Being a teacher is fun. For instance, today I got paid to go on a field trip. We learned about the War of 1812 and life in a time of woolen stockings, straw hats, and big, manly beards. I learned many interesting facts between eating hotdogs and discouraging my students from climbing on the cannons.
(Note for Americans: The War of 1812 occurred when the United States declared war on Britain due to a number of perceived insults and restrictions (most of which revolved around trade with France, England’s mortal enemy). It wasn’t America’s best showing. While they often choose to deny that they lost, the Americans failed in their repeated attempts to invade the British territory that would eventually become Canada. The war ended in 1814-1815 with the signing of the Treaty of Ghent.)
- Cocaine was used as a pain killer for teething babies. Apparently the doctors would prescribe it to be rubbed on their gums to numb the pain. I bet the apothecaries got a lot of rough looking people coming in saying things like, “So, uh yeah, I got this kid at home and he… she… no no, he… yeah he’s got, you know, teeth coming in his mouth and whatnot, so um… can I have some coke for that?”
- Muskets are really freaking loud. It’s been a while since I’ve been around a musket going off (I used to live in Pennsylvania when I was kid, a place that featured daily reenactments of both the Civil and Revolutionary war), and I had completely forgotten just how obnoxiously loud a musket is. It explains why sniping didn’t come into use until smokeless powder was invented; one shot left the air looking like a 1980s bingo hall. If you couldn’t figure out where the musket ball came from between the shattering bang and the massive billowing of white smoke, you deserved to have your leg amputated. Which leads me to my last fact…
- A surgeon in 1812 could amputate a leg at the femur in 36 seconds. I can’t do anything of any value in 36 seconds, much less perform a complex and difficult medical procedure under field conditions. I mean, I probably could hack off someone’s leg in that time, but I would need a band saw or a chainsaw or a bit of high explosives to do it, and I’m pretty sure that the patient wouldn’t survive. These guys had a 40% survival rate, which I think is damn impressive all things considered. And it’s that kind of gruesome stuff that makes field trips worth going on.