Dan Sickles' Right Leg

John Hartwell

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From Photographs of surgical cases and specimens, by United States. Surgeon-General's Office (1865), vol. I, p. 43.

hfgnjh.jpg

"Specimen No.1335. Right Tibia and Fibula comminuted by a Cannon Ball.

"Major General D. E. Sickles, U.S. Vols., was wounded on the evening of the second day of the battle of Gettysburg, by a twelve pounder solid shot, which shattered his right leg.

"General Sickles was on horseback at the time, unattended. He succeeded in quieting his afrighted horse and in dismounting unassisted. Aid arriving promptly, he was removed a short distance to the rear to a sheltered ravine, and amputation was performed low down in the thigh by Surgeon Thomas Sim, U.S. Vols., Medical Director of the 3d Army Corps. The patient was then sent to the rear, and the following day was transferred to Washington.

"The stump healed with great rapidity. On July 16th, the patient was able to ride about in a carriage. Early in September, 1863, the stump was able to ride about in a carriage. Early in September the stump was completely cicatrized, and the general was able again, to mount his horse.

"The specimen was contributed to the Army Medical Museum by General Sickles, and the facts of the case by his staff surgeon, Dr. Sim."


Whatever one may think of Dan Sickles, he was one tough bird!


ETA: Apologies for having posted the wrong photo! It is now corrected.
 
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John Hartwell

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Thank you, @mofederal , for that picture. It caused me to double-check. And, apologies to everyone, I had posted the wrong specimen! Please note that in Photographs of Surgical Cases and Specimens, the case descriptions are not printed facing the picture, but on the back of the picture!

It should have been obvious that the "necrotic humerus and elbow" I had pictured was not a "Right Tibia and Fibula."
 
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PeterT

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Thank you, @mofederal , for that picture. It caused me to double-check. And, apologies to everyone, I had posted the wrong specimen! Please note that in Photographs of Surgical Cases and Specimens, the case descriptions are not printed facing the picture, but on the back of the picture!

It should have been obvious that the "necrotic humerus and elbow" I had pictured was not a "Right Tibia and Fibula."
Should have been obvious. I didn’t bother to double check. It matters not. :smile:
 

JPK Huson 1863

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Sickles being carried from the field is one of those stories that gives you pause when most determined to detest the guy. One account is from the nurse who gave him 3 cups of coffee while he lay on the stretcher. ( Sophronia? Wish I could remember ). Anyone who could take a hit like that, light a cigar and drink 3 cups of coffee while on the way to his own leg amputation gets marks for courage.
 

PeterT

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Do we know the location of the "ravine" where the leg was amputated? Is it marked?
About that ravine .... Here’s a shot I took at the CWT visit to Gettysburg in 2016. This is Eric Wittenberg during his wonderful Dan Sickles tour. You can see a ravine of sorts in the background. This was taken in the yard of the Throstle house/barn looking south/ southeast? Maybe it's that ravine? Paging @Tom Elmore @pamc153PA @rpkennedy

IMG_1441.JPG
 

Tom Elmore

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About that ravine .... Here’s a shot I took at the CWT visit to Gettysburg in 2016. This is Eric Wittenberg during his wonderful Dan Sickles tour. You can see a ravine of sorts in the background. This was taken in the yard of the Throstle house/barn looking south/ southeast? Maybe it's that ravine? Paging @Tom Elmore @pamc153PA @rpkennedy

View attachment 203220
The visible cannon marker of the corps confirms the view is generally south south-east. The Plum Run ravine is to the viewer's left.
 

Tom Elmore

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Here is what Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) had to say: "Sickles lost a leg at Gettysburg, and I remember Twichell's account of that circumstance. He talked about it on one of our long walks, a great many years ago, and although the details have passed out of my memory, I still carry the picture in my mind as presented by Twichell. The leg was carried off by a cannon ball. Twichell, and others, carried the General out of the battle, and they placed him on a bed made of boughs, under a tree. There was no surgeon present, and Twichell and Rev. Father O'Hagan, a Catholic priest, made a make-shift tourniquet and stopped the gush of blood - checked it, perhaps is the right term. A newspaper correspondent appeared first. General Sickles considered himself a dying man, and (if Twichell is as truthful a person as the character of his cloth requires him to be) General Sickles put aside everything connected with a future world in order to go out of this one in becoming style." (Autobiography of Mark Twain, ed. by Harriet Elinor Smith, vol. 1, p. 288)

Joseph H. Twichell was chaplain (Congregational) of the 71st New York. Chaplain Joseph O’Hagan (Catholic) served with the 74th New York. The two were close friends. Twichell recounted that he rode in the ambulance with Sickles and afterwards held the chloroform for the amputation. (The Civil War Letters of Joseph Hopkins Twichell, A Chaplain's Story, ed. by Peter Messant and Steve Courtney, p. 10)

Private William H. Bullard, a drummer in the 70th New York who was acting as a stretcher bearer, recollected that he was returning to front when he saw Sickles taken wounded from his horse. Ballard bound the wound and helped carry Sickles back on a stretcher to an ambulance located "behind large rocks." Sickles' aide, Major Henry Tremain, later wrote that a soldier tightly bound Sickles' leg with a saddle strap. Tremain said he rode with Sickles in the ambulance and said they were joined by O'Hagan, but he did not mention Twichell. (Jim Hessler, Blowing Smoke, America's Civil War, July 2009, pp. 48-51)

The ambulance took Sickles to a hospital set up at the Daniel Sheaffer farm on the Baltimore Pike near White Run, where his leg was amputated. In 1882, Sickles himself said that his leg was amputated at the hospital. He also claimed to have bound up his own leg with a "tie down strap from a trooper's saddle." (Greg Coco, A Vast Sea of Misery, p. 80)

At the hospital, Sickles would only permit Surgeon James Theodore Calhoun (Medical Director and Chief Surgeon of his Second Division, attached to the 74th New York) to work on him. (Bachelder Papers, I: 240)
 

Ole Miss

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Thank you, @mofederal , for that picture. It caused me to double-check. And, apologies to everyone, I had posted the wrong specimen! Please note that in Photographs of Surgical Cases and Specimens, the case descriptions are not printed facing the picture, but on the back of the picture!

It should have been obvious that the "necrotic humerus and elbow" I had pictured was not a "Right Tibia and Fibula."
John
I personally find it much easier to identify bones while they are connected to the body with skin attached. I do believe you get a "pass" for the misidentification of the bones in your post.
Regards
David
 

James N.

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This incident is fully described and discussed in Harry Pfanz' Gettysburg - The Second Day. The aftermath is in ways even more interesting and telling about Sickles and his personality! He insisted on being removed from the battlefield immediately after the operation and while the fighting was still going on, a risky venture at best. In order for him to be moved it took a fairly large detail of men away from the fighting; they took turns carrying his stretcher because for some reason he couldn't be transported by ambulance. Apparently during the trip he was alert and talkative. When they arrived at the nearest railhead he was whisked away by train to Washington but not to a general hospital - rather, he was taken to a private residence, where he was soon being visited by reporters and all sorts of politicians including Abraham Lincoln, who he gave an earful of HIS version of events at Gettysburg long before Meade's official report arrived, thereby firmly establishing his reputation as the Savior of Gettysburg.
 

John Hartwell

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We see a number of versions of the events immediately following his wounding. The Medical Museum's version (in the OP) has the leg being taken off by Dr. Sims in a "ravine" on the battlefield, before Sickles' removal to the rear. That came from Sims himself, soon after the fact. Other, more elaborate versions appear at intervals over the next years and decades, by people careful to put themselves or their friends at the scene.. Is there, I wonder, any was to get to the real story?

Personally, I think Dan amputated it himself with a pocket knife, and then lit a cigar, and having whittled a crutch from a nearby tree branch, hobbled over to the train for D.C., telegraphing the Press while he waited at the station.
 
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John Hartwell

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The earliest full newspaper account I've found is from the Washington Daily National Republican of July 6th. Dr Sim is the medical informant for the account.We are thrilled to hear from staff officers accompanying Sickles that "he saved the army from disaster that day." And they relate of his being conveyed "by circuitous routes upon a hand litter for nearly 40 miles to reach the railroad, being sometimes forced to make detours to avoid rebel scouts, and finding but unwilling accommodations at the farmhouses where they sought shelter."
Daily_National_Republican_1863-07-06_2.jpg
The Spinning has begun.
 
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Mrs. V

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*shudder* I can only imagine that he was in such shock, that he did not feel much pain. I can’t imagine being able to remain mounted after such a wound, and being able to dismount without aid. Adrenaline can only help so much..
 

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