Civil War Museum’s Severed Arm From Antietam’s Battlefield~
Long after the guns grew silent at Antietam, the earth yielded up a gruesome reminder of the bloodiest day of the American Civil War: a severed limb, now the focus of intense study at the National Museum of Civil War Medicine in Maryland.
A Sharpsburg-area farmer is said to have found the human forearm while plowing a field two weeks after the 1862 battle. Officials at the museum in Frederick, Md., are trying to learn more about the limb in hopes of verifying that it’s a relic of the Battle of Antietam.
The muddy-looking right forearm, with skin and hand attached, was donated anonymously to the museum earlier this year, said Executive Director George Wunderlich. It had been displayed for several decades at a private museum in Sharpsburg in a glass-topped, pine case with a placard reading, “Human arm found on the Antietam Battlefield.”
"Being able to put the story of this unknown person before this country is very important to us," Wunderlich said. "His remains will tell a story that will relate us back to his sacrifice. This was what they gave for what they believed. If done properly, it’s a very poignant story."
The unidentified farmer who found the limb put it in a barrel of brine, according to Thomas McGrath’s 1997 book, “Maryland September: True Stories from the Antietam Campaign.” The farmer reportedly gave it to a Boonsboro physician, who is said to have more permanently preserved it with embalming fluid.
The arm’s owner was probably a small man less than 20 years old, said William Gardner, a former Marshall University forensic medicine instructor who examined it in March. Since the elbow joint is undamaged, with no surgical saw marks, the arm was likely removed somewhere between the shoulder and elbow, he said. The forearm skin and tendons appear to have been violently twisted.