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Sunday, April 26, 2015

Dr. William J. Bunnell's Embalming Shed Near the Battlefield at Fredericksburg

From: civilwarundertaker.net

The accompanying photo shows one of Dr. Bunnell's  (1823-1891) embalming sheds near Fredericksburg, Virginia, December 1862.  The embalmer would use any building or shed available.  In the absence of a permanent structure he would pitch a tent.  There were days when it was not uncommon for there to be more than 100 bodies waiting to be embalmed.

As the "embalming surgeon" or "undertaker" contracted to prepare the body of the dead soldier, he would set up an embalming tent near the battlefield or hospital.  There would be times when there might be tens upon tens of bodies waiting to be embalmed and prepared for shipment home. The cost would vary with each embalmer.  For many families the cost was a hardship.  However, having a Christian burial at home for their loved one was worth the sacrifices that had to be made.  Of course, when the body arrived home there would be additional costs for the wake and service.

It is well to remember that because of horrific battle conditions and general confusion, it was very difficult to located the remains of an officer and almost impossible to locate the remains of a common soldier.  But still, the hopes of the family persisted.  It became more and more common for the soldiers to pin cards to their sack coat or shirt, or to wear a metal disk around the neck, upon which he would write his name and hometown.  If his body would be found the undertaker would know where to send it.


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