Over the weekend, a few of us went to a nearby plantation house, where Civil War re-enactors were doing their thing. We stopped by the table where the camp doctor had his materials set up. And we learned some things about medicine in the mid-19th century.

See that thing in the photo? That’s a trephine, an instrument used for trepanning. Trepanning, an ancient medical practice, involves drilling a hole into the skull to treat psychological distress, migraines, and related issues. Civil War doctors used it on the battlefield.  So, yeah, that instrument above? They used it to drill down into the skulls of patients, and pull a coin-sized bit of bone out.

And that’s not the worst thing I saw in the doctor’s kit. There was the gouging device with which the doctor stabbed a troubled organ and inserted a funnel to drain off the infection (though one imagines this introduced far more infection into the body than it could possibly have cured). And, for me, with my terror of dentistry, the clamp-like instrument with which the doctor grabbed an afflicted tooth and wrenched it out of the patient’s mouth made my stomach do backflips.

By the time the “camp doctor” re-enactor finished with his presentation, I asked for free samples of laudanum to calm my nerves.

I, for one, endorse the plan that calls for modern medicine as well as metaphysical realism. Thank you. I will be hiding under the bed now.