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Excised Knee Joint. A Round Musket Ball in the Inner Condyle of the Right Femur [Gardiner Lewis, Company B, Nineteenth Indiana Volunteers]

Excised Knee Joint. A Round Musket Ball in the Inner Condyle of the Right Femur [Gardiner Lewis, Company B, Nineteenth Indiana Volunteers]

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Presented like fragments of an ancient sculpture, this set of bones was the right knee of Union Private Gardiner Lewis, who was wounded in the battle of Gettysburg by a round musket ball. It is specimen number 1956 in the collection of the Army Medical Museum. Established in 1862 by order of President Lincoln, the Army Medical Museum—now the National Museum of Health and Medicine—is one of the most important scientific legacies of the Civil War. Its primary mandate was the collection of specimens for research in military medicine and surgery. During and after the war, museum curators solicited contributions from Union doctors—mostly in the form of photographs and patient histories such as those made by Reed Brockway Bontecou. The museum also employed its own photographers to record wounded soldiers, the effect of gunshot wounds and amputations, and its own growing collection of “morbid anatomy . . . together with projectiles and foreign bodies removed.”
William Bell (American (born England) Liverpool 1831–1910 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)

Hundreds of photographers whose names may never be known made their living following the armies during the Civil War. They worked out in the field tents and traveled at a moment’s notice. Photographers recorded the faces of tens of thousands of soldiers: new recruits and veterans—producing a vast likeness of American society. Many Civil War photographers began their careers as apprentices to Mathew B. Brady, America's self-appointed photographic "historian." Initially, a small corps of photographers copied maps and charts for the Union's Secret Service, which were distributed as photographic prints to both field and division commanders. During the Civil War, most photographers worked with the collodion-on-glass negatives, which required delicate and laborious procedures even in the studio. When the photographer was ready for action, a sheet of glass was cleaned, coated with collodion, partially dried, dipped carefully into a bath containing nitrate of silver, then exposed in the camera for several seconds and processed in the field darkroom tent--all before the silver collodion mixture had dried. Given the danger of their situation and the technical difficulty of their task, front-line photographers rarely if ever attempted action scenes. Civil War photographers produced vast photographic documentation of the Civil War. Despite decades of painstaking research by dedicated historians and Civil War buffs, a large number of the era's photographs remain unidentified.





The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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