Hugh Arthur and the Lodged Minie-Ball: an excerpt

Dr. James H. Arthur had the great advantage of having a grandfather who had preserved his story of service in the Civil War. We selected a portion of it to reproduce in Dr. Arthur’s life story.

The Civil War started in 1861. My grandfather had for some time been connected to a militia company, and when Lincoln called for volunteers this group was called into service, later to be designated Company C, 9th Regiment, Maryland Infantry.

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After several routine assignments they were sent to Charlestown (Harper’s Ferry). The company was assigned quarters in the courthouse where John Brown had been tried and convicted. Openings were cut in the walls, and the building was fortified with logs. Eventually the company was surrounded by a superior rebel force. A surrender was demanded and was refused, whereupon the rebel cannons proceeded to bombard the courthouse with cannon fire. The courthouse was quickly cleared, and Grandfather found himself alone. He made for a wooded tract. He tripped, probably because he had been hit in the back by a minié-ball, which he carried the rest of his life.

He was confronted by a rebel sergeant on horseback and taken prisoner. Their route as prisoners was up the Shenandoah Valley on foot or on horseback to Front Royal and Staunton, and thence by rail past Charlottesville to Richmond. They were confined to a small bare space without cover from the winter weather, without heat or overcoats and one meal per day of cornbread and bean soup with worms floating around in it. Bathing was impossible without soap or towels and daily activity was the removal of lice and ticks. Grandfather survived this for five months, at which point he participated in a prisoner exchange. Upon his arrival in Baltimore this time of enlistment had expired and he was discharged….

In 1920 Grandfather Hugh Arthur visited his sons–my dad and my Uncle Walter–in Akron. My dad was working for Goodrich Rubber Company and his brother Walter was retiring from active general medical practice. It is my recollection that Dad had arranged for Walter to become the company physician at Goodrich. Walter invited Grandfather Arthur down to the Goodrich clinic because he wanted to get an x-ray to see the item they had heard about for years….

Walt took the x-ray, had it developed, and put it up on the viewing stand. About that time the clinic radiologist walked in, looked at the x-ray, and asked who the patient was. Walt replied that it was his father. The radiologist, with obvious alarm, asked “My God, who shot him?”

Walt replied, “We don’t know; it happened during the Civil War.”