SHAFTSBURY -- Clara Barton paid a visit to the Shaftsbury Historical Society on Sunday, demonstrating medical techniques she used during the American Civil War.
Phyllis Chapman portrayed Barton, who lived from 1821-1912. Born and raised in North Oxford, Mass, Barton served on the front lines of the Civil War, aiding soldiers who had been wounded. Barton, who became known as the "Angel of the Battlefield," was named the "lady in charge" of the frontline hospitals of the Army of the James in 1864, and would go on to found the American chapter of the Red Cross.
During the event, Chapman, speaking always in the first person as Barton, told of growing up in Massachusetts, her work in education, medicine during the war, and finally the founding of the American Red Cross. Chapman demonstrated on her audience techniques for amputation that were used during the war, when surgeons had thousands of wounded soldiers lined up for care, and needed to perform amputations in about 10 minutes, before moving on the next soldier. She also had a variety of photographs and historical artifacts, such as mini balls, several period medicines, and a bone-saw, to aid with the presentation, which lasted about 90 minutes.
The event was the historical society's last of the season, and had been planned since March, said Shaftsbury Historical Society President and Shaftsbury Select Board member Mitch Race, who found himself participating in the talk when Chapman chose him to play a soldier who had a bullet in his cheek, who needed Barton to remove the bullet because the wait to see a surgeon was too long. Chapman demonstrated how Barton had removed the bullet, and then showed how the soldier's head was bandaged after the battlefield surgery.
Chapman was an art teacher before getting into museum work in 1999. She worked at the Bennington Historical Museum from then until 2005, when she began doing historical interpretations. Her business, Vintage Visitors, is based in Eagle Bridge, N.Y. Besides Barton, Chapman also portrays famous women's suffrage activist Susan B. Anthony, Titanic survivor Margaret "Mrs. JJ" Brown, and Lucy Larcom, a New England textile mill worker who went on to be a well-known poet and educator.
Chapman enjoys educating people about the women of history, as "the men usually get all the attention," she said.
You can view photos and a video from the event at BenningtonBanner.com
Derek Carson can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @DerekCarsonBB.