28 year old Sergeant Isaac Branson, Company E, 19th Indiana Infantry was wounded in action at Turner’s Gap on South Mountain on 14 September 1862. A member of the famous “Iron Brigade”, he was shot in the left temple and was very lucky not to have been killed outright.

After remaining insensible for a few minutes, he attempted to rise, but being unable to control his limbs, he would constantly stumble and fall. He states that he introduced his little finger into the wound for more than an inch and could feel the brain substance.

He was treated at hospitals in Frederick, MD and Washington, DC, where:

The wound being very painful, he did not wish to have it probed, and therefore did not tell the attending surgeon that the ball remained in the wound. Simple dressings were applied. For several weeks he staggered and had fever, but was never delirious. Spiculae of bone continued to come away for some weeks, but the wound healed gradually.

Isaac was commissioned Lieutenant in April 1863, returned to duty in October, and mustered out at the end of his term in October 1864.

Although a pension examiner found him completely disabled in 1867, he lived to be 64 and was working around the farm up to the day he died.


A couple of things I thought about when learning of Isaac Branson’s story …

Although a bit gory, I expect I’d have put my finger in the hole too, if it had been me. How about you?

And I wonder if he did as well as he did because surgeons didn’t poke about in his brain to retrieve the bullet?

The details of his medical case are from the Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion (1870) – click to expand.

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