986 | Medical case
About 1860, 19th century
Wood and metal
30 x 15 cm
This artefact belongs to: © New Brunswick Museum
Keys to History
By January 1862, the diplomatic wrangling between the United States and Britain over the Trent Affair had eased somewhat. British troops, however, were still journeying across New Brunswick to reinforce the defences of central Canada. Local newspapers noted the size and numbers of the troop movements. On January 31, 1862, the New Brunswick Reporter noted that seven hundred "Great Guns" were moving from Saint John through Fredericton and on to Woodstock. A few days later, the same newspaper reported the passage of upwards of forty teams of troops and two hundred horses. By March 1862 the soldiers' barracks in Fredericton needed to be expanded to accommodate the volume of troops passing through the city.
The troops' journey could not have been pleasant in the depth of winter, making the surgical kit shown here a necessity, despite the sturdiness of the men. The Headquarters, another Fredericton newspaper, noted in January 1862 that two soldiers were hospitalized with severe frostbite after arriving in Fredericton from Saint John. The paper also noted that often the soldiers, who had been packed in sleighs for four or five hours between scheduled stops, arrived in Fredericton to cold barracks and having to wait twelve hours for food. These inconveniences were however softened by the cheering crowds who welcomed new arrivals and gave rousing send-offs to those moving on.
Superbly presented in a velvet-lined mahogany case, this surgical kit includes a tourniquet, scalpels and picks of various sizes, as well as an ominous-looking handsaw.
Although this surgical kit probably came from Europe, such kits were also widely manufactured in the United States in the mid-19th century.
Winter troop movements were surprisingly easier than those in other seasons because the frozen waterways provided more direct routes and smoother passages for the sleighs.
Records suggest that this medical kit fell out of one of a soldiers' transport during the winter journey of 1862 and was found by a farmer who later sold it to Dr. Mott, a Saint John physician.