"A sadder if not a wiser man:" Transcribing the diary of a Civil War surgeon
As an intern in the museum's Paper Conservation Lab, Greg Waters got to spend time with the diary of a surgeon in the Union Army. The diary's first entry appeared on January 30, 1863, 150 years ago today.
The journal arrived in the paper conservation lab just a few days after I did. As a new summer intern at the museum, I was immediately fascinated by it. The medical history division had brought it to the lab and I was assigned to go through it and transcribe what was written within. All I was told is that it was written by a Civil War surgeon named M.A. Henderson. With no idea what to expect, I put on gloves and very carefully opened the front cover.
M.A. Henderson turned out to be Mathew A. Henderson. He was somewhat older than his fellow soldiers but decided to volunteer nonetheless. In January of 1863, he left his home in southeastern Pennsylvania and joined the 150th Pennsylvania infantry as assistant surgeon. They spent the early months of the year in Washington, D.C., where he describes the sights and sounds of the city. During his time in the city, he was able to watch congressional debates and attended the same church as President Lincoln and his wife.
Greg Waters was an intern in the Paper Conservation Lab during the Summer 2012. Waters liked the internship enough to come back for another semester as he prepares to attend graduate school in public history. More information about internships can be found here.