Dr. Hunter McGuire on Brig. Gen. T. J. Jackson’s Wound

1 05 2016

A Reminiscence of Stonewall Jackson – His Wound at the Battle of Manassas

In the February number of the Richmond Medical Journal, we find an able paper on “gunshot wounds of joints,” from the pen of Dr. Hunter McGuire, Professor of Surgery in the Virginia Medical College, and, during the war, chief surgeon on the staff of General Stonewall Jackson. In the course of his remarks, speaking of gunshot wounds of the hands, the Doctor cites the case of the wound received by his renowned Chief at the first battle of Manassas. The Doctor writes:

When he made the celebrated charge with his brigade, which turned the fortune of the day, he raised his left hand above his head to encourage the troops, and, while in this position, the middle finger of the hand was struck just below the articulation between the first and second phalanges. The ball struck the finger a little to one side, broke it, and carried of a small piece of the bone. He remained upon the field, wounded as he was, till the fight was over, and then wanted to take part in the pursuit, but was peremptorily ordered back to the hospital by the General commanding. On his way to the rear, the wound pained him so much that he stopped at the first hospital he came to, and the surgeon there proposed to cut the finger off; but while the Doctor looked for his instruments, and for a moment turned his back, the General silently mounted his horse, rode off, and soon afterwards found me. I was busily engaged with the wounded, but when I saw him coming, I left them, and asked him if he was seriously hurt. “No,” he answered, “not half as badly as many here, and I will wait.” And he forthwith sat down on the bank of a little stream near by, and positively declined any assistance until “his turn came!” We compromised, however, and he agreed to let me attend to him after I had finished the case I was dressing when he arrived. I determined to save the finger, if possible, and placed a splint along the palmar surface to support the fragments, retained it in position by a strip or two of adhesive plaster, covered the sound with lint, and told him to keep it wet with cold water. He carefully followed this advice. I think he had a fancy for this type of hydropathick treatment, and I have frequently seen him occupied for several hours pouring cup after cup of water over his hand, with that patience and perseverance for which he was so remarkable. Passive motion was instituted about the twentieth day, and carefully continued. The motion of the joint improved for months after the wound had healed, and, in the end, the deformity was very trifling.

During the treatment, the hand was kept elevated and confined in a sling, and when the use of this was discontinued, and the hand permitted to hang down, there was, of course, gravitation of blood towards it. Under the circumstances you would expect this. In consequence of it, however, the hand was sometimes swollen and painful, and, to remedy this, he often held it above his head for some moments. He did this so frequently that it became at length a habit, and was continued, especially when he was abstracted, after all necessity for it had ceased. I have seen it stated somewhere that whenever, during a battle, his had was thus raised, he was engaged in prayer; but I think the explanation I have given is the correct one. I believe he was the truest and most consistent Christian I have ever known, but I don’t believe he prayed much while he was fighting.

Richmond Examiner, 1/31/1866

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Contributed by John Hennessy

New Bull Run Article in Civil War Times

5 04 2016

3John Hennessy, featured guide for Bull Runnings’ upcoming tour of the battlefield of First Bull Run, has an article on medical care at the battle in the new issue of Civil War Times.

That Sunday evening…the battlefield heaved and twitched under the weight of carnage. Hundreds of wounded men lay on the field, some of them struggling to breathe or signaling for help. Around them lay hundreds more, frozen in death. The nearly 900 dead men on the Matthews, Henry, Robinson and Chinn farms shocked observers by their sheer number. July 21, 1861, had been the deadliest day in America’s short history.

Check it out.

Interview: Guy R. Hasegawa, “Mending Broken Soldiers”

22 10 2012

I first became familiar Guy Hasegawa through his collaboration with Jim Schmidt on Years of Change and Suffering: Modern Perspectives on Civil War Medicine. At Jim’s request Guy sent me a copy of his new book, Mending Broken Soldiers: The Union and Confederate Programs to Supply Artificial Limbs. OK, well, after I dropped a not very subtle hint to Jim on Facebook, that is. It’s a slim volume, only 80 pages of text with another 45 pages of appendices, notes, etc., but it’s chock full of good stuff all in answer to a question which perhaps you never actually considered – how did governments and industry satisfy the explosion in demand for artificial limbs brought about by the Civil War?

BR:  Guy, can you start off with a little background?

GH: I was born and raised in Santa Monica, CA, and received a B.A. in zoology from UCLA and a doctor of pharmacy degree from UC San Francisco. Further pharmacy training and jobs accounted for a series of moves eastward until I landed in suburban Maryland, where I have worked since 1988 as an editor for a pharmacy journal. I’ve published numerous articles on pharmacy and medical topics. My historical articles started appearing in 2000, and I collaborated with my good friend Jim Schmidt in editing and contributing to Years of Change and Suffering. I’m honored to serve on the Board of Directors of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine (NMCWM) and am a Director Emeritus of the Society of Civil War Surgeons (SOCWS). My wife and I have two college-age sons. Our remaining family member is of the canine persuasion – a male Belgian Malinois.

BR: How did you get interested in studying the Civil War?

GH: I think I’ve always been interested in military history. The Civil War Centennial started when I was nine, and I remember ordering a map – by mailing in some cereal box tops, I think – that showed the location of various battles and had portraits of generals around the border. I didn’t really start studying the war, though, until I moved to Maryland and began visiting battlefields and other sites. After seeing NMCWM in Frederick, MD, I volunteered my services there and was assigned, because of my pharmacy and editorial background, to research and write a panel for a display of medicinal herbs. The Museum referred me to Dr. Terry Hambrecht, an expert on Confederate medicine, who became a friend and mentor and continues to be an invaluable sounding board and information resource. The herb project required examination of primary reference sources, and I soon became hooked on the challenge of finding obscure information and trying to make sense of it. I began attending and lecturing at NMCWM and SOCWS conferences and writing historical articles based on my research. The members of these organizations are knowledgeable, encouraging, and eager to hear about each other’s research. Interacting with them has taught me a lot and helped me differentiate between tired topics and those that warrant further investigation.

BR: Why prosthetics?

GH: Much of my research has been on the Confederate medical department, and I have spent considerable time at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) facility in Washington, DC. While scanning NARA holdings, I became aware of the record book of the Association for the Relief of Maimed Soldiers (ARMS), which I later learned was the wartime Southern organization that provided artificial limbs to amputees. I promised myself that I’d examine the volume when I had time, and once I did, I concluded that ARMS would be a good topic for an article or talk. A little more thought convinced me that the corresponding Union program also needed to be researched, and it eventually dawned on me that there might be enough material altogether for a book, especially if I included a description of the limbs industry. I didn’t start with an intention to learn about prostheses, but the story told by the records was too good not to relay. Because of my familiarity with Civil War medicine, I was pretty certain that the topic had not been explored in-depth and that I could handle it without wandering too far outside my areas of expertise.

BR: What will most folks, regardless of their experience studying the Civil War, learn from Mending Broken Soldiers?

GH: Mending Broken Soldiers is unique in numerous ways. It describes in detail the wartime efforts of both North and South to assist military amputees. Most of the existing literature deals with the postwar Southern programs, and the few brief descriptions of the wartime programs are incorporated into discussions of the social aspects of amputation and prosthetics.

My primary goal was to describe what happened and why, but this story cannot be appreciated without a basic understanding of prosthetics – how they were produced and by whom – so the book describes the intensely competitive limbs industry and includes an appendix of the makers important to the story. People interested in invention and technology should enjoy learning how the limbs were constructed and how makers used mechanical innovations and marketing to gain a competitive edge. I’m not aware of another modern work that provides this sort of information. One can find old articles and books about artificial limbs, but many of them were essentially advertising pieces and none, to my knowledge, provides a balanced overview of the business.

The book also serves as an effective case study demonstrating how the vast differences between the North and South influenced the respective programs’ ability to attain their goals. Constructing and distributing artificial limbs required, among other things, technical know-how, administrative competence, industrial capacity, manpower, raw materials, adequate transportation, and money. Although the Southern limbs effort did not lack for administrative ability and zeal, the book neatly illustrates how deficiencies in those other factors compromised the program. The tribulations of the Southern program provide insight about the difficulties that plagued other aspects of the Confederate war effort. Mending Broken Soldiers features a slew of illustrations, many of which have not previously appeared in print. The publisher has posted lists of soldiers who applied for or received an artificial limb through the programs. These lists, which are available at no cost, convey some idea of the war’s human toll and may be useful to genealogists and others who are researching individual soldiers. Readers looking for a connection between past and present will learn that today’s programs to supply prostheses to service members arose from the efforts described in Mending Broken Soldiers. Those interested in famous military men will learn something new about Union cavalryman Ulric Dahlgren and Confederate generals N. B. Forrest, J. B. Hood, and R. S. Ewell. The book is not just for Civil War medicine enthusiasts.

BR: Can you describe the project and what you learned along the way that surprised you?

GH: My research started in mid-2009 and continued until I submitted the final manuscript about two years after that. It would have taken much longer if I had not already been familiar with Civil War medicine and with some of the resources at NARA and other repositories. A major difficulty, common to much Civil War research, was the incompleteness and scattering of records and the difficulty of piecing together documentary evidence into a cohesive story. Much of the documentation I used was in the form of letters that had to be gathered from various sources and put in chronological order to get a picture of events. The U.S. Surgeon General’s records were particularly troublesome because they are massive and require you to look in registers and indexes to find possibly pertinent letters, which are often mis-filed. All this takes time because of the limits that NARA puts on the number of records you can request – not to mention the mental fatigue that sets in after a few hours of trying to read strange handwriting in disappearing ink. I was dismayed at my inability to find some vital reports to the Surgeon General, without which I’d have to make some risky inferences. These were referred to but not filed with the Surgeon General’s correspondence, and I almost gave them up for lost when I discovered them among records of the Adjutant General. Another obstacle was the lack of cooperation from an important archival source, which I will not name. I eventually got what I needed, but it was like pulling teeth.

Since I started with no knowledge about the limbs programs, everything was new and interesting. One of the neat things about the Union records was correspondence from prominent physicians – guys you hear about when studying the history of medicine, like Valentine Mott and Samuel Gross. I had no idea that ARMS, a civilian agency, was administered by a Confederate surgeon. This helped explain why the organization operated as well as it did, and it also accounted for the ARMS documents showing up among official Confederate records. I was surprised at the difficulty that ARMS had in finding decent artificial limbs to copy. There must have been Southerners wearing high-quality Northern prostheses, so I’m perplexed about why they were so hard to locate. I was also surprised that when amputees were given a choice, after the war, between a replacement prosthesis and cash, the vast majority took the money. The archival material is sprinkled with bits of unexpected information, and many of these nuggets made it into the book.

After a while, any researcher starts to see that the investment of time is yielding less and less new information. I reached a point at which I considered the narrative fairly coherent and detailed enough for most readers. I also had a deadline for submitting a finished manuscript, so that forced me to halt further research and devote my remaining time to cleaning up my writing and making sure all the pieces were in place. At this point, I don’t think I omitted anything important.

BR: You’ve covered some of this above, but can you expand on your research and writing process, and where you found your information?

GH: The bulk of my research was conducted at NARA. I transcribed nearly all of the Confederate material I found into Word documents. This greatly facilitated later reading and made it possible to use the search function to locate pertinent documents or passages. I should have done the same for the Union documents but didn’t. Beyond that, I cast a wide net to gather as much pertinent information as I could and always tried to trace it back to its original source. I consulted the Official Records and the Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion and searched the Surgeon General’s Index Catalogue (the predecessor of Index Medicus). Google books and other online sources provided lots of leads and many complete documents, including government reports. Fold3, a great online source for Confederate compiled service records, census records, and city directories, saved me many trips to NARA. I’m lucky to be close not only to NARA but also to other important information sources that I visited or contacted for this project. These included the National Library of Medicine, Library of Congress, National Museum of Health and Medicine, and NMCWM. I used WorldCat and other sources to identify libraries and other repositories holding important documents, and in almost all cases, I successfully obtained electronic or mailed copies.

As an editor, I often advise aspiring authors to write an outline and not to worry too much about eloquence or style when preparing initial drafts. My own practice is pretty much the opposite and did not change with the book even though it was a larger project than my articles. While I’m reading and organizing my stacks of references, I picture how the information is coming together and how it can best be arranged. By the time I actually begin writing, I know what I want to do with only a mental outline. For the book, I created a decent draft of one chapter before starting on the next, and the order in which I wrote the chapters depended on how complete my information was for the subject at hand. As I wrote, I discovered holes in the information or in my understanding of the topic, and this prompted additional research or reexamination of the sources. I also refine organization and wording constantly, starting with the first draft, so a piece of my writing is altered scores of times before I’m happy with it. I don’t recommend my approach, and it has probably worked for me only because my projects have been relatively small.

BR: Is there another Civil War related book in your future?

GH: I have another possible book in mind that would allow me to use a lot of material I’ve collected over the years on Union and Confederate medical purveying. As is the case with Mending Broken Soldiers, I’d like the material to demonstrate how conditions forced the two sides to take different approaches. I also want the work to be relevant to a wide range of readers, not just those specializing in Civil War medicine. Until I figure out how to do all of that, I won’t know exactly what the book will cover or how much more research I’ll need to do. For now, I’ll be promoting Mending Broken Soldiers, attending Civil War medicine conferences, and keeping my eyes open for something new to research.

Thanks, Guy, for a truly enlightening look into how Mending Broken Soldiers came about!

Pvt. John E. Donovan, Co. B, 2nd Wisconsin, On His Wounding In the Battle

31 01 2012

A Man Wounded Six Times In One Battle.


Statement of John E. Donovan, Company B, Second Wisconsin Regiment.


Went into an engagement at Bull Run, Sunday, July 21, 1861, at 10 o’clock, A.M., or thereabouts. Marched up the hill after getting over a fence, and on reaching nearly to the brow I was struck by a rifle ball in the calf of my right leg, outside, passing through to the skin on the other side. In the cars on the way to Richmond the next evening, a young man, looking among the wounded prisoners, wanted me to let him take it out and keep the ball, to which I consented, and he cut it out.

After being hit as above I stepped back to the fence, sat down and bound up my leg to keep it from bleeding. I then got up and loaded and fired from where I stood. After firing three times, another ball hit me in the left heel, glancing up along near my ankle joint. This ball remained in about eight weeks, when my leg, being badly festered, the prison hospital surgeon lanced it one evening, and in the night the ball worked down, so I got it out the next morning.

After being hit the second time I still kept loading and firing as fast as I could. In about ten minutes, as near as I can judge, a third ball struck me in the right side, which still remains somewhere within me. This disabled me somewhat for a short time, but I again loaded and fired two or three times as well as I could, when I was struck in the right arm (while in the act of firing) about midway between my elbow and shoulder joints, the ball running up towards my neck. The ball was taken out about nine weeks afterwards by the hospital surgeon at Richmond, about half way from my shoulder joint to my neck bone. I fired my musket but once after this, as the recoil of it hurt my shoulder so, I was unable to bear it.

I then left the fence to get behind a tree standing some two hundred and fifty yards off, and picked up a revolver which lay on the ground, just after I left the fence, at which time a bullet struck on my right wrist glancing off from the bone. I went a little further towards the tree, when some twelve or fifteen Confederate soldiers came out of the woods directly towards me.

I fired the revolver at them three times, and just as I fired the third barrel, a bullet fired by one of this company struck me just below my left eye, going into my head. I knew nothing more until about noon the next day (Monday). When I came to I found myself lying right where I fell the day before. I tried to get up, but could not. After this I made several ineffectual attempts to crawl away to the shade of a tree, the sun shining very hot. About four p.m., a couple of soldiers came along, picked me up, and carried me to the cars, and I was sent to Richmond, afterwards sent to Alabama, and finally released on parole. The bullet still remains in my head; the hospital surgeon says it lies somewhere near my right ear (the sense of hearing being entirely lost in that ear), the drum, or tympanum having been injured by it. The slightest touch on my chin, or near it, causes a severe pain in my right temple and over the ear. I cannot see at all with my left eye. I cannot bear to be out in the sun; it makes me dizzy and my head pains me severely; so also does more than ordinary exercise. Ordinarily, when sitting quiet, my head only occasionally troubles me – a little dizziness and heaviness is about all – except when out in the sun or heated, as before stated; and also when I attempt to lift anything, it puts me in severe pain in my head, and my eyes pain me exceedingly, as well then as when heated or out in the sun. I am obliged to keep out of the sun as much as possible on account of this excruciating pain in my head and eyes, and when I read my eyes fill with water, and I have to rest. I cannot write a letter of ordinary length. I have to stop several times for this and from dizziness. There is occasionally a dimness comes over my right eye even when quiet, but not very often. The surgeon said the bone around my left temple was shattered, and that pieces thereof would work out; none has to my knowledge. The bullet which entered my right side has not yet given me any great trouble.

New York Irish-American, 9/6/1862

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Contributed by John Hennessy

Rowland Ward

23 11 2009

A while back I ran this article explaining my tag line to the right (Dulce Bellum Inexpertis).  Today I received a message from Charles Mills, a descendant of the man pictured in that article.

Rowland Ward was my great-great-grandfather. Born in 1818 in Lincolnshire, England, he came to America as a young man and settled in Hunts Hollow, NY. This is just south of Letchworth State Park. He raised a family there. He enlisted in the NY 4th Heavy Artillery. Some of his early training took place on the Parade Grounds that still exist in the park. Assigned to Fort Ethan Allen, he helped man the heavy guns which protected Washington, DC. Grant reassigned many of these units to combat duty in the Spring of 1864. He was at the Battle of the Wilderness. After his massive injury at Reams Station, the Confederates initially captured him but gave him back to the Union medical people. He spent a year at Lincoln General Hospital before returning home. Remarkably, he lived until 1898 in Hunts Hollow. On a government pension, he outlived his first wife and remarried. Apparently he had some celebrity status in the area. We have photos of the reconstructive process. He grew a beard to cover the injury. I believe his food intake was limited to soft and liquid foods for the rest of his life. My grandfather had fond memories of him from his youth. He was able to verbally communicate to some extent. He had a lot of heart problems after the injury. He is buried in Hunts Hollow.

Thanks for the background on Rowland Ward.  One of the really gratifying things about writing this blog is hearing from kin of the folks discussed here. It’s nice to know that Ward’s story had a not so unhappy ending.   From page 150 of Photographic Atlas of Civil War Injuries, here are some images of Ward’s surgical progress (click on the image for a larger version – click the larger image for a ginormous one):

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Reader Contributions

27 08 2009

Thanks to Jim Schmidt for transcribing this letter from Surgeon Frank Hamilton of the 31st NY and published in the American Medical Times in 1861.  And thanks to him for allowing me to post it to the resources here in its entirety.  As a rule I don’t regurgitate here  items that appear on other sites (specifically original content articles), but this qualifies as a resource and I don’t like to rely on another site being around in a month let alone 20 years, so I like to get the material on-site.  Jim intends to cull his and on-line collections of medical journals for more First Bull Run material and transcribe it when time permits, which can only be good for Bull Runnings.

Surgeon Frank Hamilton, 31st NY, to The American Medical Times

27 08 2009

The American Medical Times

Volume III, July-December 1861, pp. 77-79

Surgeon Frank H. Hamilton, 31st NYVI



Camp Pratt, near Alexandria, Va.

July 26, 1861.

[Special Correspondence of the American Medical Times]

I have had no time to write to you before, and I have scarcely the time now, but I have seized a few moments of leisure to give you a brief account of one day’s experience upon the field of battle.

At half past two, Sunday morning, I was in my saddle, with my assistants by my side, and my ambulance was ready for the march. The column began to move at this early hour, but our Division, under General Miles, did not leave the encampment until after six o’clock A. M. We then followed the long train which had preceded us, and after a march of about three miles took up our position where the battle of the preceding Thursday was fought, upon the brow of a hill commanding a view of the whole valley in which lay the forces of the enemy. The 32d and the 16th New York Volunteers were ordered to support Lieut. Pratt’s battery, Col. Pratt, of the 31st, acting as Brigadier- Gen, or commanding officer, while Lieut.-Col. Brown took charge of our own regiment, the 31st; subsequently Col. Pratt took charge of his own regiment and was ordered to support Major Hunt’s battery.

As soon as the troops were fairly in position the batteries opened upon the enemy with shell, solid shot, grape, and canister. Their fire was very effective, but it was not answered until late in the afternoon. In the meantime my assistants aided me in selecting a place along the wood, in our rear, where a pretty deep cut or gorge, leading a little off from the main road, would enable us to dress the wounded without exposure. We all went to work with a will, with the help of the drummer boys, and had soon cleared the gorge of stones and bushes. Here we proposed to have the wounded brought on stretchers by the drummers and a few volunteer aids, who together composed my ambulance corps. We then placed our ambulance above and beyond the gorge, in the direction towards a log-house, which was situated one-quarter of a mile further off in the rear. We took down the fences to let the ambulance pass, and planted our red flags at the temporary depot, and at the log-house. We were all ready when we received notice of an expected charge of cavalry upon that road, and were requested to select a building on the opposite side of the road, as the enemy’s batteries would range across the old log-house. Accordingly we hastened to make the change, and in a few minutes we had everything as well arranged in a snug wooden house, occupied by negroes, as if we were in Bellevue. The operating table was ready, the bed arranged, and the instruments, sponges, bandages, cordials, &c., in order.

I now rode back to the field, and found we had had one slight skirmish, in which one man of the 16th had been wounded in the head, which Dr. Crandell, of the 16th, had already dressed. It was past mid-day and we were all tired, hungry, and thirsty. Exploring a garden in front and to the right of the batteries I found cabbages, beets, parsley, onions, sage, and potatoes; near by were chickens, and smoked hams in a deserted lodge. Water we found one-quarter of a mile to the left on the borders of the woods, within which lay the enemy, but the drummers brought water, and with the help of Mr. Nourse, Dr. Marvin, and my son, we soon made about four gallons of the best soup I have ever eaten. We had salt and pepper to season it, and good appetites to welcome it. We made also a large coffee-pot full of coffee, and found sugar to sweeten it. This we carried to the rear and fed out first to the Col. and his staff, and then to the line officers and men, as far as it would go, not forgetting ourselves and the drummer boy.

After this precious repast we carried whiskey to those soldiers who had been skirmishing, or who seemed especially to need it; for they were without shelter, under a sky of brass. To those who called for it also we sent or carried water in pails—such water as we could get.  The men never left their lines, except when ordered to act as skirmishers, and must have perished except for some such refreshments.

At about four or five p. m. a message was sent to us that the enemy were retreating, and that the day was ours, and I immediately returned to my hospital to order, of the black inmates of the South, supper for the Colonel’s staff and my own. I was standing at the door, looking out towards the road, when I saw the regiments approaching in order, but rather rapidly; at the same moment came an order from Dr. Woodward, the intelligent and faithful medical director of our division, for me to fall back with my hospital to Centreville, about one mile further back, as the enemy were making an attempt to flank us on the left, in the direction of our division. I immediately had every thing replaced in the ambulance, and having paid Maria, the black woman, whose dinner we did not eat, we started for Centreville. We went along the same road with the troops, who were moving in good order, and without any appearance of alarm. At Centreville I took out my amputating case, general operating case, and medicine chest, and finding a large number of wounded already here, proceeded at once to dress their wounds, extract the bullets, etc. We were occupied for an hour or more in an old tavern. My assistants here were Dr. Lucien Damainville (first Assistant), Dr. — Brown, Mr. Marvine, medical student, Mr. Nourse, and my son Frank, who had been acting most of the day as the Colonel’s aid. I think Dr. Arnt, of one of the Michigan regiments, was with us at this time. We had no bandages, no lint, no sponges, no cerate, and but very little water, and I think only one basin. Our first attention was directed to those already in the house. Stooping down as they lay crowded upon the floor, we inquired, “Where is your wound, my poor fellow ?” for they seldom called us until we came to their relief, nor did many of them utter a moan. There they lay silent, waiting their turn. Most of the wounds were made by spherical balls—some had gone through entirely, without breaking a bone or severing an artery—and to them we said, ” Bravo, my boy, a noble wound, but no harm done. Mr. Nourse, apply a cloth, wet with cool water.” Not a few, encouraged and strengthened by these words, got up, and came on foot to Alexandria and Washington. I saw several at Fort Runyon, from whom I had extracted balls from the neck, arms, and legs, the next morning when I arrived there, and they had walked the whole distance. Three or four had balls through their bodies, and had walked two or three miles to the village ; one was brought up with a wound in his thigh, who had lain on the field since the Thursday preceding. He will recover, I think.

From this building we went to a private house, which was also full, and then to the old stone church. Here I met Dr. Taylor, of the 1st New Jersey Regiment, who was laboring most industriously, and Dr. _____ , a private, a very intelligent man, belonging, I think, to the 2d Michigan, and who, for his- extraordinary zeal and attention, deserves great credit.

In the old stone church the men were “lying upon every seat, between all the seats, and on every foot of the floor; a few on stretchers, perhaps three or four; a dozen or more on blankets—occasionally upon a litter, hay or straw, but mostly on the boards.

The scene here was a little different; it was dark; we had but two or three tallow-candles. The men had been waiting longer, and were in general more severely wounded; and, although now and then a man asked us to pass him, and to look first after some one lying near who was suffering more, yet from all sides we were constantly begged and implored to do something for them. After a little we concluded to take them in order as they lay, since to do otherwise rendered it necessary to consume time in going backwards and forwards, and we were constantly in danger of treading upon the wounded; indeed, it was impossible to avoid doing so. By this time we had found a hospital knapsack, and were pretty well supplied with bandages; but the time did not allow us to do much more at first, than to extract the bullets, and apply cool water dressings, with lint.

Only two amputations were made by myself; one below the knee, and one above the elbow-joint. Both of them, I confess, were done very badly, but I could, at the time, and under the circumstances, do no better. My back seemed broken, and my hands were stiff with blood. We still had no sponges, and scarcely more water than was necessary to quench the thirst of the wounded men. My assistants were equally worn out—Dr. Taylor alone seemed vigorous and ready for more toil.

At half-past twelve, or about that time, we went out to get a candle, to enable Dr. Taylor to amputate a man’s arm at the shoulder-joint. Just then a regiment came up, and the Colonel was challenged by the picket. This reminded me that if we were to stay all night, as we had mutually agreed to do, we should need the countersign; but although we told him we were medical men, in charge of the wounded, and intended to stay, this was refused to us. The colonel told us that his was the last regiment covering the retreat.

We obtained a candle and went to the house where lay Dr. Taylor’s patient, with his arm terribly shattered with a cannon ball or fragment of a shell. It was nearly torn off near the shoulder-joint, but the haemorrhage was trivial, he was dying of the shock. We gave him whiskey, the only stimulant we had, with water, dressed the wound slightly, and left him to his fate.

Dr. Damainville and I now lay down upon our backs upon the floor beside the wounded—we could do no more—our last candle was burning. Some of us had seen all the wounded, probably 250 in number, and done for them all that lay in our power. I had drunk some buttermilk and eaten a sandwich that Adjutant Washburn had held to my mouth once in the evening, but none of us had had any other food. I had sent Adjutant Washburn to overtake Gen. McDowell early in the evening, and to represent our condition, but he could not find him, and returned without help. The two bottles of whiskey taken by my son from the ambulance when we first came were already nearly distributed to the wounded. They had not a morsel to eat, the ambulances were all gone and had been for several hours. As we went into the street again, we found it was silent as the grave—the pickets even were gone, and except a few men so soundly asleep under the trees that we could not awaken them, there was no one left in the road. After a second consultation we determined to go also. My assistants and myself soon found our horses, but the servant was gone, and with him the bridles, nor could we after much search and loud and long shouting find him. I went back to the old stone church, and found one soldier just brought in, whose wounds I dressed, and then said aloud to the poor fellows within: ” Thank God, my boys, none of you are very seriously injured; you will probably all get well.” To which I heard one or two feeble responses: ” Thank you, Doctor, thank you.” I could not tell them I was about to leave them, and I trust in leaving them so I did them no wrong. I could be of no more service to them until morning, and then I presumed they would be in the hands of a civilized and humane enemy who would care for them better than we could. As I passed along out of the village I requested one gentleman who lived there to look after them, and also a family composed of a man and wife with two daughters. They all promised to do what they could.

Our instruments we could not take. There were five of us and two horses, and my son had sprained his ankle and could scarcely walk, so we went on towards Fairfax Court-House, and in half an hour we began to overtake the rear regiments, and soon I saw Dr. Woodward’s cheerful face begrimed with dirt like our own. I told him how we had left the wounded. There was no remedy, said he. They must be left. We hurried on and at Fairfax Court-House overtook Gen. McDowell, to whom I at once reported the condition and number of the wounded, and requested to be sent back if he thought it best. He replied, ” You have done right, keep on to Washington.” As I was leaving the gate he sent a messenger to call me back, and to ask me if I were walking. I replied that I was. “Gen. McDowell has here ten or twelve ambulances,” said he, “for the wounded, which he obtained by a dispatch to Washington. He wishes you to ride.” From Fairfax I rode until our ambulance broke down, filled with wounded. The wounded were transferred to another ambulance, and I again took to my feet and occasionally to my horse. I reached Fort Runyon, opposite Washington, at about 10 A.m., and here washed my bloody hands and arms, for here I found the first water.

The wounded were scattered the whole distance from Centreville to Washington, not in large numbers, but here and there one could be seen walking by the aid of one or two associates. In reference to the ambulances, the occasion of their absence from Centreville was simply, that the drivers became frightened, and to turn them back would have been impossible. Nor do I think it would have been possible for Gen. McDowell to have sent one vehicle back beyond Fairfax at the time I saw him.

It is remarkable that most of the wounds seen by me were not of a character which would be likely to prove fatal. Perhaps the men most severely wounded were left upon the field, or were dressed by those noble surgeons who were near them, and some of whom lost their lives, while others gave themselves up as prisoners.

In no case did a wound seen by me require the use of a tourniquet, although some soldiers had their limbs tightly girded so as to have already occasioned great swelling and pain.

Most of the balls extracted were spherical; and of those which I removed, the majority were removed through counter openings, the balls lying close against the skin.

Nearly all the soldiers that I have seen since the battle, in Washington and Alexandria, are doing well.

I must not omit to state that after I had left, and when I supposed our whole party were in front of me, Mr. Nourse, acting assistant apothecary in our regiment, went back with three horses, and placing three wounded officers upon them, sent them off, for which he would accept of no compensation. He then walked himself the whole distance to Alexandria. This, with many other signal instances of this young man’s courage, endurance, and humanity, deserves an especial notice.

My own regiment having, under its excellent commander, Col. Calvin E. Pratt, of Brooklyn, N. Y., covered the retreat of most of the forces, and especially of Hunt’s Battery, which took up a new position near Centreville early in the evening, left the ground at 11 P.m, and returned in perfect order to its old encampment near Alexandria. Before they left they received five successive volleys from the enemy s infantry, but not allowing their own fire to be drawn they saved themselves and their battery from being overwhelmed and taken. I must regard the coolness and discretion of Col. Pratt under these circumstances, as the highest evidence of his capacity as a military commander.

Frank H. Hamilton. Surgeon 31st, Regiment, N. Y. St. V.

Transcribed by Contributor Jim Schmidt (see here)

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Private Lewis Francis, 14th Brooklyn

21 09 2008

Medical/Surgical History – Part III, Volume II, p.154

Chapter X – Wounds And Injuries Of The Lower Extremities

Section II – Wounds And Injuries Of The Hip Joint

Amputations At The Hip Joint

The next case is exceptional inasmuch as the amputation and reamputation followed a bayonet stab in the knee instead of shot injury.


Photo – Photographic Atlas of Civil War Injuries

FIG 113 – Cicatrix sixteen months after a reamputation at the right hip, succeeding amputation for a bayonet stab through the knee.

CASE 331.–Private Lewis Francis, Co. I, 14th New York Militia, aged 42 years, was wounded July 21, 1861, at the first battle of Bull Run, by a bayonet thrust, which opened the right knee joint. He received not less than fourteen other stabs in different parts of the body, none of them implicating the great cavities. He was taken prisoner, and conveyed to Richmond and placed in hospital. One of his wounds involved the left testis, which was removed on July 24th. On October 28, 1861, his right thigh was amputated at the middle, on account of disease of the knee with abscesses in the thigh. The double-flap method was employed. The stump became inflamed and the femur protruded. An inch of the bone was resected and the flaps were again brought together. In the spring of 1862 the patient was exchanged and sent to Fort Monroe. Thence he was transferred to a Washington hospital, and thence, in March, 1862, to his home in Brooklyn. There was necrosis of the femur, and in May, 1862, its extremity was again resected by a civil surgeon. On October 28, 1863, Francis was admitted to the Ladies’ Home Hospital, New York. Necrosis had apparently involved the remaining portion of the femur. On May 21, 1864, Surgeon A. B. Mott, U. S. V., laid open the flaps and exarticulated the bone. The patient recovered rapidly and had a sound stump. He was discharged August 12, 1864. On October 1, 1865, a photograph, from which the accompanying wood-cut (FIG. 113) was taken, was forwarded by Surgeon A. B. Mott to the Army Medical Museum. Dr. Mott reported that the pathological specimen of the exarticulated femur was stolen from his hospital. For some months after his discharge Francis enjoyed good health; but then the cicatrix became unhealthy, pus was discharged through several sinuses, and there was bleeding from the slightest irritation. In March, 1867, a messenger was sent to his residence, 54 Hamilton Street, Brooklyn, and found him in very poor health. He had been unable to leave the house since November, 1866. On April 12, 1867, he was visited by Dr. E. D. Hudson, who reported him as then confined to his bed. There was a large ulcer at the upper outer angle of the cicatrix, which communicated with extensive sinuses; there was a fistula-in-ano also. The pus from the different fistulous orifices was thin, oily, and ichorous. There could be little doubt that there was disease of some portion of the innomi-natum. The patient was much emaciated, and had a cough with muco-purulent expectoration. His pulse, however, was not frequent, and he had a good appetite. In May, 1867, it was reported that his general condition had somewhat improved. In March, 1868, Pension Examiner J. C. Burdick, of Brooklyn, reported that this pensioner was “permanently helpless and required the constant aid of a nurse.” On May 30, 1874 (Decoration Day), and the day prior, at a preparatory parade of the veterans of his regiment, he was particularly active. The day after this unusual exercise, May 31, 1874, he died suddenly while at table.(2) This statement from the Brooklyn Union, June 1, 1874, is corroborated by the records of the Pension Bureau.

(2) Circular No. 6, S. G. O., 1865, p. 49. Circular No. 7, S. G. O., 1867, pp. 52, 65. HAMILTON (F. H.), Treatise on Military Surgery, 1865, p. 629.