The Embalmed Soldiers of the American Civil War

The Chirurgeon's Apprentice

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Thomas Holmes—the “Father of Modern Embalming”—had an unusual way of advertising his services throughout the American Civil War. During one of his many excursions to the front, the surgeon plucked the body of an unknown soldier from the battlefield and brought it back to Washington D.C. There, he washed the corpse and injected it with his patented “safe” embalming fluid, which he claimed was free from toxins. He then dressed the soldier in a fine set of clothes and put him on display in his shop window for all to see.

Prior to the mid-19th century, embalming was used chiefly to preserve specimens after dissection. Surgeons and anatomists often used arsenic when creating dry mount displays from cadaverous remains. Mixtures of arsenic and soap…

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One thought on “The Embalmed Soldiers of the American Civil War

  1. Sad to see them profiting from the dead, and sometimes fraudulently too.
    I don’t like the way they took the bodies of ‘unknown soldiers’ to be displayed in their exhibitions, either.
    On a positive note, the detail in some of the photos is remarkable, (on enlargement) considering how old they are.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

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