1863: Thomas Antisell to Ryner Family

This declaration of soldier’s death was penned by Thomas Antisell (1817-1893), a native of Ireland who trained as a physician and chemist in Dublin before coming to New York City in 1848. He practiced medicine in New York for a time and then entered the government as geologist on the Lt. John G. Parke’s Pacific Railroad Survey. Following that, he moved to Washington D. C. where he became the chief examiner in the U. S. Patent Office and has sole charge of chemical inventions.

During the Civil War, Antisell entered the Union army as a Brigade Surgeon and was placed in charge of Harewood Hospital. After the war, Antisell cited several examples of soldier treatment cases, one of which was Alfred McClay’s wound:

“In the next case, the attempt to tie the vessel was unsuccessful, though undertaken by an experienced medical officer, Surgeon T. Antisell, U. S. V.: CASE.–Private Alfred McClay, Co. E, 114th Pennsylvania Volunteers, aged 17 years, was wounded at Fredericksburg, Virginia, December 13th, 1862, by a conoidal ball, which entered the right side at the costal cartilage, and emerged at the angle of the ninth rib, fracturing the rib between the point of entrance and exit. He was treated in the field, and, on December 17th, was sent to Harewood Hospital. When admitted, he suffered from traumatic pneumonia, which was treated by venesection and the administration of morphia and antimony. He recovered sufficiently to be able to move about the ward. The wound healed kindly. On January 11th, a profuse haemorrhage occurred from the wound, probably from intercostal artery, which continued in spite of compression. An unsuccessful attempt was made to ligate the artery. Tee haemorrhage was finally suppressed, after an alarming loss of blood, by tight bandaging and styptics. The stoppage of the haemorrhage was immediately followed by pain on both sides, cough, and expectoration. Pyaemia set in, and death occurred on January 24th, 1863. Necropsy: No opening had been made into the cavities, either by the missile or ulceration. Eight abscesses, from the size of a pea to that of an orange, were found in the lower lobe of the left lung, which was also in a very congested condition. I can learn of but five instances of venesection after chest wounds, practiced during the war, four observed in the Union and one in the Confederate hospitals.(3) Twice bleeding was practiced, by direction of Surgeon T. Antisell, U. S. V., in cases of traumatic pneumonia, that terminated fatally (cases of A. G—-, p. 483, and McClay, p. 550) . Three patients, all of whom recovered, were bled for the arrest of primary profuse haemoptysis. The cases of Kuhn and Oglesby(4) have been recorded (pp. 479, 484).”

TRANSCRIPTION

Harewood Hospital
[Washington D. C.]
January 24, 1863

This is to certify that Alfred McClay, Co. E, 114 Pa. Vols. died in this hospital January 24th 1863 from the effects of a gin shot wound in the right side of the thorax.

Thomas Antisell
Surgeon U. S. Vols.
General Staff
In Charge of Hospital

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