Title: Mallet, J. E.
Source text: The Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion. (1861-65.), Part 2, Volume 2 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1876), 90-91.
Civil War Washington ID: med.d2e31627
CASE 275.—Lieutenant J. E. Mallet, Adjutant 81st New York, aged 21 years, was wounded at the battle of Cold Harbor, June 3, 1864, by a musket ball, which entered three inches to the left of the umbilicus and made its exit a little to the right of the spinal column. The direction of the ball is indicated in the accompanying wood-cut (FIG. 57), engraved from a photograph on the wood block made at the Museum several years ago. This officer, who still survives and holds an important civil office under the Government, has kindly prepared an account of his case, which is peculiarly valuable because of the rarity with which reliable information of the immediate symptoms produced by severe wounds can be obtained. The authenticity of the facts is unquestionable, and, independently of the officer's own statement, is affirmed by the testimony of the medical attendants: "I was wounded," says this brave officer, "at the battle of Cold Harbor, while serving as adjutant of the 81st New York Infantry, or 2d Oswego Regiment, then with the Army of the Potomac, and attached to the first (Marston's) brigade, first (Brooks's) division, Eighteenth (Smith's) Army Corps. It was at about five o' clock in the morning, and in the assault on the enemy's entrenched lines, I was struck. I fell at the distance of about fifteen paces from the works which our men were charging with uncapped pieces. The missile entered my left side. I distinctly remember the sensations experienced upon being hit. I imagined that a cannon-ball had struck me on the left hip-bone, that it took a downward course, tearing the intestines in its course, and lodged against the marrow of the right thigh-bone. I fancied I saw sparks of fire, and curtains of cobwebs wet with dew, sparkling in the sun. I heard a monotonous roar as of distant cataracts. I felt my teeth chatter, a rush of blood to my eyes, ears, nose, and to the ends of my fingers and toes. These sensations crowded themselves in the instants in which I struggled to stand, and actually fell forward on my face. As I fell, I experienced another sensation as of a sudden and violent blow on the nape of the neck, and then became completely insensible. I was awakened to consciousness by cheering, and fearing to be trampled by the advancing lines, I made a desperate effort to regain my feet; and, doubled up as one with a broken back, with my sword strapped to my right wrist, and the scabbard in the other hand, I dragged myself about forty paces to the right and rear, and entered the skirt of a wood, where I saw men hiding behind trees, which angered me, and I again fell insensible. Later, I remember being put on a stretcher by some men of a Massachusetts regiment, and carried some distance to an ambulance. During the day, some one had given me a piece of sponge cake dipped in wine; but it was at once rejected. It rained during the day, and some one covered me with a rubber blanket, which a passer-by presently carried off, and I had the will but not the power to protest. The pain in the wound in the back was intense. I do not recollect distinctly my arrival at the corps hospital; but I recall the visit of Surgeon W. H. Rice, and his exploration of my wound, and his instructions to a friend to take my watch and valuables, and my inference that he considered my case hopeless, and that these mementoes were to be sent home. On the afternoon of June 3d, I was put in an ambulance wagon with Lieutenant McKinney, and taken as far as Bethesda Church, where we stopped over night. We proceeded on our journey next morning, over very rugged ground. I remember the wounded who could walk, often put their shoulders to the wagon to keep it from upsetting. We arrived at White House Landing, on the York River, late on the afternoon of June 4th. I had suffered much pain from shortness of breath, but was relieved by draughts of water. I was put on a hospital transport, and was laid by the side of the deck, where the breeze could reach me; but it seemed to take away my breath instead of restoring it. I was very faint, and Captain Tyler, of my regiment, and others, have since told me that I was regarded as a dead man. I remember nothing further until we reached Alexandria, and finally Washington, where I asked to be taken to Douglas Hospital; but nearly all the wounded were carried off in ambulance wagons, and I thought I was deserted; but finally they brought a stretcher and carried me to Armory Square, which was nearer the steamboat wharf. I was placed in Ward 1 about midnight. On the morning of June 6th, Medical Inspector Coolidge examined me. From memoranda, made soon afterward, I find that I was frequently unconscious during the next week; but that, on June 12th, I could read the leaded headings of newspapers. On June 15th, I had a distressing pain in the bowels. Gradually my vision improved, and, on June 22d, I began to keep my diary. Acting Assistant Surgeon Bowen was attending me. On June 27th, I ate some blackberries, which made me sick, and for the next two days I was feverish and drowsy. On July 1st, I had severe colic. On July 3d, Surgeon Bliss examined me. On the 5th, I was better, and asked to be sent home. On July 6th, I sat up in an arm-chair. On the 12th, some blackberry seeds were found in the lint removed from the wound in the side. On July 17th, I drank a glass of soda-water, which, in about fifteen minutes, began to bubble out at the orifice in the side, forcing off the adhesive plaster and compresses, and soiling my clothing with a copious foetid discharge of a yellowish color. On July 27th, I was taken on a stretcher to the cars, and rode to New York, and thence on a steamer to Albany, and thence by rail to Oswego, where I arrived on the 29th, and was attended by Dr. C. P. P. Clark, of Fort Ontario. My hospital diet nearly starved me, and I suffered greatly during the dressings. Pieces of shirt and trousers and braces were extracted from the wounds at different times. There was a swelling below the wound, which was very sensitive. Some of the surgeons thought it contained the ball; others that a fragment of the eleventh rib was lodged there. On August 13th, I walked for the first time. On August 26th, there was so much pain in the swelling referred to that a surgical consultation was held, and, on the 28th, Dr. Clark incised the swelling and removed a large button that had been driven in by the ball. On October 1st, I reported at the hospital at Annapolis, and on October 31, 1864, was honorably discharged for wounds received in action, on the recommendation of the board of which General Graham was president. In 1865 my health improved, so that I was able to do clerical duty, and from that time to this (1873) my health has been comparatively good. I am nevertheless subject to pain in the spine at damp seasons. My left side and arm are weak, and, in walking a considerable distance, my left leg becomes lame. It may be proper to add that at the time of receiving the wound I had been fasting for nearly forty-eight hours." The principal facts above recited in a connected form, appear, separately, in the reports of Surgeons W. H. Rice, 81st New York, H. P. Porter, 10th Connecticut, Acting Assistant Surgeon C. H. Bowen, and Surgeon B. A. Vanderkieft, U. S. V. Dr. Bowen remarks that the evidence of extensive destruction of the wall of the descending colon was conclusive, and that a spinous process of a vertebra was probably fractured. The evidence of the intestinal lesion consisted in a copious fæcal discharge from the wound, which persisted for several weeks, while the patient was at Armory Square. Mr. Mallet received the brevet of Major of United States Volunteers for gallantry.