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W. Child

W. Child

Federal (USV)

Assistant Surgeon

William Child

(1834 - 1918)

Home State: New Hampshire

Education: Dartmouth Medical School, Class of 1857

Command Billet: Regimental Surgeon

Branch of Service: Medical

Unit: 5th New Hampshire Infantry

Before Antietam

He was a country doctor whose family home was a farm near Bath, New Hampshire. After graduating from medical school in 1857, he lived and practiced in Bath. In August 1862 he was commissioned assistant surgeon of the Fifth New Hampshire Volunteers (later Surgeon).

On the Campaign

He was with the Regiment at South Mountain and Antietam, and immediately after the battle served at the Federal hospital at Smoketown, Maryland, under Dr. Bernard Vanderkieft, surgeon in charge and medical director.

The rest of the War

He was on that duty to 10 December, then rejoined his Regiment at Fredericksburg, VA. He served with the Regiment through Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Cold Harbor and Petersburg. By the end of the war he was Division surgeon, and was discharged with the regiment at the expiration of its term. He was at Ford's Theater, Washington DC on the evening of 14 April 1865, and witnessed the assassination of President Lincoln - in a letter to his wife he said of it: "Wild dreams and real facts are but brothers. This night I have seen the murder of the President of the United States. It seems all a dream - a wild dream. I cannot realize it, though I know I saw it only an hour since ... I shall remember the fiend-like expression of the assassin's face while I live ..."

After the War

"After the war, he at once resumed his medical and surgical practice in Bath and entered at once into a large and successful business in his chosen profession. He never sought public office, but was twice elected representative from his native town to the General Court Of New Hampshire. He was for years chairman and president of the New Hampshire State Medical Society. He is credited with having read more papers before that Society than any other member."
(from History and obituary, T. Sawyer: family compilation)

He wrote the 5th New Hampshire's regimental history A History of the Fifth Regiment, New Hampshire Volunteers in the American Civil War 1861-1865' in 1893.

References & notes

Child, Dr. William ( Sawyer, Merrill, Betty Sawyer and Timothy Sawyer, transcribers), Letters from a Civil War Surgeon: Dr. William Child of the Fifth New Hampshire Volunteers, Solon, Maine: Polar Bear & Co., 2001;

Note: photo portrait above courtesy of Tim Sawyer, from his father Merrill's collection.

More on the Web

See more about Dr Child's letters from the book publisher's site


2/4/1834; Bath, NH


7/20/1918; North Haverhill, NH; burial in Bath Village Cemetery, Bath, NH