Civil War medicine and horses at HSM


Margaretville — Civil War battlefield medicine, and the role of horses in the war, will be the topics Saturday, July 13 in a pair of afternoon presentations at the Historical Society of the Town of Middletown (HSM), 778 Cemetery Road.

At 12:30 p.m., Ken Nichols, representing a Regimental Surgeon with the 125th NYS Volunteer Infantry, will offer a talk and demonstration, “The Civil War - Birth of Modern Medicine.”
At 2 p.m., Christian Heidorf, LTC (Ret), and his Morgan horse Rebel, will describe the experience of the horse in combat.

Admission is $4 ($2 for HSM members). These presentations complement a special exhibit on Middletown in the Civil War on view at the HSM hall Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. through Labor Day.

Details can be found at
Ken Nichols, a native of Brooklyn, combines an interest in military history with his love of science in his portrayal of a Civil War surgeon. Fresh from the Gettysburg Battle reenactment, his HSM presentation will include displays of medical equipment with discussion of types of wounds, the serious nature of gangrene and the hard question of amputation.

The difficulty of surgery is portrayed and compared with medical procedures today, while the issue of disease, which killed far more men than battlefield action, is understood by comparing typical camp hygiene with our methods of cleanliness today.
The lecture describes the first big efforts by civilians to help the men on the battlefield. Not only was it the birth of the American Red Cross, but also Nichols sees it as the beginnings of the women’s movement in America.

Lt. Col. Chris Heidorf (US Army, Retired) will portray a field grade officer of the First NY Light Artillery during the Civil War, with his mount, Rebel. Both horse and rider will be accurately attired in period uniform and equipment. Heidorf will recount the devotion and loyalty between horse and rider, fused in the bewilderment of battle and sustained by the mutual need for survival.
Heidorf, who raises foundation Morgans at Dead Creek Ranch, Fort Edward, will explain why the Morgan, with its powerful hindquarters and shoulders, endurance, compactness and trainability, was the breed of choice when the federal government searched for horses for officers’ mounts, artillery units and cavalry regiments like the 3rd New York, which recruited several Middletown men.

It is estimated that 1.5 million horses and mules were killed, wounded or died of disease during the Civil War. The average life of a horse during a cavalry operation was estimated at four months.
Horses were processed by the thousands at six remount stations, the largest of which held 30,000 horses. Heidorf will explain the logistics and challenges of feeding, equipping and transporting them throughout the far-flung area of Union operations.