National Park Service welcomes the public to the Pry House at Antietam National Battlefield

April 24, 2005|by JULIE E. GREENE

SHARPSBURG - Imagine someone coming into your home, tossing your rolled living room carpet aside and transforming the room into a makeshift hospital.

That's what happened to the Pry family when the Union Army took over their home, barn and land just before the Battle of Antietam.

This Thursday people can get a glimpse of what life was like on the Pry Farm during and after the Sept. 17, 1862, battle when the Pry House Field Hospital Museum opens.


The National Park Service acquired the Pry House, at 18906 Shepherdstown Pike, in 1975, but the interior has never been open to the public before, Battlefield Superintendent John Howard said.

The house and eventually the barn will open as a cooperative project with the National Museum of Civil War Medicine, based in Frederick, Md., on Thursday, April 28, with a 10 a.m. ribbon-cutting.

The Pry family's house served as a field hospital for 4 1/2 months after the battle, and the barn was a hospital for six to seven months, Howard said.

"It's one thing to say there were field hospitals and describe one. It's something different to occupy one and see it," said George C. Wunderlich, executive director of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine.

Picturing history

Exhibits on the first floor of the house will explain the effects on the Pry family, medical challenges, personalities of Union and Confederate doctors and medical advances developed at Antie-tam that people still reap the benefits from today, Wunderlich said.

Gen. George McClellan set up his headquarters in the Pry House, which became a field hospital the day of the battle, Howard said.

That day an estimated 6,200 Union and Confederate soldiers were killed, about 16,000 were wounded and about 150 were missing, Howard said.

The command of Jonathan Letterman, medical director of the Army of the Potomac, included all the area field hospitals around the time of the battle, Wunderlich said.

Letterman wrote a report on medical care during the battle and laid out why and how to reorganize army medical care, Wunderlich said. This included organizing a dedicated ambulance corps and developing a multi-tiered care system from the battlefield to final recuperation, Wunderlich said.

Displays in the house will include an amputation kit, a home medical kit in a mahogany box with brass inlay, the type of collapsible cup wounded Gen. Joseph Hooker used when he was a patient in the field hospital, Wunderlich said.

The barn will be used for lectures and living history demonstrations and occasionally will host 19th-century music in the evenings, Wunderlich said. The barn should be fully open in late 2006.


Phillip Pry Jr. began building the brick Georgian house in 1844 and established a decent living as a farmer, Howard said.

When McClellan decided to use the Prys' home as his headquarters during the battle, the Prys left their home, Howard said.

Mrs. Pry was not happy when she returned to her home on Sept. 19 to find her upholstered furniture outside, according to Wunderlich and Howard.

It took the family more than 12 years to get reimbursed by the government for damages done by the Union Army to their property, Wunderlich and Howard said.

The park service bought the property in 1975. Restoration of the house began in 1990 and finished in August, Howard said. That's about the time Wunderlich and Howard discussed having a Civil War field hospital museum at Antietam National Battlefield.

The restoration cost about $300,000, and fixing up the barn is expected to cost about $250,000, Howard said.

The nonprofit National Museum of Civil War Medicine will take over the costs of utilities and daily maintenance, which is expected to save the park service about $15,000 annually, Howard said.

The cooperative agreement the park service has with the museum is for five years with chances to renew every five years, Howard said.

Wunderlich said he hopes visitors leave the museum with an appreciation for what the people such as Letterman accomplished there that affects lives today.

Wunderlich also hopes visitors are inspired.

"Jonathan Letterman changed the world. So could you," Wunderlich said.

If you go ...

WHAT: Pry House Field Hospital Museum

WHEN: Ribbon-cutting is at 10 a.m. Thursday, April 28. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday. Open through early December.

WHERE: 18906 Shepherdstown Pike, east of Sharpsburg.

COST: Free. Donations are accepted.

DIRECTIONS: From Hagerstown, take Md. 65 (Sharpsburg Pike) south to Sharpsburg. At the stop sign, turn left onto Md. 34 (Shepherdstown Pike). The lane to the museum is on the left, past Antietam Creek. There will be a brown and white park service sign.

CONTACT: For more information, call 1-301-695-1864 or visit on the Web.

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