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The Medical Case of a Civil War Veteran - Spring 2011

The Medical Case of a Civil War Veteran - Spring 2011

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Published by Prologue Magazine
Examine the medical case file of Civil War veteran Edson D. Bemis.
Examine the medical case file of Civil War veteran Edson D. Bemis.

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Published by: Prologue Magazine on Apr 25, 2011
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I am stIll In the
   o    f    t    h   e
Te Medical Case of Civil War Veteran Edson D. Bemis 
By Rebecca K. Sharp and Nancy L. Wing 
n February 5, 1865, Cpl. Edson D. Bemis o Company K, 12th Regiment,Massachusetts Inantry received a traumatic head wound rom a conoidal musketball during the Battle o Hatcher’s Run, Virginia. Surgeon Albert Vanderveer reported onBemis’s condition upon his arrival at the feld hospital:[B]rain matter was oozing rom the wound. There was a considerable hemorrhage,but not rom any important vessel . . . the right side was paralyzed and there was totalinsensibility. [Ater Surgeon Vanderveer removed the musket ball on February 8,][t]he patient’s condition at once improved. He told the surgeon his name, and seemedconscious o all that was going on about him. . . . [During the next] ten days, [Bemis was limited to] answering direct questions, but indisposed to continue a conversation.
 Ater his release rom the hospital, Bemis continued to recover at his home inMassachusetts. Prior to the head wound, Bemis had sustained several other injuries.On July 13, 1865, he was discharged rom the Army, and the Army MedicalMuseum photographed his nearly healed wounds.
Te Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion
This detailed case study is rom the multivolume
 Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion (MSHWR),
published in the late 19th century. The MSHWR was begun by Union Surgeon General William Hammond, who wished to publish an extensive work onmilitary medicine during the Civil War. The initial steps began in 1862 with the creation
Hatcher’s Run, Virginia, site o a battle on February 5–7, 1865, in a
Harper’s Weekly 
drawing showingArmstrong’s Mills and the “Rebel Works.” Union orces sought to cut Gen. Robert E. Lee’s supply route toPetersburg.
 h Army Mdical Muum, day’ Nainal Muum  Halhand Mdicin. Muum a baind rcrd, cllcd pcimn,and phgraphd injurd ldir. Ari wr hird  kch wundand pcimn. T
wa bad n a variy  urc ucha hpial rgir, phyician rpr, capurd and urrndrdCndra rcrd, and Unin and Cndra pnin rcrd. Alhugh h
cu n Unin mdicin, i al includinrmain abu Cndra mdicin. Ti publihd wrk cnaingraph, abl, map, kch, and cpi  phgraph. pic includmd r ranpring h wundd uch a ambulanc, hpial hip,and hpial rain; dcripin  unaniary cndiin wihin campand hpial; and ramn  dia and injuri. Individual armnind hrughu. A larg prcnag  pain wr ldir, including prinr   war and mmbr  h Unid Sa Clrdrp (USC). On ccain, nur, lcalridn, Arican Amrican cnraband, rvan,and pain rad in rdmn’ hpial apparin h
. Sm ldir ar mnindbrify, and hr hav daild ca udi.T vlum prvid an vrall n  hw mdicin advancd during h war. Whhr yuar rarching Civil War mdicin r an ancr wh wa ill r injurd during miliary rvic, h
huld b par  yur rarch.I h ldir urvivd h war, h
may includ an upda abu hvran’ cndiin. T
cnainhi xcrp rm Edn Bmi’ 1870 lr h dir  h urgical vlum: “I amill in h land  h living. My halh i vry gd cnidring wha I hav pad hrugha Hachr’ Run. My had ach m  h im. I am marrid and hav n child, a lil girl brn laChrima. My mmry i acd, and I cann har a wll abr I wa wundd.”
Alhugh h
ca udy ndin 1870, rcrd rval mr abu Edn Bmi’ li during andar hi miliary rvic.Fr yur rarch  b a cmpl a pibl, yu huld cnul h
a wll a rcrd hld by h Nainal Archiv and Rcrd Adminirain and h Nainal Muum  Halh and Mdicin. Al-hugh pnin may rr  a
ca udy, yu huld illchck h
indx in h abnc  uch a rrnc. Fr vlun-r Unin rvic, NARA hld a variy  rcrd including cmpildmiliary rvic rcrd, cardd mdical l, and pnin. T rc-rd may prvid inrmain abu injuri, illn, hpializain,
Edson Bemis and his war wounds. The National Museumo Health and Medicine’s Otis Historical Archivesholds the original photograph. The
includes alithograph print o this photograph.
urgri, and dah. Fr Cndra, NARA ha CMSR and navalrcrd. Bcau Cndra vran ld r pnin in hir a  ridnc, yu huld chck wih h apprpria a archiv. I h
rr  pcimn r phgraph, h Nainal Muum  Halh and Mdicin may hav addiinal dcumnain.
Veteran Edson Bemis 
Bmi’ pnin l cni  hr nvlp ha prvid gnalgicalinrmain a wll a dail abu hi ruggl wih phyical and mnalhalh unil hi dah in 1900. Edn Bmi, h n  Jph Bmiand By Cl Bmi, wa brn in Nrh Chr, Maachu. On January 6, 1869, h marrid Jnni A. Auin (m pnin dcumnrr  hr a Jan r Jan Amlia). T cuplhad hr childrn: Jnni Eliza, brn Dcmbr25, 1869; Edn Auin, brn January 10, 1875;and May Bll Bmi, brn April 23, 1877.
Bmi’ pnin l cnain numruadavi and lr ha dcrib hidriraing cndiin. Fur yar arpraing n Bmi, Dr. Vandrvr wr:I aw him again in Fb 1869 a Albany NY, whn h appard mwha bl,aid h had had a w cnvulin hprviu ummr and culd n rmainlng in h h un r bar bndingvr much. T wund wa wll haldha pulaing brain culd b nicd inanding m lil dianc rm him.
 William L. Lmi, Bmi’ rmrmplyr, vrid ha Bmi wrkd ahi cal yard r 15 yar and dcribd hicndiin:Ta during h im ldir wrkd r aan h urd a imrm [h c  h had wund] . . . , had pain in hi had anddizzin and mim wuld b unabl  prrm hi labr buhaving a wi and amily  uppr; ldir l n im nly whnabluly bligd  d : Ta abu w yar ag ldir had ahck  paralyi . . . h ha bn a wrck, unabl  prrm any manual labr and i a prn parly dmnd unabl  d rdr himl, un  b l aln rquiring h cnan aid andandanc  hi wi r anhr prn, and hi cndiin igradually grwing wr.
Dr. J. K. Man, n  Bmi’ amily phyician, rm Suld,Cnncicu, brvd ha Bmi’
59“I am still in the land of the living”
dizzy pll incrad n him rm yar  yar, &pind unmiakably  hi gra injury  h brain. Alngh, in 1890 h had a vr Paralyic Shck—lyinguncnciu r vral hur—rm h c  whichh ha nvr rcvrd n having dn a day’ wrk inc. Tugh bu 55 yar ld h walk lik a man  80!—n bing abl  dr himl nr i up hi h-ring. In all h lil dui  vry day li h rquircnan andanc & aianc. . . . Al hi mmry,igh, & haring ar graly impaird; & wihu my ging urhr in dail, yu cann bu inr, & july , ha h i bu a wrck  hi rmr l.
In 1896, Mr. E. D. Bmi n a lr  h cmmiinr pnin dailing hr rl a hi primary car akr rnarly 30 yar:I am hi andan. My daughr i wih m and aim bu i I wr n abl  car r him h wuld hav hav a mal andan. . . . I hav  ai him whnh ak hi bah a h cann u h l hand bu vry lil. . . . Whn hi bwl rublhim hi hlpln bh in brainand bdy mak my dui hardr! W prpar hi d a abl a w wuld r a child, and whnh lamp ar lighd and w havr i i n a  hav him lngaln. Tr ar im whn hnd an andan in h nigh. . . .I knw hi ca i n ha i hard rach in h im givn h vran a h xaminingbard r h m riu rubl i in h had.
L han a yar lar, a pcial xaminr r h PninOc viid Suld, Harrd Cuny, Cnncicu, vriy Bmi’ currn mdical cndiin. H inrviwdBmi, hi wi, and hr ridn  h wn. JanBmi dcribd hw h ran h huhld:I ak charg  pnin mny, I dn ru him wih any mny, h ign h vuchr. . . . S arh ha n bn a all ugly  I hav n n u  having a cnrvar appind vr him  curi may cm  ha m day.
By April 1900, Edn Bmi’ mnal a had dclind much ha h culd n lngr rmain a hi hm. Dr.Lwi L. Bryan and Dr. Walr E. Harvy xamind Bmiand drmind ha h huld b iniuinalizd. Dr.Bryan brvd ha Bmi blivdh wa hiry yar ld: . . . did n knw h prn yarmnh r day  h wk: . . . ha n bn abl  rad
An examiningphysician annotatedthis anatomicaldrawing to showEdson Bemis’sinjuries. Thisdrawing was part o his March 10, 1886,Application orIncrease o Pension.
EdsonBemis’s pensionfle recorded hiswounds, diagnoses,and physicians’comments.
Spring 2011

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