RAYLAND - A local re-creation of a Civil War-era "Wheeling ambulance" leaves for Antietam, Md., today - where it will be on display throughout the summer as part of the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam.
John Marko of Rayland and his son, Joe, will take the ambulance to the Pry House Field Hospital Museum, where wounded soldiers were treated following the deadly Civil War battle. The museum is located on the grounds of the Antietam National Battlefield.
Marko began construction on the wagon-style ambulance - also known as the Rosecrans ambulance - in 2002, and finished it in 2004. It previously was on display at the Pry House Field Hospital Museum when it opened in 2006.
Photo by Joselyn King
John Marko of Rayland stands with his re-creation of a Civil War-era Wheeling ambulance. His hand-crafted piece will be on display this summer at the Pry House Field Hospital Museum at the Antietam National Battlefield in Antietam, Md.
The Wheeling ambulance has been called the "workhorse of the Civil War," said local historian Margaret Brennan.
Military officials in Wheeling, under the direction of Gen. William Rosecrans, were directed to craft a lighter battlefield ambulance that rode more smoothly, Brennan and Marko said.
Rosecrans, an engineer, created an ambulance with four wooden wheels - two larger ones in back and smaller ones in the front - that could be pulled by just two horses. Prior ambulance wagons rode on two wheels, and required the power of five to six horses, Marko said.
Brennan suspects Rosecrans received direction in his design from two medical doctors on his staff. Jonathan Letterman later came to be known as the "father of battlefield medicine," and formulated the ideas for battlefield triage that are still used today. William Hammond would go on to become Surgeon General of the U.S. Army from 1862-64. Both men got their start in Wheeling.
Marko, a millwright, said he was talking with some friends who are Civil War re-enactors when he first had the idea of building a supply wagon they could use.
After speaking with Brennan, the idea evolved into re-creating a Wheeling ambulance. She was able to find for him the original military specifications for the building of the ambulance, as well as an early photo showing the ambulance.
Marko said he believes the ambulance in the photo to be a prototype, though, as it does not match the specifications. He notes the number of spokes in the wheel of the ambulance are fewer in the photo, and it appears to be have a different color scheme.
The specifications called for the ambulance to be all brown with some green stripes, though Marko's ambulance is the lighter color seen in the black and white photograph. He plans to leave it the color he originally painted it. He crafted all parts of the ambulance in his workshop - from its wooden wheels to its braking system.
"I believe a wagon company in Wheeling put it together quickly - using parts they had on hand - just to make a good impression," Marko said.
Wheeling Wagon and Carriage Co., also known as Busbey Little and Co., made a number of the ambulances, as did E. Hayes and Co., according to Brennan. The transportation of the ambulance to Antietam is being sponsored by the Wheeling Civil War 150 Committee and the Wheeling National Heritage Corporation.