New look at old wounds

James Bedell's cranium was cracked by a Confederate saber in 1863 and now resides in Washington, DC. Credit: Courtesy of National Museum of Health and Medicine, surgical photograph no. 8" />James Bedell's cranium was cracked by a Confederate saber in 1863 and now resides in Washington, DC. Credit: Courtesy of National Museum of Health and Medicine, surgical photograph no. 8 One of the

Bob Grant
Bob Grant

Bob started with The Scientist as a staff writer in 2007. Before joining the team, he worked as a reporter at Audubon and earned a master’s degree in science journalism...

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May 1, 2008
<figcaption>James Bedell's cranium was cracked by a Confederate saber in 1863 and now resides in Washington, DC. Credit: Courtesy of National Museum of Health and Medicine, surgical photograph no. 8</figcaption>
James Bedell's cranium was cracked by a Confederate saber in 1863 and now resides in Washington, DC. Credit: Courtesy of National Museum of Health and Medicine, surgical photograph no. 8

One of the shattered skulls kept within the walls of the National Museum of Health and Medicine (NMHM) in Washington, DC, belonged to private James Bedell, a 45-year-old Union soldier from Michigan. He was captured by Confederate forces on July 3, 1863, when his horse was shot out from under him during the Battle of Gettysburg. Bedell fell in line behind his captors with other hapless Union fighters, but he was unable to keep up with the Confederate brigade as it retreated from the battlefield. This sluggishness earned him a crack to his skull from a Confederate lieutenant's saber. Bedell was left by the roadside to die.

Skull fragments from the Civil War are solving mysteries about bone healing

Passing...