Dr. Edward Curtis Assisted With The Autopsy Of President Lincoln: Question About Promotion

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A. Roy

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1579781867528.png

Photo from below

I'm researching the history of my wife's great-grandfather, Edward Curtis, who served as a Union Medical Cadet and then Assistant Surgeon during the war. Below is his entry from "Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army, from it's Organization," by Francis B. Heitman.

I'm trying to understand the criteria for his promotion to brevet captain and major. I can figure that "mer ser" refers to "meritorious service." But I'm wondering whether anyone knows what "fai" stands for?

ECurtis_EntryHeitmansRegister.jpg


BTW, I'm planning to write up some info about the Medical Cadets, a small but interesting service that allowed medical students to enlist with a status something like that of an academy cadet.

Roy B.
 
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lelliott19

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Holy Smoke! 😳 Is your wife's great grandfather THE Dr. Edward Curtis? The one who helped perform the autopsy on President Lincoln on April 15, 1865!?!??!

BTW Major was the rank traditionally associated with Surgeon, while Captain was traditionally the Asst. Surgeon's rank.

EDIT TO ADD: Here's a bio of the Edward Curtis who was one of the doctors who performed the autopsy on President Lincoln. He started out as a Medical Cadet in 1861 and was also promoted Bvt Captain and Major US Army "for faithful and meritorious services." 😳 I think your wife's great grandfather is FAMOUS.

Edward Curtis, M.D., was commissioned assistant surgeon and saw field service with the Army of the Potomac, and with General Sheridan in the Shenandoah Valley. Returning to the Army museum in the fall of 1864 he assisted with the autopsy on the body of President Lincoln, April 15, 1865.
Military History.— Edward Curtis, M.D., Medical Cadet U. S. Volunteers, 1861. In Hospitals, Washington, Georgetown, D. C., and Philadelphia, Penn., to 1863. Acting Assistant Surgeon U. S. Army, and in the Medical Museum, Washington, D. C. Assistant Surgeon U. S. Army, March, 1864. With the 18th Corps Hospital at White House, Va., and in the Hampton Hospital, Va. Executive Officer in General Sheridan's Hospital, Winchester, Va. Brevet Captain and Major U. S. Army, for faithful and meritorious services during the war. In the office of the Surgeon-General, Washington, D. C. ,Source

EDIT TO ADD MORE: There's an extensive bio located here
EDITED YET AGAIN: Images of Dr Curtis are located here and here
 
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A. Roy

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Holy Smoke! 😳 Is your wife's great grandfather THE Dr. Edward Curtis? The one who helped perform the autopsy on President Lincoln on April 15, 1865!?!??!
Yes! This is the same Edward Curtis. I got to know about him some years ago when I was working on a biography of his daughter, Natalie Curtis Burlin, an ethnomusicologist who studied American Indian and African American music.

There are some family accounts of the Lincoln autopsy, which I plan to use as sources for a writeup. The family archives are with my brother-in-law in Arizona. I plan to go out there in a couple of weeks and get his help with some of this.

Thanks for those references and photos. One of them is similar to a photo kept by the family. My brother-in-law sent me a copy, but it is framed under glass and fragile, so hard to get a decent shot of it. But here is what he sent me, in two pieces. You can see it's very similar to the grouping in the book you linked to:

ECurtis_ArmyMedOfficers.jpg


ECurtis_SurgeonGenStaff_1866_PhotoIDs.jpg


Roy B.
 

lelliott19

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You can see it's very similar to the grouping in the book you linked to:
Indeed. Probably taken at the same sitting. Same group of medical officers including Surgeon General Joseph K Barnes; same basic positions; and same furniture. The image in the book seems to be the more "formal" image and I'd imagine it was taken first. Dr. Curtis seems to be looking down at John Shaw Billings while, in your family's image, he seems to be looking off at something out of frame. In yours, the "informal" version, William Canfield Spencer (standing left) has leaned back on the desk behind and has mussed his hair, while George Otis (seated left) has reclined in his fancy fringed chair. Thanks so much for sharing this great image!
 
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A. Roy

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Indeed. Probably taken at the same sitting. Same group of medical officers including Surgeon General Joseph K Barnes; same basic positions; and same furniture. The image in the book seems to be the more "formal" image and I'd imagine it was taken first. Dr. Curtis seems to be looking down at John Shaw Billings while, in your family's image, he seems to be looking off at something out of frame. In yours, the "informal" version, William Canfield Spencer (standing left) has leaned back on the desk behind and has mussed his hair, while George Otis (seated left) has reclined in his fancy fringed chair. Thanks so much for sharing this great image!
Yes, I think you're right about the informality of this family-sourced photo. Although Dr. Curtis looks about the same in both photos!

Roy B.
 

connecticut yankee

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On display at the National Museum for Health and Medicine, in Silver Springs, Maryland is the attending surgeon, Dr. Edward Curtis’ letter to his mother describing the president’s autopsy. He says, "There it lay upon the white china, a little black mass no bigger than the end of my finger; dull, motionless, harmless, yet the cause of such mighty change in the world’s history like we may never realize.'"
 

Mrs. V

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Now, how cool is that? My ancestor simply served, did a stint in Andersonville, and came home to his wife on a train, she scooped him up and brought him home in the back of a wagon. Someone in the family knows his name, but no one seems to have his paper work. It’s very frustrating!
 
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A. Roy

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Now, how cool is that? My ancestor simply served, did a stint in Andersonville, and came home to his wife on a train, she scooped him up and brought him home in the back of a wagon. Someone in the family knows his name, but no one seems to have his paper work. It’s very frustrating!
Dr. Curtis (my wife's ancestor) is well known and has a great story. But nobody in my family has ever talked about my South Carolina ancestor, William Whitman Dukes, who was infantry, and there are no family papers about him, or even a photo. Poor fellow, I'm not sure we'll ever know much about him, aside from what we can glean from military records. But that's great that you have that story about Andersonville, the train, and the wagon!

Roy B.
 
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Mrs. V

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Dr. Curtis (my wife's ancestor) is well known and has a great story. But nobody in my family has ever talked about my South Carolina ancestor, William Whitman Dukes, who was infantry, and there are no family papers about him, or even a photo. Poor fellow, I'm not sure we'll even know much about him, aside from what we can glean from military records. But that's great that you have that story about Andersonville, the train, and the wagon!

Roy B.
I hear ya!
 
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