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P.C. Whidden

P.C. Whidden

Federal (USV)

Private

Philon Currier Whidden

(1839 - 1900)

Home State: Massachusetts

Education: Amherst College, Harvard Medical School, Class of 1866

Branch of Service: Infantry

Unit: 13th Massachusetts Infantry

Before Antietam

He was a 21 year old medical student in Charlestown (Harvard, Class of 1865) when he enlisted in July 1861 as Private, Company B, 13th Massachusetts Infantry.

On the Campaign

He was wounded in action - struck by a piece of shell in the back of his lower left leg - on 17 September 1862 at Antietam. It caused

... extensive laceration and loss of the soft tissues, without injury to the bone. The wound extended from just above the ankle joint about eight inches up the back of the leg, from which, within these bounds, the soft parts, integuments, tendons, muscles, both arteries, and the posterior tibial nerve were entirely carried away, exposing the bones through nearly the whole length of the wound ... The upper part of the wound was ragged and contused, and the middle portion cleanly cut away. There was but little haemorrhage.

The rest of the War

He walked with great difficulty to the rear, and was then carried to a house a short distance from the field, where a consultation as to the propriety of amputation was held, six surgeons being present. Four decided that amputation was necessary to preserve life; one assented to this under existing circumstances, but thought that under more favorable conditions there was a possibility of recovery without the operation; the other that amputation was uncalled for. The patient decided to retain the limb. The wound was dressed with lint and was not disturbed for five days.

On the fifth day, he was carried in an ambulance a distance of twelve miles to the hospital in Hagerstown. Upon examination the wound was suppurating profusely and full of maggots, and it was dressed with yeast poultice and powdered charcoal. It was then determined to amputate, but the operation was postponed for three days, and nourishing diet and stimulants were ordered. On the fourth day an examination preliminary to the operation was made, when healthy granulations appeared along the edges of the bones, and the operation was abandoned. The patient was then carried to a private house, where he received proper nourishment and good nursing, and at the end of a month, no bleeding having at any time occurred, went to [the Mason Hospital, 22 January 1863, at] his home in Boston ... By the first of March following, the parts were perfectly healed, and the patient walked about with the aid of a cane ...
He transferred to the Veteran Reserve Corps in November 1863 and applied for a commission as a Surgeon in the US Navy. He was discharged 11 December 1863 to accept a commission and was Acting Assistant Surgeon, US Navy from December 1863 to October 1865, assigned to the steam gunboat USS Wando.

After the War

He completed medical school at Harvard in 1866, and in August of that year moved to Chicago. By that time he walked "with ease, unaided by a cane, and without the slightest perceptible limp." He practiced medicine in Chicago for more than 30 years. He did eventually need to have the leg amputated, in April 1891, and afterward wore a prosthesis.

References & notes

Basic information from Commonwealth of Massachusetts1, with details from Brown2, and his 1863 application to the Navy. The quotes above from his case in the MSHWR.3 His Navy assignment from the Register[s] of Commissioned and Warrant Officers of the United States Navy (1864, 1865). Life dates and events from his obituary in the journal The Chicago Medical Recorder, Vol. 18 (June 1900). His picture from one posted by Brad Forbush on his excellent 13th Massachusetts Volunteers website, from an original in the Scott Hann Collection.

He married Clarissa "Clara" Goodwin Hunt (1838-aft. 1930) in 1872, and they had two children.

More on the Web

The first page of his request for an increase in disability pension due to his 1891 amputation is online from the Center for the History of Medicine, Boston.

Birth

11/21/1839; Rockford, IL

Death

03/07/1900 Chicago, IL; burial in Graceland Cemetery, Chicago, IL

Notes

1   Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Adjutant General, Massachusetts Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines in the Civil War, 8 Vols, Norwood (MA): Norwood Press, 1931-35, Vol. 2, pp. 79 - 84  [AotW citation 6897]

2   Brown, Francis H., Roll of Students of Harvard University who Served in the Army or Navy of the United States During the War of the Rebellion, Cambridge: Harvard University, 1866, pg. 42  [AotW citation 6903]

3   Barnes, Joseph K., and US Army, Office of the Surgeon General, The Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion, 6 books, Washington DC: US Government Printing Office, 1870, Volume 2, Part 3, pp. 20-21  [AotW citation 21361]