KINGSTON TWP. — In the American Revolutionary War, a combat regiment had only one surgeon to treat the ailing and wounded.
Actually, this man served three roles: surgeon, physician and apothecary, said Jeff Smith, a former teacher at Lake-Lehman High School who serves with the 24th Connecticut Militia as its surgeon and had a major role in a Revolutionary War encampment staged Saturday and Sunday in a pasture at Hillside Farms.
The event was attended by more than a dozen re-creators who offered insight and input on history. The site consisted of tents from the 1776 period, weapons, clothing, flags and remedies to treat the sick and wounded.
Smith offered lectures on medical treatment to visitors who stopped by.
In his black period uniform, Smith stood behind two tables filled with his instruments and remedies, all duplicates of the colonial period.
He offered special comment on the means utilized to keep the American soldiers in the ranks and fighting, although Smith conceded that the mortality rate was extremely high.
“If a soldier was shot in the shoulder, arms or legs, then we could help. But if a wound was in the abdomen or chest region, there wasn’t much a surgeon could do. That man was doomed,” Smith said, explaining that the know-how for treatment and the surgical means didn’t yet exist.
When it came to other wounds, Smith pointed to a pair of silver, pliers-like instruments that a surgeon would utilize to enter the wound and remove a lead ball. The ball was the projectile of a Revolutionary War firearm.
Smith also had string and common needles on display which he said were used to close a wound. When sutures were mentioned, Smith scoffed, saying, “Here’s our sutures,” while pointing to the string.
Mary Jo Elliott, who along with her husband, Jeff, of Springville, are active re-creators in the 24th, said that their unit is a forerunner to the present day U.S. 109th Field Artillery Division, based at the armory on Market Street in Wilkes-Barre.
She also related that her husband’s fourth great-grandfather, Joseph Elliott, served with this militia unit at several of the major Revolutionary War battles, including in Brooklyn Heights, N.Y., Ticonderoga, N.Y., and Trenton, N.J. She said the Elliott family has letters and text that were authored by Joseph Elliott, including a piece in which — when he was in his 90s — he recalled hearing the Declaration of Independence being recited to the troops while at King’s Bridge, N.Y.
Mary Jo said Joseph Elliott died at age 95.
The Elliotts, along with Caron Nelson, of Shavertown, Donna Hopfer, of Noxen, and Joe Morrison, of New Milford, also participate in a number of other re-creation events, including those at Fort Mifflin in Philadelphia, at George Washington’s plantation at Mount Vernon, Va., and at Valley Forge and King of Prussia.
Elliott said the 24th Connecticut as it now exists, was formed 32 years ago. Besides its Northeastern Pennsylvania participants, it has members who reside on Long Island, N.Y., and in South Carolina.