1898 Civil War Tale has Calhoun Connection

(04/18/2001)

Transcribed by Norma Knotts Shaffer from microfilm of the Calhoun Chronicle dated 11/22/1898.

This is a campaign year, but there is no politics in the following letter, which was published a few weeks ago in the Buckhannon Delta:

"In the early days of the war of the rebellion, William B. Smallridge, of French Creek, W. Va., enlisted as a private soldier in Co. E of the 3rd West Virginia Infantry.

About the first of September, 1861, the above company, with two or three more of the same redgement, were marching down from Glenville, Gilmer County, this state, to a point on the Calhoun county line, some ten miles distant, and when near their destinathion the following order of march was observed; something over a hundred men were marching compactly in front, and about as many marching in the same way some two or three hundred yards in the rear.  About midway between these two moving bodies of troops marched the subject of this sketch, with George Philips and Chapman McCoy on his right, when they were fired into from ambush by a party of bushwhackers.

A ball evidently from a muzzle loading rifle, corresponding in size to a 32 calibre pistol bullet, entered Mr. Smallridge's chest at the lower point of the scapula on the left side, passing thence directly through the left lung and into the left ventricle of the heart.

The bullet struck his heart about exactly the center, but the force was so completely broken that after breaking through the outer wall into said ventricle it was unable to penetrate the opposite wall, so dropped to the bottom of said cavity and was carried there by the living victim for more than thirty-five years.

The shot failed to knock Smallridge down, but it did knock him perfectly blind for a time and he dropped his gun, and as soon as his comrades returned the enemy's fire they assisted him to a house near where the head of the column was.  Here the regimental surgeon probed and otherwise examined his wound and pronounced it fatal.  On being told that he must die, Mr. Smallridge actually laughed at him, and told them he would do no such thing.

After waiting some time for him to die, a thing he persistently declined to do, and seeing with what tenacity he clung to life, a detail was made and by it he was sent in a skiff back up the Little Kanawha to Glenville.  Here George Philips was detailed to nurse him, a thing he faithfully did for three weeks and at the expiration of this time he was so much improved as to be able to be brought by private conveyance to Weston, and after a short rest, on home.

Mr. Smallridge never re-entered the service, but has lived a neighbor to us and operated a farm by us from that time till the 2 ult., when he answered the last roll call.

About three months ago he sent for Dr. G.O. Brown, and confided to him that there had been a good deal of speculation as to the exact location of that bullet, and that the chances were an autopsy would be necessary to settle the matter.

So the doctor's promise was secured that the vexed question should be settled as soon as might be after his demise.

Then as the last taps were sounded on Saturday the 2nd of October, 1898, Dr. Brown associated himself with Dr. O.B. Beer and the two repaired to Mr. Smallridges residence on the following day and faithfully redeemed said promise.

The post mortem revealed the facts precisely as stated above, and as incontestible proof of same, Dr. Brown has that portion of the heart, containing the bullet, preserved in alcohol in his office, and the bullet has never been removed from the spot where it has lain all these years, and where it has become firmly imbedded.  The annals of surgery are challenged for a parallel. - Henry Colerider


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