Photos of Wounded Civil War Soldiers Used to Determine How Much Post-war Pension Payments They Get

By | March 30, 2017

Photography played a significant role in the development of medicine. As a special area of photography, medical photography was used to document various injuries and diseases. The photos are later used by medical professionals in research, publications, and clinical documentation. Before the invention of photography, artists were often hired by hospitals to illustrate what they see.

Medical photography began in 1840 in Paris, France, whem Alfred Francois Donne, a doctor, and bacteriologist, used a camera to document bones and teeth.

John H Bowers, a 19-year-old corporal, wounded on March 25th, 1865, at the battle of Petersburgh

Ludwig Kohn, a 26-year-old private, wounded at the battle of Gettysburg in July 1863. The photo is taken two years later when Kohn was admitted to Harewood General Hospital. He was suffering excruciating pain from the rib-fracturing gunshot wound; he could not lie down to sleep, having to sit upright instead.

Peter Strien, a 21-year-old private, wounded March 25th, 1865, at the battle of Fort Steadman

William A Donan, a 26-year-old sergeant, wounded on June 3rd, 1864, at the battle of Coal Harbor

In the United States, one of the pioneers of medical photography was Reed. B. Bontecou, a surgeon from New York. Dr. Bontecou, who was also a soldier in the American Civil War (1861-1865), took his camera with him to the battlefront. Besides treating his wounded comrades, he also took photographs of them.

He documented almost everything - wounds, treatments, surgeries, and his working environment. Doctor Reed's photo documentary was critical in the identification of a huge number of casualties of the Civil War. His images were also used to determine post-war pensions, as the photos were used by the officials to confirm the wounds of the soldiers.

42-year-old Edward Estelle, private, Co. B, 20th Regt. Pa. Vols., admitted to the Harewood U.S. General Hospital April 5, 1865, suffering from the amputation of left arm, a result of a gunshot wound

Martin Restle, serg’t Co. G., 52nd, N.Y. Vet. Vols ; circular amputation of left leg in consequence of gunshot wound, received April 2nd, 1865.

William Trefts, Private, Co. G, 119th Pa. Vols., aged 21, was admitted to Harewood U.S.A. Gen’l Hospital, April 12, 1865 , with a gunshot wound … Wounded April 2d, 1865, at battle of Petersburg