Near-fatal Scorpion Sting at Fair Oaks, VA 1862 - 6th New York Cavalry

lelliott19

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Scorpion.JPG

They say that scorpions aren't very common in Virginia, but there is this one kind -- known as the Southern Devil Scorpion. Apparently, these have venom. And sometimes, the venom can cause anaphylactic shock, which can be fatal.

James Scully, age 21, enlisted into Company H, 6th New York Cavalry September 19, 1861 at New York and mustered in as a Corporal on October 28, 1861 to serve for three years. He re-enlisted as a Private December 16, 1863 and was discharged June 7, 1865 at Annapolis, MD. https://dmna.ny.gov/historic/reghist/civil/rosters/cavalry/6thCavCW_Roster.pdf

But it's what happened to him at Fair Oaks on June 27, 1862 that made the "record." Corporal Scully was stung by a scorpion on the back of the neck, between the 3rd and 4th cervical vertebrae, and it came very near killing him. He was treated by Surgeon A. P. Clark of the 6th New York Cavalry, who reported the details:
The man was of robust constitution and of good health. I saw him a few minutes after the reception of the wound, which occurred at 10 A.M....there was no swelling of the part, but he complained of intense pain in the back and lower extremities....Severe spasms soon came on ....he remained in this condition for two and a half hours, when he gradually became insensible, the action of his heart becoming more feeble and irregular.

Luckily, Surgeon Clark had on hand some "Bibron's antidotal mixture," a Bromine compound touted as an effective anti-venom for snakebites and, apparently, also useful for scorpion stings. Dr. Clark administered Bibron's, along with tablespoonfuls of equal parts Brandy and water, every half hour until 2 1/2 ounces of Brandy had been administered. Surgeon Clark's report continues:
At 12 o'clock his face and hands began to swell, the skin of these parts resembling an attack of phlegmonous erysipelas, though of a duskier hue. The swelling continued to increase until about 6 P.M., at which time his head was of an enormous size and his eyes very glassy, appearing as if they would burst from their sockets.....The patient still remaining unconscious, I took twelve ounces of blood from the left median cephalic vein and cupped him along the spine and lower part of the thorax, put two minims of croton oil upon his tongue, and administered an enema of warm water and olive oil. Sinapisms [mustard counter-irritant plasters] were still continued."

After all that bloodletting, poulticing, and enema administration, it's no wonder Scully woke up! Surgeon Clark continues:
About 2 A.M. on the following morning signs of returning consciousness appeared, when another enema was given and his feet were put in warm water. In about a quarter of an hour afterwards, he had a copious discharge from his bowels, very offensive and of a dark gelatinous character, which was soon followed by the vomiting of a large quantity of matter of similar but not so offensive nature.

The swelling gradually subsided and, by 3 P.M. on June 28, Scully was well enough to be transported by ambulance to Harrison's Landing. He arrived there on July 1, 1862 and rejoined his company with no lingering or recurring ill effects. Surgeon Clark concluded his report by saying:
During the course of the first day some ten different medical officers saw the patient and none of them entertained any hope of his recovery. I am of the opinion that it was through the action of Bibron's antidote conveyed into the circulation that the virus of the scorpion was neutralized or eliminated from the system, and that the action of the medicine was promoted by the other measures employed.
Source: The Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion, Volume 2, Part III, page 656. https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc1.31822000922120;view=1up;seq=11

A couple of years ago, I posted a story about another member of the 6th New York Cavalry who received a nasty injury when he was kicked by a horse. I ran across this unusual case of a near-fatal scorpion sting while looking for a snake bite for @NH Civil War Gal 's thread about snakes. Interestingly, this one happens to involve another member of the 6th NY Cavalry. I guess their surgeons kept better records than most?
 
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CSA Today

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#3
Ouch, Rattlesnakes AND Scorpions. I thought Virginia was pretty safe for such creatures.
Interesting story though, so thanks for sharing.. Very good job from that doctor.
We have three species of rattlesnakes, cottonmouth moccasin, copperheads, coral snakes and alligators in southeastern North Carolina, but I've never heard of or seen scorpions here.
 

James N.

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View attachment 212537During the course of the first day some ten different medical officers saw the patient and none of them entertained any hope of his recovery. I am of the opinion that it was through the action of Bibron's antidote conveyed into the circulation that the virus of the scorpion was neutralized or eliminated from the system, and that the action of the medicine was promoted by the other measures employed.
Source: The Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion, Volume 2, Part III, page 656. https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc1.31822000922120;view=1up;seq=11
Sounds like a paid testimonial to me! Can anyone say infomercial?!
 

Polloco

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Some people are just susceptible to shock. I'm no doctor but I would bet he would have gone into anaphylactic shock whether it was a scorpion, bee, wasp etc. Never heard of a "deadly scorpion" in those parts. And speaking of parts, I guessing where in his body he got that sting had a lot to do with it.
 
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We have both Black widows and Browns here, they used to be called Brown Recluse, but they don't hide anymore. Both can be a real problem. Just west of town they have a real problem with Black Widows. I have only encountered a few here though. I believe we have scorpions in the south western part of Missouri. I have seen more than a few Black Widows in Virginia and of course Copperheads.
 

lelliott19

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Sounds like a paid testimonial to me! Can anyone say infomercial?!
Gabriel Bibron (20 October 1805 – 27 March 1848) was dead by the time Surgeon Clark gave his testimonial so he probably provided no monetary incentive. :D
I've never heard of a "Southern Devil" scorpion.
Southern Devil Scorpion aka Southern Unstriped Scorpion (Vaejovis carolinianus) https://www.insectidentification.org/insect-description.asp?identification=Southern-Devil-Scorpion
 

diane

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#12
We have both Black widows and Browns here, they used to be called Brown Recluse, but they don't hide anymore. Both can be a real problem. Just west of town they have a real problem with Black Widows. I have only encountered a few here though. I believe we have scorpions in the south western part of Missouri. I have seen more than a few Black Widows in Virginia and of course Copperheads.
We've got the recluses up here, too. They don't hide and they are big - just a couple months ago one was making itself to home in a corner of the bathroom. Dropped a book on it but darned if the thing didn't just flatten out. They don't even have the decency to squash proper! They aren't native to here - people move around and bring these things with them.
 

lelliott19

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We've got the recluses up here, too. They don't hide and they are big - just a couple months ago one was making itself to home in a corner of the bathroom. Dropped a book on it but darned if the thing didn't just flatten out. They don't even have the decency to squash proper! They aren't native to here - people move around and bring these things with them.
Have you ever squashed a "Wolf spider" or whatever the ones are that carry their babies around on their backs? :cold:Terrifying!!!! Seriously. All those little tiny spiders scatter in every direction and they are much too small to kill by squashing. Much scarier than snakes or scorpions! It gives me the willies just thinking about it :unsure:
 

diane

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#14
Have you ever squashed a "Wolf spider" or whatever the ones are that carry their babies around on their backs? :cold:Terrifying!!!! Seriously. All those little tiny spiders scatter in every direction and they are much too small to kill by squashing. Much scarier than snakes or scorpions! It gives me the willies just thinking about it :unsure:
Wolf spiders - you'll hear them coming! Fortunately it's too cold for them up here but my auntie lived in Texas for a while and when she moved one hitched a ride in a box. A BIG one...get the shotgun!
 

JPK Huson 1863

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Mom spent a good chunk of childhood in Arkansas. She said she and her brother checked their shoes every morning before putting them on. Keeping an eye out for scorpions was part of the daily routine, can you imagine?

Snakes don't bother me, spiders are a little interesting, watching them ( our wolf spiders could take on a bus ) but scorpions would be where nature and I fail to come to an agreement on coexisting.
 
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#19
I was reading this and slowly eating a piece of beef jerky when I come to: "In about a quarter of an hour afterwards, he had a copious discharge from his bowels, very offensive and of a dark gelatinous character, which was soon followed by the vomiting of a large quantity of matter of similar but not so offensive nature."
Warn a guy next time!
 

lelliott19

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Warn a guy next time!
:rofl::rofl::rofl: Sorry about that Mike.

I actually considered using the "Graphic" label --specifically for that part
"In about a quarter of an hour afterwards, he had a copious discharge from his bowels, very offensive and of a dark gelatinous character, which was soon followed by the vomiting of a large quantity of matter of similar but not so offensive nature."
and also for the part where it says: "The swelling continued to increase until about 6 P.M., at which time his head was of an enormous size and his eyes very glassy, appearing as if they would burst from their sockets..." :hot:

But then I figured that label was probably just for images? Apparently I was mistaken. :D
 



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