Post Hospital - Program Outline


Program Title: Saws and Scalpels: Nineteenth Century Medicine

Type of Program: Education Program

Venue: Hospital

Audience: Elementary Students

Tangible Resources: Beds, Chamber Pots, Medical Equipment, Building

Intangible Concepts:

  • Illness - In the nineteenth century, the causes of illness were not understood. Instead of bacteria or viruses, illness was thought to be caused by an imbalance in what are called humors. Lack of understanding of disease contributed to the suffering of soldiers.
  • Treatment - Common medicines at the time were often given to stimulate or agitate the system. Poisons like lead were ingested to induce purging or vomiting. Other treatments like rest, herbal treatments, or isolation were probably more effective.
  • Sterilization - Had doctors known about bacteria, they no doubt would have taken measures to be more sterile in their medical practices. Lack of sterile practices also contributed to suffering.
  • Science, Knowledge - Medical doctors were well trained in the knowledge and practices of the time. They were the only ones on staff, however, with that knowledge. Other staff members had little or no experience.

Universal Concept:

  • Health, Survival - Despite lack of modern knowledge, the hospital was still a place for soldiers to receive medical treatment. Medical knowledge and practices may not have been up to modern standards, but still every effort was made to assure the well being of the soldiers.

Theme: The hospital served as a place of treatment for sick and injured soldiers; however, medical practices of the time often impeded recovery rather than aiding it.


  • To discuss medical practices of the 1840s.
  • To show how an 1840s army hospital operated.

Objectives: After participating in this program, the students will be able to:

  • Identify a member of the medical team, other than the surgeon, and describe his/her duties.
  • Name at least one common illness affecting personnel at Fort Scott.
  • Name at least two methods of treatment (e.g. bloodletting, quinine, purging).
  • Identify at least two unsanitary medical practices of the time.

Suggested Activities:

  • Perform a mock surgery on one of the students and demonstrate unsterile surgical procedures.
  • Have various students act out symptoms of diseases that were common at the time and explain standard treatments.

Resource Management/Safety Issues:

  • Surgical tools in the amputating kit are genuine and can cause injury. Do not allow elementary students to handle surgical tools.

Medicine Bottle
Next Page

Last updated: October 18, 2017

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

PO Box 918
Fort Scott, KS 66701


(620) 223-0310

Contact Us