Pain in the Patella: Canister Shot Removed 32 Years Later

lelliott19

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Equipped with surgical dressings, I entered the charge with the brigade at Gettysburg July 2, 1863... As Hancock's batteries opened fire a shell burst in the face of a soldier close to me in front. His shattered head violently struck my breast, covering me with brains and blood, and the smoke so obscured me that I was reported killed. Recovering self-possession, when I found that I really was alive, after stopping to help a slightly wounded man, I hurried forward. A moment later, with its sharp sting a minnie ball passed through my upper left arm....Hardly twenty steps further had I gone when another rifle ball pierced my right shoulder. Not realizing the severity of my wounds, I kept on, and found an officer mortally wounded. After leaving him I ran to the line of battle, where our brigade (Wright's) having cut through the Union lines, was fighting. Suddenly, a crashing blow near my left knee felled me to the ground...

At the Battle of Gettysburg, James Robie Wood was a member of Company C, 2nd Battalion Georgia Infantry, Ambrose Wright's brigade, Anderson's division. Wood later became a medical doctor, but during the war, he served as a Private soldier. "...I felt that the honor of being a private in the Second Georgia battalion, Wright's brigade, was almost equivalent to holding a brigadier general's commission elsewhere."

Wood was wounded three times at Gettysburg, including a canister shot in the left leg, about the knee, which nearly resulted in amputation. During the night, Brigadier General Alexander Stewart Webb of the 2nd brigade, 2nd division, Winfield Hancock's Second Corps, stumbled upon Wood, lying wounded on the field and had him removed to a Union field hospital. By the time the Union surgeons examined him, the knee was very swollen and inflamed, making it impossible to tell what type of missile had inflicted the wound.

Amputation was averted and Wood carried the 3/4 inch canister shot in his leg for thirty-two years. The knee, Wood claimed, flared up on the anniversary of the battle for several years in a row. "This year," said Wood, "the suffering was so prolonged that I requested Dr. John C. Minor to explore the wound. On opening the leg, he found and extracted an iron canister shot three-fourths of an inch in diameter - which I find infinitely more comfortable in my pocket than it was in my leg."

Both of the accounts provided below include information of interest to those who study tactics and movements of the Battle of Gettysburg, but I was fascinated by the story of the canister shot, carried in Wood's leg for 32 years. @rpkennedy @Tom Elmore @infomanpa @Gettysburg Guide #154

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St. Paul Daily Globe.(St. Paul, MN), October 27, 1895, page 15.

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The Macon Telegraph. (Macon, Ga.), October 21, 1895, page 4.
 

redbob

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A number of years ago, I spoke to an SCV Camp that had two brothers that were real sons of a Confederate soldier and they showed me a Williams Cleaner Bullet in a bottle that had a newspaper clipping about their Father who had been shot in the head during the War, survived and 20 years later while eating a meal had a coughing "fit" and coughed up the bullet. Strange business indeed.
 

JeffFromSyracuse

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A number of years ago, I spoke to an SCV Camp that had two brothers that were real sons of a Confederate soldier and they showed me a Williams Cleaner Bullet in a bottle that had a newspaper clipping about their Father who had been shot in the head during the War, survived and 20 years later while eating a meal had a coughing "fit" and coughed up the bullet. Strange business indeed.
I've seen a similar claim. A guy was shot in the base of the neck at The Wilderness and left for dead. As a POW five months later, he sneezed, and out came the slug.
 

rpkennedy

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I'm guessing that Dr. Wood fell in on the left of the brigade line when it passed the skirmish line based on what he wrote. The 2nd Georgia Battalion had deployed in total early in the afternoon along a fence line between Seminary Ridge and the Emmittsburg Road and Wright ordered them to roll up to the left and reform on the left of the line when the brigade advanced (the 2nd Battalion ended up splitting in half with both halves ending up on opposite ends of the line; the right portion overran the abandoned guns of Weir's Battery).

Based on what @lelliott19 posted, I'm guessing that Wood was first shot right around the Emmittsburg Road, was shot again just east of the road, and was struck by the canister about halfway up the slope to the wall and not far from where Brown's Number Six gun was abandoned. The reason that I believe this is that Lt. Cushing fired at least one round of canister at the abandoned gun to clear the Confederates away from the gun.

Regardless, this is an interesting account and thank you for providing it.

Ryan
 

redbob

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I love the line about preferring the canister to be in his pocket! I'm not sure I could have laughed it off quite the same way.
If the canister shot was approximately 3/4" in diameter, then the chances are that it came from a 3" Hotchkiss canister round ( as this is this only canister round with this sized ball) fired from either a Parrott Gun or 3" Ordnance Rifle.
Hotchkiss.JPG
 

lelliott19

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If the canister shot was approximately 3/4" in diameter, then the chances are that it came from a 3" Hotchkiss canister round ( as this is this only canister round with this sized ball) fired from either a Parrott Gun or 3" Ordnance Rifle.View attachment 394028
Excellent @redbob that's exactly what I was hoping to find out!

@rpkennedy @Tom Elmore @infomanpa @Gettysburg Guide #154 what battery was in the area that might have been firing in the direction of Private Wood and the 2nd Battalion Georgia Infantry who had Parrotts or 3" ordnance rifles?
 

rpkennedy

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Excellent @redbob that's exactly what I was hoping to find out!

@rpkennedy @Tom Elmore @infomanpa @Gettysburg Guide #154 what battery was in the area that might have been firing in the direction of Private Wood and the 2nd Battalion Georgia Infantry who had Parrotts or 3" ordnance rifles?

I was just looking that up. Arnold's Battery A, 1st Rhode Island Light Artillery was deployed north of the Angle. We know that they were firing into the left flank of Wright's Georgians so I'd guess that his canister ball came from one of Arnold's guns.

Ryan
 

Tom Elmore

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The issue with the 2nd Georgia Battalion is that they were posted as skirmishers when Lang and Wright advanced, so that some members of the battalion joined the left of Lang's Floridians, a good number managed to reform on the left of Wright's brigade, while others were simply absorbed into Wright's other regiments as they went forward. So that leaves a number of possibilities, the most likely being:

C/4 US, Napoleons
C/5 US, Napoleons
B/1 RI, Napoleons
A/4 US, 3-inch Rifles
A/1 RI, 3-inch Rifles
 

rpkennedy

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The issue with the 2nd Georgia Battalion is that they were posted as skirmishers when Lang and Wright advanced, so that some members of the battalion joined the left of Lang's Floridians, a good number managed to reform on the left of Wright's brigade, while others were simply absorbed into Wright's other regiments as they went forward. So that leaves a number of possibilities, the most likely being:

C/4 US, Napoleons
C/5 US, Napoleons
B/1 RI, Napoleons
A/4 US, 3-inch Rifles
A/1 RI, 3-inch Rifles
I completely forgot that Cushing had 3" rifles as well. I was thinking that he had Napoleons. So, it could have been either Arnold or Cushing.

Ryan
 

lelliott19

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The issue with the 2nd Georgia Battalion is that they were posted as skirmishers when Lang and Wright advanced, so that some members of the battalion joined the left of Lang's Floridians, a good number managed to reform on the left of Wright's brigade, while others were simply absorbed into Wright's other regiments as they went forward. So that leaves a number of possibilities, the most likely being:

C/4 US, Napoleons
C/5 US, Napoleons
B/1 RI, Napoleons
A/4 US, 3-inch Rifles
A/1 RI, 3-inch Rifles
I completely forgot that Cushing had 3" rifles as well. I was thinking that he had Napoleons. So, it could have been either Arnold or Cushing.

Ryan
Thanks Ryan and Tom.

Tom - Do you have one of your fantastic maps that shows the positions of these batteries compared to the the various parts and pieces of the 2nd GA Battn?
 

lelliott19

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I know it seems impossible, but here's another member of the 2nd Georgia Infantry Battalion who was also wounded by canister shot in the left leg, and he carried his own iron ball for many years! [I'm assuming that the ball described is canister shot?]

Sgt. Simeon E. Theus (B/2nd GA BN) was captured in the hospital after the battle and sent to the Union General Hospital 19 July 1863. He appears on a Roll of Prisoners of War at General Hospital, Chester, PA dated 31 July 1863. He was sent to City Point for exchange 17 August 1863, furloughed, and detailed at Macon, GA. He is then listed as disabled. He returned to his regiment September 6, 1864 and apparently had recovered sufficiently to march.

His canister shot was removed in May 1892 - after having languished in his left leg for nearly 29 years! Theus seems to indicate that his wound was inflicted by a Rhode Island battery?
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Theus' wounding in the manner reported is also confirmed by Lieut (at the time Sgt.) Lorenzo Dow Ripley (B/2nd GA BN) in a post-war reminiscence, published in The Macon Telegraph. (Macon, Ga.), October 31, 1897, page 1.
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For those who may be interested in reading Ripley's entire account, I posted it over in another thread here
https://civilwartalk.com/threads/wrights-brigade-gettysburg-accounts.183342/#post-2379976
 
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