Finding Antietam: A Guide’s Story, Gordon Dammann

This is the fifth essay in our monthly series “Finding Antietam – A Guide’s Story.” Each month, we’ll feature the story of one of our guides and what sparked their interest in Antietam and the Civil War and why they became an Antietam Battlefield Guide. Antietam Battlefield Guide Gordy Dammann has a medical interest in the Battle of Antietam.

A Union field hospital established on the Otho Smith Farm

I am often asked at the beginning of my battlefield tours why I chose to be a guide at Antietam National Battlefield. Because of my interest in the medicine of the Civil War, I was drawn to this historical site. It was here on this hallowed ground the medical corps of both armies received their “baptism of fire.”

A year earlier after the Battle of Bull Run or Manassas, many injured soldiers were left to die on the fields for weeks to die. No one had planned for mass casualties or an extended period of fighting.

Early in the 1970s, no one had heard of Surgeon Jonathan Letterman (USA) or Surgeon Lafayette Guild (CSA) and what they did here to alleviate untold suffering. They both took on the responsibility to establish a system where wounded soldiers were given immediate attention at a field dressing station and removed to a field hospital site by a workable ambulance corps.

Battlefield medicine was born here.

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