Thursday, July 7, 2016

Civil War surgeon died young not long after war's end

Edward DeWelden Brenneman
A couple of weeks ago, in the June 23 edition of The Courant, I mentioned in a column that a bone from the arm of a Conecuh County Confederate veteran was on display in the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Washington, D.C.

The bone belonged to Mitchell Burford Salter, a member of the Conecuh Guards, who was wounded at the Battle of Gaine’s Mill and at the Battle of Gettysburg. He had to have his arm amputated, but he survived the war and died in Evergreen at the age of 81 on Nov. 8, 1920. You can visit his grave today in the Old Evergreen Cemetery.

A few months ago, one of our readers e-mailed me a photo of the bone from Salter’s amputated arm, which is currently on display at the National Museum of Health and Medicine in the nation’s capital. A few weeks ago, I e-mailed the staff at the museum with questions about Salter’s bone and its significance.

Wednesday of last week, I received a nice reply from Brian Spatola, who is the Collections Manager for the museum’s Anatomical Division. According to Spatola, Salter’s bone was sent to the Army Medical Museum (now the National Museum of Health and Medicine) by U.S. Army Surgeon Edward Breneman after it was amputated for a gunshot wound. Salter’s arm was among over 4,000 amputations from similar injuries that were forwarded to the museum during the Civil War.

“Union physicians often performed surgery on Confederates, but the majority of the specimens forwarded were from Union soldiers,” Spatola wrote. “The bone is not unusual for any other reason, to my knowledge.”

Spatola also noted that the bone is Salter’s humerus bone, that is, the long bone in the arm that runs from the shoulder to the elbow.

Spatola also directed me to a six-volume reference book called “Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion, 1861-65,” which contains a reference to Salter’s amputation surgery. That book noted that Salter was a 23-year-old private in Co. E of the 4th Alabama Infantry and that his amputation surgery took place on July 2, 1863, which was the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg.

Quite a bit is known about the surgeon who amputated Salter’s arm, Edward DeWelden Brenneman. He was born on Aug. 14, 1839 in Lancaster, Pa. and received his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1861. He began his military career in June 1861 when he became an assistant surgeon with the 30th Pennsylvania Volunteers.

From July to August 1862, when he performed Salter’s surgery, he was with the 2nd and 3rd U.S. Infantry, 5th Corps, Army of the Potomac. Before resigning in April 1867, he was promoted to Brevet Major for “faithful and meritorious services during the war.”

After resigning from the army, Brenneman practiced medicine in Washington and married Marion D. Wilson on Sept. 27, 1866. Unfortunately, he didn’t live much longer, passing away at the age of 31 on Oct. 11, 1870. You can visit his grave today in Washington, D.C.’s Oak Hill Cemetery. 

No comments:

Post a Comment