I saw it at the National Health and Medicine Museum in Silver Springs, Maryland, on our current summer tour.
I first visited the facility when I was a teen hearing it was filled with strange, believe-it-or-not medical oddities. I was intrigued by the scary photos, shattered bones, and pieces of people stuffed into jars. I never could find what one kid had told me was the main attraction, John Dillinger's pickled "pickle".
Two years ago it moved from the backside of the Washington Mall to this modern facility ten miles north. Few people go there. The day before we had shared the Museum of Natural History with about eight thousand others. This place had six visitors while we were there. No wonder, it is very hard to find and, for us, difficult to enjoy.
Most of the curiosities have been tucked away. You can not see civil war general's leg and the huge hair ball that once filled a young girl's stomach. Yes, there still is the leg of an elephantiasis victim and the skeletons of children but these things now leave me sad.
The emphasis now is on the history of military medicine. Basically you see what our country has done to try and stop the bleeding of the world's greatest killing machine.
Viewing a hundred year history of prosthetics, attempts to repair shattered brains and disfigured faces left us feeling empty.
Then there was the big plastic box in the corner. It held some of the leftovers from President Lincoln's autopsy.
On April 15, 1865, Army physicians gathered in the White House to perform a postmortem examination on the president. We learned that as they removed Lincoln's brain from his skull the bullet that killed him clattered into a basin below. Dr. Edward Curtis recalled,
There it lay upon the white china, a little black mass no larger than the end of my finger -dull, motionless, and harmless, yet the cause of such mighty changes in the world's history as we may perhaps never realize.
We stared at it thinking, "Will the madness ever end?".
It was time to put our crowded capitol behind us and continue our trip home. The cool air of the Shenandoah Valley will do us good.