Monday, June 20, 2011

Rescuing the Rescuer

This weekend was not a reenactment, but a rescue of sorts.  A friend of Gary Shaw’s had in his barn loft a relic of the Civil War, and offered to allow us to display it during the Lancaster event over the 4th of July weekend.  He told us it was an ambulance in the Civil War.
The ambulance as stored, before extraction from the barn.

After seeing it, both Gary and I doubt it was an actual ambulance—but, even so, it may have been used as one.  We do not have any research as to how it was used during the War—only papers indicating that it was from the War.  There were the remnants of two Civil War cots with it, and I was told there was a significant amount of other Civil War items with it as well at one time.  If you have information that can tell us more about this relic, please post your comments to let us know.

It was not easy fetching the wagon out of the hayloft.  The current owner had used his barn over the past 30 years or so as a giant work shed—it had all sorts of things cluttering it up, including a pump organ, a 50’s era gas stove, and two 50’s era sports cars in extreme disrepair (little more than shells with engines).   All of this, plus a ton of lumber had to be moved just to make a path to extract the horse cart.  And then there was a hundred years of filth (lots of coons had been in and out of there over the years) that we stirred up.
Moving the cart to the hole.  That's me on the left--those jeans
were blue when we started.

Once the path was clear, we then had to carefully move the ambulance to the center of the loft, which was an opening with beams to provide a temporary flooring.  Once we put the cart on these beams, an extension cord was used to support it while the beams were removed.  An aluminum ladder was used as a ramp to slid the cart down.
Lowering the wagon.

The wagon was in exceptional shape considering its age and the amount of neglect it had seen.  One wheel had a couple of spokes a piece of wood around the rim missing.  The rear of the buckboard had damage to the inside board.  The tailgate was fully intact, but was completely separated.  The bows for supporting the canvas appear to all have been cut off—but all were present and accounted for.  There were little details here and there that suggested post-Civil War modifications, but they were items that either could be removed in a restoration project, or easily left as part of the history of the relic.  These modifications were probably from no later than the 1910s.

While we rolled it the day’s final destination a little outside the barn, one wheel started to collapse where its wood finally broke at several rotted points.  The owner said he was going to try to tack together some repairs to the ambulance in preparation for the Lancaster event—nothing significant, but enough to make it presentable and deliverable.  He doesn’t have far to go—the event is only about a quarter mile from where the cart has been stored for over a hundred years, but for the safety of the cart he is going to deliver it on a flatbed.
The final result

We are looking forward to seeing it displayed for the public over the 4th of July.  It took ten of us to get that cart out of the barn—six from the 1st Tennessee.  It will give us satisfaction to share a piece of history.
The ambulance during the 4th of July celebrations in Lancaster.

Edit: My doubts about this being an ambulance have been laid to rest.  Gary Shaw forward an original photo of a row of ambulances (below), and as you can see, our wagon looks to be an exact match, other than a bit longer (ours is twelve feet long) and missing the canvas, which appears would have been painted black. 

Finally, based on this link:, it appears it is an extended version of the Rucker ambulance.

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