Thursday, February 6, 2014

Dr. Hunter Holmes McGuire

by John Tooker, MD, MBA, FACP
Excerpted from: "Antietam: Aspects of Medicine, Nursing and the Civil War"

Hunter Holmes McGuire was born in Winchester, Virginia, in 1835, the son of a respected physician and surgeon, Dr. Hugh Holmes McGuire. Hunter received his initial medical degree from Winchester Medical College (Virginia) in 1855 and, three years later, entered Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. McGuire showed signs of leadership at an early age. In 1859, following John Brown's execution in the aftermath of the ill-fated raid on the arsenal at Harper's Ferry, Brown's body was brought to Philadelphia and became a source of friction between the northern and southern medical students. McGuire organized the withdrawal of several hundred southern medical students from Jefferson, many of whom enrolled in the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond as did McGuire. Following graduation, McGuire returned to Winchester and in 1861 enlisted in the Confederate Army as a private. The Confederate Surgeon General soon reassigned McGuire as the medical director of the Army of the Shenandoah under Thomas J. (Stonewall) Jackson. McGuire served continuously with Jackson as his medical director and as a trusted confidant and surgeon. Jackson was shot through the left arm and right palm at Chancellorsville by friendly fire in May of 1863. McGuire skillfully amputated Jackson's arm and personally cared for him until Jackson's death eight days later.

As the medical director, McGuire organized the medical service of the Army of the Shenandoah in 1861, beginning with hospital administration, operating procedures and transport. His “genius for efficient organization” (18,19) soon extended to the battlefield where he organized the treatment of casualties much as Letterman had done. After initial treatment, adjacent to the battlefield by the Regimental Infirmary Corps, the Ambulance Corps transported the wounded to Reserve Corps or mobile field hospitals for urgent treatment, and then to general hospitals in the rear and finally, for those needing extended care, to hospitals in Richmond and other major cities. As in the case of the Army of the Potomac and Letterman, McGuire was also responsible for the challenging logistics of supply and transport.

Dr. Hunter Holmes McGuire was a prisoner of war at Waynesboro in March of 1865. Paroled by General Sheridan, McGuire continued service with Lee's army until the war ended at Appomattox in April, 1865. He returned to Richmond as a professor of surgery in July, 1862, leading to a distinguished academic surgical career. He was a founder of the University College of Medicine in Richmond in 1892, later merged with the Medical College of Virginia. Highly respected by his peers, McGuire was elected president of the Southern Surgical association and the American Medical Association (). Today, The Hunter Holmes McGuire Veteran's Administration Medical Center, is named in his honor.



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