Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Frederick Schaefer, August 21, 2016

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries


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00:00:00 - Introducing Frederick Schaefer, portraying an American Civil War field surgeon

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Partial Transcript: All right, this is an unrehearsed oral history interview for the Living History Oral History Project. My name is JD Carruthers. Today is Sunday, August 21st, 2016. We're at the James A. Ramage Civil War Museum in Fort Wright, Kentucky.

Segment Synopsis: Frederick Schaefer talks about his role as a living history interpreter portraying a Civil War-era field surgeon. He says his role is a generic archetype. He says he uses third person voice, and favors comparing historical with modern conditions because many period medical and surgical techniques and instruments are still used. He says when he is not doing living history he works for OrthoIndy which provides orthopedic healthcare. He notes that Civil War and combat injuries frequently involved orthopedics. He talks about how his work relates to his interest in representing the attitudes and work ethics of doctors of the Civil War era. He talks about how living history events provide the opportunity for creating a better sense of the destructiveness of war which he says is important to address. He says he has been doing mock amputations at living history events for 25 years where he invites members of the public to participate as surgical assistants and dresses them in period attire. He says participatory engagement is a good way to educate and learn, but that it is important to remain respectful of casualties of the past.

Keywords: Persona; Third person voice

Subjects: Medicine--History.; Surgeons.; Surgery--History.; United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865.

00:04:26 - First person interpretations of Dr. William Henry Wishard and Dr. John Shaw Billings

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Partial Transcript: Um--(clears throat)--you mentioned that uh, you were not portray--you're playing more of a generic role today because none of the people that you portray worked in this area...

Segment Synopsis: Schaefer says he sometimes portrays a first person interpretation of Dr. William Henry Wishard of Indianapolis, for whom a hospital was named. He says Dr. Wishard and his son brought wounded soldiers back to Indiana from Shiloh and Vicksburg. He says he also does a first person portrayal of Dr. John Shaw Billings who served at Gettysburg and helped to found Johns Hopkins Hospital. He talks about Dr. Billings' exploits at Gettysburg and the locations of field hospitals during the battle. He talks about the escape of the Shriver family during the battle and the memoir "What a Girl Saw at Gettysburg."

Keywords: First person voice; Persona; William Henry Wishard

Subjects: Billings, John S. (John Shaw), 1838-1913; Gettysburg, Battle of, Gettysburg, Pa., 1863.; Johns Hopkins Hospital.; Shiloh, Battle of, Tenn., 1862.; United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865.; Vicksburg (Miss.)--History--Siege, 1863.

00:09:00 - Sources for living history

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Partial Transcript: Let, let me ask you more, uh, uh, about the source, uh--resource, sources, uh, you mentioned this memoir, uh, "What a Girl Saw at Gettysburg." What other kind of source materials do you use to ground your, uh, presentation?

Segment Synopsis: Schaefer says he focuses mostly on Indiana history in the Civil War. He talks about relying on the medical research of Nancy Eckerman who ran the Indiana University Medical Library and wrote a book "Indiana in the Civil War: Doctors, Hospitals and Medicine." He talks about the importance of doing research and being honest with the public. He also refers to living history as his hobby. He shows off his photographs of period surgical operations and battlefield casualties that he uses in his living history presentations. He says that photographs of actual surgeries during the Civil War were rare. Schaefer gives a lengthy quote from Abraham Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address.

Keywords: Bayonets; Hobby; Stretchers

Subjects: Antietam, Battle of, Md., 1862.; Barton, Clara, 1821-1912.; Civil war.; Cold Harbor, Battle of, Va., 1864.; Gettysburg, Battle of, Gettysburg, Pa., 1863.; Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865.; Medicine--History.; Medicine.; Surgeons.; Surgery--History.; United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865.

00:16:00 - Living history organizations / Favorite living history memory

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Partial Transcript: T--uh, I'm interested in finding out about the, uh, living history movement on, uh--and I, I'll try to uh, wrap this up so we can get busy with--

Segment Synopsis: Schaefer talks about living history organizational structure and history. He says he was a member of the Indiana Brigade which became the Army of the Wabash, and he served as the medical director. He says the group represents Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and Ohio. He says the group is large and mostly represents Union soldiers. He says they visit battlegrounds and focus on education. Schaefer says his favorite memory in living history was at the 135th anniversary of Gettysburg when he participated in a mock-up of Pickett's Charge which involved as many participants as the original. He describes the hour-long artillery duel and the sight of twelve-thousand Confederate reenactors crossing the field.

Keywords: Army of the Wabash; James A. Ramage Civil War Museum; Living history organizations

Subjects: Gettysburg, Battle of, Gettysburg, Pa., 1863.; Living History Association; Medicine--History.; Surgeons.; Surgery--History.; United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865.