The Doctor

Shortly after the Eighth Regiment Massachusetts arrived in Washington, Dr. Smith performed what is widely reported as the first amputation of the Civil War. When the Eighth Regiment arrived on the evening of April 26, the men stacked their guns along the wall in the Capitol Rotunda where they were quartered. As the men were bringing in mattresses, they knocked a stand of arms down to the floor, and a gun discharged as it fell.

the soldierA minie ball tore through the lower right leg, near the ankle, of Lieutenant Moses S. Herrick of Company E of the Eighth Regiment. Dr. Smith, who was nearby, quickly examined the wound: “It was torn in pieces. Amputation was necessary and I performed it by the lights in the chandelier.” Reverend Babbidge was [also] nearby and reported that Dr. Smith reacted quickly when he saw Lieutenant Herrick severely injured. “Without stopping to ask what surgeon should be called, [Dr. Smith] had the man taken into his (our) room, which was one belonging to the judges of the United States Supreme Court and almost before Herrick knew it, the foot was cut off. And in three weeks' time the patient was at his home attending to his business."

Photo: Dr. Norman Smith’s Civil War Surgical Kit. Courtesy Arbittier Museum of Medical History, York, PA

Previous Next