LaCroix and her spinning wheel, Mr. David Workman’s fine woodworking, and more members socializing, sewing, and talking with the visitors. Ms. Laura Marie was teaching the children in the crown the use of 18th century toys, including the rolling push hoop and ribboned tossing hoops.
It was now time to have my very capable tailor to give me my final fitting for a new frock coat he is making for me….it’s a long, black linen coat, lined with a finer black linen. The fitting went well, and the buttons can now be sewn on in the proper places….if I don’t gain any weight that is.
As the day went on and the crowds passed through, they approached with their questions, to which I was eager to answer. Mostly, I had to draw the questions from the more shy visitors. Most enjoyed my diatribes on how to amputate a limb, the fact that there was no anesthetic (other than the officers getting their gill of rum). There were oohs and ahhs, and more than a few winces of the face over the procedures. There was always a better appreciation for the more modern medical practice of the 21st century….and I hope it gave them a bit more of an appreciation of how far we have come, as well as how close we still are. Many were surprised that much of the original medicinal ingredients in the 18th century, were still used today, only in a more purified form, or synthesized.
I spoke to an elderly woman about smallpox inoculations, and how our modern vaccinations as children were not lifelong…and wear off in about 30 years. I mentioned my vaccination scar, when she offered advice that it will go away when I get older, as hers had done. She also joked that I had a lot of time ahead of me before that happens.
We had a wonderful nooning of cold meat pasties, a leafy salad, and bread, jam, and butter.
Another visitor approached with a fine greyhound alongside….a lovely animal it was. After engaging him in conversation, I discovered he does leather work as a hobby. He expressed interest in how someone would join such a group. I immediately gave him a 2nd Mass card, and called for our recruiting Sgt Middleton to speak with the fine gentleman. Sgt Middleton took him aside and spoke his magic, got his particulars, and we hopefully will have a new recruit soon that has experience in leather works….it’s all good.
As the sun moved across the sky, the men formed up to march out to the shore for the firing demonstration. They looked fine, as they went through the safety inspection, and the music was on beat and spurred the men to the march. They marched off to the fife and drum, as I heard them fade off into the distance.
I also fielded many other questions throughout the day, such as, “Is there a public restroom in the house”, “Where is the entrance”, “Does the gift shop carry…..”. I smiled and pointed or responded with the appropriate answer (if I had one).
As the day progressed, the clouds began to clear, and the sun poked its head from above. It was at this time when the lovely ladies of the 2nd Mass kept an eye on me, and made sure I kept hydrated, by offering to get me water, or checking that I was drinking it regularly. They keep great care of their doctor, I must say….considering I’m a poor patient myself.
One visitor I spoke with was actually a former U.S. Army surgeon. Following my obligatory thank you for his service, we had a gripping discussion on the differences in the Hospital Department in the past 200+ years. When I told him about the separate structure of the Hospital Department from the main Continental Army, and that a soldier transferred to the hospital under care of a Regimental Surgeon could not be ordered by his Army superior to return to duty unless the surgeon deemed him fit, he smiled…..and commented that the modern army medical corp should return to that approach in his opinion. He shared with me a story from his experience in Korea, where he was ordered, against his medical judgement, to release a solider to his unit for deployment before he was medically ready to return. It was a wonderful discussion, and I enjoyed it immensely.
The day went on, and the sun moved to the point where it was now peeking around the edge of the shade tree leaves. It was now approaching 4:00pm, and time to break down for the day. I started packing up my equipment, piece by piece. once that was complete, I broke down the trestle table and carried it to the awaiting regimental truck, with the assistance of Pvt Martin (what a great brother-in-law). Once the truck was packed and the day over, we headed off, leaving the Salem Witch House until next year.