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Monday, March 4, 2013

General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson's Death Wounds

(Attended by his personal physician, Dr. Hunter H. McGuire)

From the Richmond, Virginia "Dispatch" of September 20, 1900
At the battle of Chancellorsville, May, 1863, General Jackson received his death wounds, and being placed upon a litter, was passed on as rapidly as the thick woods and rough ground would permit, when, unfortunately, one of the bearers was struck down, and the General was thrown to the ground, but was again placed on the litter, when he was met by Surgeon McGuire, to whom he said: "I am badly injured, Doctor; I fear I am dying."
His clothes were saturated with blood, his skin cold and clammy, his face pale, fixed and rigid, and his lips compressed and bloodless, showed that his sufferings were intense. His iron will controlled all evidence of emotion.
On reaching the hospital he was placed in bed, and was told that amputation would probably be required. He was asked whether if it was found necessary it should be done at once, he replied promptly: "Yes, certainly, Dr. McGuire. Do for me whatever you think best."
Chloroform was administered, and as he began to feel its effects and its relief to the pain he was suffering, he exclaimed: "What an infinite blessing!" and continued to repeat, "blessing," until he became insensible.
The round ball (such as used for the smooth-bore Springfield musket), which had lodged under the skin, on the back of the right hand, was extracted first; it had entered the palm about the middle of the hand, and had fractured two of the bones. The left arm was then amputated about two inches below the shoulder. There were two wounds in this arm, the most serious dividing the main artery and fracturing the bone. Throughout the whole operation, and until all the dressings were applied, the patient continued insensible.
As there was some danger of capture by Federal troops, it was decided to remove him, and Dr. McGuire was directed to accompany and remain with him, and his duties as medical director were transferred to the surgeon next in rank, although General Jackson had previously declined to allow the Doctor to accompany him, as complaints had been so frequently made of general officers when wounded carrying off with them the surgeons belonging to their commands.
Whilst Dr. McGuire was asleep, he directed his servant, Jim, to apply a wet towel to his stomach, to relieve nausea. The servant asked permission to first consult the Doctor, but the General refused to allow him to be disturbed.
About daylight the Doctor was aroused, and found him suffering great pain, and examination disclosed pleuro-pneumonia of the right side, which the Doctor believed was attributable to the fall from the litter the night he was wounded, and thought the disease came on too soon after the application of the wet cloths to admit of the supposition, once believed, that it was induced by them. Dr. McGuire continued, in conjunction with other physicians summoned to assist him, to minister assiduously to his beloved leader until his death.

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