Secord collection a bonanza for civil war researcher


When it comes to medical kits from the American Civil War, the exhibit at the Walker House in Kincardine “is the gold mine. It’s worth its weight in gold,” says a U.S. history buff.

Les Buell has been involved in Civil War re-enactments since 1989 and has been researching the medical aspect of the war since 1992.

In March, he will be speaking at the Society of Civil War Surgeons’s conference in Chattanooga, Tennessee. One of his subjects will be the late Dr. Solomon Secord, a Kincardine surgeon who served with the Confederate Army.

That’s why Buell was in Kincardine for a couple of days last week.

American Civil War history buff Les Buell examines the surgical equipment of the late Dr. Solomon Secord of Kincardine. (Eric Howald photo)

The Walker House has a room set up that contains a collection of stories about Secord as well as his medical tools which were donated to the Walker House by Dr. Don Milne. Since little is known of Secord in the States, the Walker House should provide Buell with ample material for his speech.

Secord was a “full” surgeon, said Buell. Back then, he would have been doing the amputations; today he would be doing the surgery on injured members of the Armed Forces.

Secord set up a medical practice in Kincardine in 1859 and prior to the outbreak of war, paid a visit to friends in Georgia. An outspoken abolitionist, he came close to being hung for his views on slavery. His good friends were able to save him from the noose.

Despite his views on slavery, he joined the Confederate Army in 1862, only to be captured at Gettysburg on July 5, 1863. He was one of more than 100 surgeons left behind by the army to tend to the Confederate wounded.

Buell believes that between them, the two armies would have had more than 600 surgeons at Gettysburg.

After his capture, Secord and the other surgeons were sent to Fort McHenry in Baltimore. He escaped Sept. 19, 1863, and made his way back to the Confederate States. He was put in charge of hospitals for the Confederate Army and given the rank of Surgeon-General.

Following the war, he returned to Kincardine and practiced medicine until his death in 1910. The Secord Memorial was erected in front of the library in memory of the much-loved doctor.

Asked why there is still so much interest in the Civil War, Buell said “it is basically what created our country and yours. Our country became one nation after the Civil War.”

More than 50,000 Canadians fought in the Civil War, he added.

Buell, a retired school teacher from New York State, east of Rochester, has a surgeon’s kit that’s not as complete as the one at the Walker House.

“This is a fantastic collection,” said Buell.