Medical Journal

by Jim Kennedy

On this occasion the Medical Journal examines the case file of Private Chester C. Thomas. Private Thomas served in Company "A", the Milwaukee Light Guards, 2nd Wisconsin Infantry Regiment. The 19 year old resident of Randolph, Wisconsin, and native of Pennsylvania, enlisted at Fox Lake, May 20, 1861, under the direction of Captain George H. Stevens. Captain McIntyre, the U. S. Mustering Officer, took his oath of allegiance on November 11, 1861, at Camp Randall. A Company Muster Roll and a Casualty Report show that Private Thomas was absent from the Company, due to wounds received on July 1, 1863, at the Battle of Gettysburg. The regimental muster out records show that Private Thomas was granted a Surgeons Certificate of Disability and discharged from service, January 6, 1864, at the U. S. General Hospital, York, Pennsylvania. He was discharged due to a "gunshot wound received in action at the Battle of Gettysburg, on July 1, 1863." The regimental Field Descriptive Book indicates he was engaged in action at; Blackburns Ford, 1st Bull Run, South Mountain, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Fitzhughs Crossing, Chancellorsville, Brandy Station and Gettysburg.

The case file of Private Thomas is found under the heading of; "Effects of missiles on Nerves," Chapter XII, page 727.

Case File #1072 --- Private C. C. Thomas, Co. A, 2nd Wisconsin, age 23 years, was wounded at Gettysburg, July 1, 1863. He was admitted into the hospital at York, Pennsylvania, on July 17th. Surgeon H. Palmer, U. S. V., reported: "Minie Ball entered the back at the point of the right shoulder blade, passed across, and was extracted three inches below the left shoulder blade, deeply situated. Patient complains of numbness and loss of power of the legs. There is no displacement or tenderness of the spinal column. Col-water dressings: orifice of entrance filled with granulations, (small round outgrowths, made up of small blood vessels & connective tissue, on the healing surface of the wound) that of exit discharging some pus." He was discharged from service January 6, 1864, on account of partial paralysis of the lower extremities, the result of the injury, and pensioned. Examiner L. S. Thompson, of Shackopee, Minnesota, reported, September 23, 1875: "Ball entered just below inferior angle of right scapula, and passing across the back lodged about two inches below the inferior angle of the left scapula, from whence it was removed. The missile injured the spine to such an extent that the patient has but limited control over the inferior extremities, and from this cause, together with the consequent weakness of the spine, he is incapacitated for all manual labor." Examiner H. H. Kimball, of Minneapolis, reported in September, 1877, that the pensioner "has only partial control over the bladder and rectum."

The case file of Private William H. Haney, Company "E", 19th, Indiana Infantry Regiment. The medical case file did not give a full identification of this soldier. The case file only identified him as William A. H-------, Company "E." A subsequent check of the regimental records shows that only one soldier fit the above description. Company "E" records show a listing for a Private William H. Haney. Private Haney mustered into U. S. Service, July 29th, 1861, and at the time of his enlistment he gave his residence as Delaware County, Indiana. Company records indicate this soldier was wounded at Antietam, Maryland, September 17th, 1862 and died of wounds received on November 21, 1862. The medical case file indicates the soldier listed died of wounds on November 21, 1862. Further identification came from the book, "Iron Men, Iron Will," by Craig L. Dunn, Guild Press of Indiana, Inc., Indianapolis, 1995, page 110.

On the killing grounds of Antietam, near the Dunker Church, lay three abandoned artillery pieces which were the immediate focus of the 19th Indiana’s furious charge. Facing a superior number of Confederates the Hoosier Regiment became locked in a desperate combat for the three guns. In the attempted capture Private Bill Haney was shot in the head. Identification of Bill Haney came from the letters and diary of Henry C. Marsh. Marsh’s letters and diary are held at the Indiana State Library, Manuscript Division, Indianapolis, Indiana.

The case file of Private William H. Haney is located under the heading of, "Removal of Fragments after a Gunshot fracture of the Skull," page #253.

Case File --- Private William A. H-----, Co. "E," 19th Indiana Volunteers, aged 21 years, was wounded at the battle of Antietam, Maryland September 17th, 1862, by a conoidal ball, which fractured and depressed both tables of the anterior inferior portion of the right partial bone. (Bones of the top and right side of the skull) The missile had split upon the fractured edge of the bone. He was conveyed to Washington, and admitted to the Capitol Hospital on the 23rd, and was thence transferred to the Satterlee Hospital, Philadelphia, October 12th. Three days later, Assistant Surgeon E. De W. Breneman, U. S. A., made a smi-lunar incision in the scalp , and dissected up the flap, when a copious hemorrhage occurred. He then removed several small detached pieces of bone, and also a triangular piece of the internal table, which was pressing heavily upon the dura matter, and by means of an elevator, raised an adjacent portion of the bone. The membranes of the brain were found to be penetrated, and from the character of the discharge, it was believed that the brain itself was seriously injured. The pulsations of the middle meningeal artery were distinctly felt. After the operation the symptoms of compression passed away. The patient was much prostrated, but in the full possession of his senses. He was kept in bed, on a low diet, and under antiphlogistic treatment. On October 23rd he was attacked with colliquative diarrhea. Pyemia (blood poisoning by pus-forming bacteria released from an abscess) supervened, causing death on the 21st of November 1862. The pathological specimen, No. 883, Sect. I, A. M. M., shows five small fragments, from both tables of the partial bones, representing one square inch surface. The specimen and history were contributed by Assistant Surgeon E. De W. Breneman, U. S. A.

Injuries of the lower extremities Case 420._

"Private L.M. Baker, Co. B, 2d Wisconsin, aged 29 years, was wounded at Gettysburg, June 1, 1863, and admitted to the field hospital of the 1st division, First Corps. Surgeon G.M. Ramsey, 95th New York, recorded: "Gunshot fracture of right thigh. July 6th, resection." On September 5th, the patient was transferred to Camp Letterman, and subsequently to the General Hospital at York. A photograph, represented in the annexed cut (Fig. 170), was received from Surgeon H. Palmer, U.S.V., with the following description of the case: "A conical leaded ball entered the anterior aspect of the right thigh six inches below the middle of Poupart’s ligament, thence passing backward and slightly upward , making its exit at the posterior aspect , and inch above the point of entrance, fracturing the femur. Two hours after the reception of the injury he was taken to a field hospital, and, he states, on the 3d of July he was placed under the influence of chloroform and fragments of hone to the extent of two inches of shaft were removed by cutting down upon them at the seat of the fracture. Water dressings were used for the first two weeks, when Smith’s anterior splint was applied-the limb suppurating profusely, and the man’s vital power being a good deal depressed. There was a constant tendency to sloughing in the posterior wound, rendering the frequent application of caustic necessary. The splint was removed on the 15th of November, partial bony union having taken place, suppuration still continuing and spiculae of bone being discharged from time to time; patient, who was upon tonics and nutritious diet gradually improving. On the 13th of January the posterior wound assumed a sloughing condition, which spread with rapidity, and was attended with considerable constitutional disturbance. It was checked by the free use of bromine, the patient being at the same time upon iron and quinia. Since that time the patient has continued slowly but steadily to improve. April 14th, the wounds have closed; the man is in excellent health and able to walk about on crutches, amount of shortening being two and half inches. On June 30, 1864, he was discharged from service, although still using crutches, able to bear considerable weight upon the injured limb." Examiner C. D. Cameron, of LaCrosse, Wisconsin, reported, December 23, 1865: "Shot wound of right thigh, shattering the bone. Some four inches of the femur were removed. Limb much crooked and greatly atrophied; is five inches shorter than the other. Wound of right thigh, shattering the bone. Some four inches of the femur were removed. Limb much crooked and greatly atrophied; is five inches shorter than the other. Wound not yet healed." Examiner W.D. Flinn, of Redwood Falls Minnesota, September 26, 1873, certified to "resection of about three inches of bone," and stated "the wound has been open and running during the last two and a half years." The pensioner was paid June 4, 1879."

The above is from The Medical & Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion, Vol. 1. There are some 13 volumes to this series that deals with "interesting" medical procedures related to the War. It's been shared with us under, again, the good auspices of James B. Kennedy of the Wisconsin State Historical Society, who has been researching this area.As he notes, "Poupard's Ligament" appears to be "a nice way of saying he was shot in the crotch. ....It is a wonder any of those men survived at all."

Corp. Baker (Lewis M.) survived with one leg between 2 1/2" to 5" shorter than the other (depending on which Doctor's report you accept) and, since he was in hospital for the rest of the War, he was overlooked in the Muster and Descriptive Rolls and Otis's The Second W isconsin (which appears to have used the "blue" version of the Descriptive Rolls to list the Muster) . The only listing that includes him is the Roster Wisconsin V olunteers which was published later and used other sources.

Thanks to Mr. Kennedy, we have some information about what the Corporal had to go through and , for me, eliminates confusion that would have arisen when we got to that point in the Muster Roll. He certainly deserves credit for his service .

The practice of Military Medicine, during the War of the Rebellion, must have been an eye opening and gut wrenching experience. For those Surgeons, Assistant Surgeons, and Hospital Stewards, with any form of compunction, it had to be the very depths of Hell. To those men and women, detailed to the daily endeavour of sorting through the remainder of vast qualities of human flesh, it became a debilitating and dehumanizing journey. For the would be Surgeons and their assistants, who were lost in the fog of an alcoholic stupor, it was one more day of terror to be washed away in "Medicinal Brandy". For the "Boys" in Blue & Gray, who suffered the wounds and diseases of that war, it had to be a nightmare of monumental proportions.

Civil War medical practices were a hold over from the War of 1812, and the lapse of 50 years did little for the betterment of the soldiers about to clash in our nations worst war. The beginning of the War found the parties of both sides woefully under experienced, understaffed and underequipped. Nobody seemed aware of the deplorable conditions that existed in the Medical Department of the Armies of either side. Others seemed not even to care, which in the end, lead to an epidemic of needless deaths. The resulting catastrophes, caused by the unendurable conditions, lack of field and hospital supplies, coupled with treatments and practices that, at times, bordered on criminal, became unacceptable. The existing conditions changed, but only at the expense of the soldiers lives.

By the War’s end, things looked slightly better. New hospitals and better conditions in them, slated with better treatment, gave a soldier a much improved chance of survival. Even with the improved conditions the men continued to die, and they died in droves. The causes of their deaths were still the deplorable conditions of camp life and outdated medical practices coupled with a rigorous campaign life and lack of proper diet. The men of sound medical ethics attempted to remedy the situation but improved medical procedures were years in the future. Most of the medical corps continued the grim task of providing for the soldiers as best they could and with what they had, the daily carnage being accepted as a needless and endless task. For all, life went on, but for those that were sick or wounded the timeless agony was just beginning.

Perhaps Captain John Henry Otto, 21st Infantry Volunteers, said it best, "Certainly one of the wisest and best (arraingments) in nature in regard to men is the total ignorance of the events from our view. How many of us would become cowards or despairing maniacs..Instead of that one faculty is deep (ingrafted) in the heart of every human being, which upholds us and gives strength to bear adversities and misfortune with confidence and noble courage..This faculty never forsakes us, it is our steadfast friend (until) death...If every thing turns against us, if all seems lost, hope steps up and whispers "Never Despair."

After the war had ended the Army Medical Department published a review of the special case files. The publication was titled, "The Medical & Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion". Within the 13 volume set of Histories are the most interesting of medical maladies during the Civil War. Because the "Black Hats" had more than their share of diseased, wounded and killed during its period of service, an examination of the case files gives an over all view of the sufferings of the "Iron Brigade" soldiers.

Special Case History file #150, "Injuries of the Lower Extremities" relates to Corporal Luke English, Company E, 2nd Regiment Wisconsin Volunteers. Corporal English was a 19 year old New Brunswick native that enlisted April 20, 1861. The diminutive 5' 5 1/4" grey eyed carpenter, enlisted under the vigilant eye of Captain Gabriel Bouck at Oshkosh, Wisconsin. The mustering officer took the youngster’s oath on June 11, 1861 at Camp Randall and his eventful journey to "see the Elephant" began. By September of 1862, the youthful English had seen the likes of Blackburns Ford, 1st Bull Run, Beverly Ford, Gainesville, 2nd Bull Run, and South Mountain. On September 17, 1862, Private English stepped off into the inferno of Antietam. It was here his luck took a turn for the worst.

The morning of the Battle of Antietam, the regimental surgeons had entered his name on the massive Casualty List. The military record of Private English indicate he was wounded in the arm, and subsequent regimental muster rolls show he was absent , "Sick or Wounded" until December 1862. His recovery appears to have been total and when he returned to his tentmates, he received an appointment to Corporal, under Regimental Order #42. The appointment of June 23, 1863, allowed him only seven days to enjoy his hard earned rank. The Casualty Report for the first day of Gettysburg read "Wounded, July 1, 1863, Gettysburg, Serious". The word "Serious" can only be a portent on the agony unleashed on Corporal English.

The first day of fighting at Gettysburg would take its toll on the Iron Brigade. The Second Infantry, leading the charge into McPhearson’s woods, smashed into the Tennessee and Alabama regiments assigned to Brig, Gen. James J. Archer. The mind numbing lash of Rebel musketry and the incessant hail of shot and shell proved to be the undoing of Corporal English. The 2nd Inft. records indicate that the Regiment entered the charge with 302 effectives and, by days end, 116 of those were killed or wounded. English, being one of the seriously wounded, was removed from the field and entered the Seminary Hospital on July 2nd. Surgeon Henry Palmer, U. S. Volunteers, reports the case history of Corporal English.

Special Case File #150 - Corporal Luke English, Co. E., 2nd Wisconsin, aged 21 years, was wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, July, 1, 1863, by a conoidal musket ball, which entered at a point between the left trochanter major (the left side protuberance that occurs below the neck of the femur bone) and the tuberosity of the ischium, (the bone forming the lower part of each side of the hip) emerging near the anus, penetrating the right thigh and fractured its trochanters, and lodged. He was admitted the next day into the Seminary Hospital at Gettysburg. Search for the missile was unsuccessful. Two fragments of bone were extracted. Cold-water dressings were applied. On July 17th he was transferred by railroad to York Hospital. Early in August the average discharge of pus was about four ounces. The wound of the entrance was nearly closed. On November 4th he could walk a little, the wound, however, discharged considerably. Corporal English was discharged from the service of the United States on June 23, 1863.

After his discharge Corporal English obtained a lawyer to settle his legal affairs. John Hanncock, a practicing Oshkosh attorney, reported that English died in 1867. Corporal English was finally released from his pain.

On this occasion the special case file and history of Private Charles G. Cleland is examined. Private Cleland was a member of the Seventh Infantry Regiment, and served in Company “G”, the “Grand Rapids Union Guards.” He enlisted at Madison, Wisconsin on July 20,1861, under the guidance of Captain Stevens, the mustering officer for Company “G”. When Private Cleland enlisted he gave his residence as Madison, and his military records indicate he was aged 18 years. He had, light blue eyes, brown hair, a dark complexion, and was 5' 6" tall and a lumberman by occupation. Private Cleland’s records show that he had the unpleasant experience of receiving the “Compliments”, of the Rebels, on two occasions. Casualty list #1, dated August 28, 1862, indicates he was slightly wounded in the hand at the battle of Gainsville. According to the regimental records he was again wounded on July 1, 1863, the first days action at Gettysburg. The regimental records and the hospital records differ as to the date he was wounded. Hospital records show he was wounded on the 2nd day. Private Cleland is recorded on Casualty Report #5, which is the regimental record for the first days action at Gettysburg. Private Cleland’s Special Case File is located under the heading of; Section II, Gunshot Wounds, Shot Fractures of the Vertebrae, Fractures of the Cervical Vertebrae. Case File— Private Charles G. Cleland, Co. “G”, 7th Wisconsin Volunteers, aged 20 years, was wounded at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, July 2nd, 1863, by a conoidal ball, which entered the right upper lip at the second incisor, destroyed all the teeth save the last molar on the same side of the upper jaw, passed below the soft palate ( the roof of the mouth, which separates the mouth from the nasal cavity and consists of two parts; the soft palate is the portion furthest back and is the moveable fold of mucus membrane) and penetrated the posterior pharynx ( A muscular tube, lined with mucous membrane, that extends from the beginning of the esophagus 7th, transferred to the Christian Street Hospital, Philadelphia. Here the presence of the ball was determined by a Nelaton probe and extracted. There was paralysis in all four limbs, from which, however, he rapidly recovered and, for a time, did duty as a hospital attendant. Private Cleland was transferred to Turner’s Lane Hospital on March 14th, 1864. Acting Assistant Surgeon W. W. Keen, Jr., on duty at that hospital, states that, “nearly the entire body of the third cervical Vertebrae has come away, including the anterior half of the transverse process ( the long projection from the base of the neural arch of the vertebrae) and the vertebral foramen. ( an opening or a hole, particularly in a bone) No injury to the vertebral artery has been disclosed. “What supports his head, anteriorly, I can’t conceive.” “On May 3rd, 1864, he was transferred to Washington to be assigned to a company in the Veterans Reserve corps.” (11th Regiment of Veterans Reserve Corps) “The Only remnant of his paralysis is some sensation over a surface, say three by four inches, at the back of the right side of the neck. Some bone still occasionally discharges.” Medical examiner Joseph Gadd reports, April 1st, 1871, that the right side of the tongue is distorted, leaving his speech affected; that the right side of his throat is contracted, and that the right shoulder and arm are diminished in size and partially paralyzed. His disability is rated as three-fourths and permanent.

You've read them! You've Wondered About Them! Hopefully not been accused of having them....

Health Terms - 18th Century and Later...
Ague Malaria,
Chills, Fever
Canine Hydrophobia
Catarrh Sinus infection
Commotion Concussion
Consumption Tuberculosis
Corruption Infection
Costiveness Constipation
Cramp colic Appendicitis
Dropsy Edema
Falling sickness Epilepsy
Felon Infection finger
Flux of humor Circulation
French Pox, Spanish Pox, Venereal disease
Green sickness Anemia
Grippe Influenza
Hallucination Delirium
Hepatic Melancholy Cirrhosis of the Liver
Hives Acute allergy
Infantile paralysis Polio
Lung sickness Tuberculosis
Lung fever Pneumonia
Mania Insanity
Mortification Infection
Piles Hemorrhoids
Pink eye Conjunctivitis
Putrid fever Diphtheria
Remitting fever Malaria
Sanguinous cyst Scab
Seven year itch Scabies
Ship, Jail, Campfever Typhis
Sleeping sickness Encephalitis
Sore throat Quinsy
Strangury Rupture/stricture
Stroke Rupture of blood vessel
Throat ailment Diphtheria
Vapors Fainting
Wan Sebaceous cyst

Disease of the Month - Diarrhea Intestinal disorders from the "green-apple two-step" to typhoid fever, cholera and dysentery are pre-sented with diarrhea as a first symptom. Regulation of the bowels was considered a key to good health in the 1860’s. A soldier with a stomach ache and loose bowels would present for treatment at the morning sick call. The surgeon would be very interested in the frequency of the bowel movements and their character -were they loose, or very watery; was there any blood or mucus in them; were they accompanied by straining or pain. Frequent loose movements with a stomach ache were often the result of food problems ... eating unripe fruit, parched corn, etc. Copious watery stools meant cholera, a very dangerous and frequently fatal disease requiring quarantine of the soldier. Stools with blood, mucus and painful straining meant typhoid or dysentery - the typhoid patient would have a high fever as well. Treatment would be dietary restrictions, the "low" diet, and frequently opium pills to reduce diarrhea. Diarrhea with fever would be additionally treated with quinine, usually in a little whiskey.

A Wisconsin Band of Nurses
For the Army
.- Mrs. Reid, M. D., President of the Ladies Volunteer Aid Society of Berlin, is organizing a band of nurses to be called the "Wisconsin Florence Nightingale Union," who are to prepare themselves forthwith for hospital and army service, and to be ready to start, immediately, for any post of duty, when called for - the Governor being already advised of their readiness. Any patriotic, healthy, full aged and capable women of Berlin, or anywhere in the State, who are desirous of devoting themselves to this cause, are required to leave their names with Mrs. Reid, at her residence on Main Street, or communicate by letter. Mrs. Reid, we understand, is a graduate of the Eclectic College of Medicine and of Newton’s Clinical Institute at Cincinnati, Ohio; has been Asst. Physician in the Eclectic Water Cure at Attica, N. Y. and has had also spent some years in general practice in New York, and at Beaver Dam in this State whence we conclude she is entirely competent to manage her laudable enterprise, with credit to herself, to the city and to the State, and with the happiest results to the unfortunate soldiers of our country who may chance to get wounds and fractures in battle, or swell the sick list, from the exposures and hardships of camp life. God bless our noble BAND OF NURSES.
Milwaukee Sentinel, May 10,’61