American Civil War Medicine & Surgical Antiques

Surgical Set collection from 1860 to 1865 - Civilian and Military

Civil War:  Medicine, Surgeon Education & Medical Textbooks

 Dr. Michael Echols  &  Dr. Doug Arbittier


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William W. Keen, M.D.

WILLIAM WILLIAMS KEEN was born in Philadelphia, January 19, 1837, his parents being William Williams and Susan (Budd) Keen. His American ancestry dates back to 1642, when Joran Kyn came over from Sweden with Governor Printz. He was the founder of the town of Chester, Pennsylvania, then called Upland. The name Kyn was first "Dutched" into Kien, and later "Englished" into Keen. Many landmarks still survive as monuments to the memory of the early American Keens. Doctor Keen's father was born near Tacony, opposite Keen's Lane, in an old stone house which was built by his grandfather about the middle of the Eighteenth Century, and which is still standing. Doctor Keen was educated in the Newton Grammar School, Thirty-sixth and Chestnut streets, and in the Central High School from 1849 to 1853, after which he entered Brown University, at Providence, Rhode Island, graduating in 1859.   After remaining a year as a resident graduate, he entered the Jefferson Medical College in 1860.  He graduated with an M.D. in 1862.

In 1861, Doctor Keen was sworn into the service of the United States as Assistant Surgeon of the Fifth Regiment, Massachusetts Volunteers. In 1862, after passing the examining Board for the regular army, he entered the service as Acting Assistant Surgeon, serving until 1864.

As he progressed in the practice of his profession, at the close of the war, Doctor Keen began to take a sincere interest in the affairs of various educational institutions and semi-religious organizations. In 1873, he was made Trustee of Brown University, and, in 1895, was made a Fellow of the University.  He has served as President of the Philadelphia County Medical Society, in which office he attained considerable distinction for his thorough progressiveness. Doctor Keen has received several degrees, including that of LL.D. from Brown University in 1891.

Dr. Keen was a prolific writer on anatomical and surgical subjects. His eight volume System of Surgery was the preeminent text for U.S. surgeons in the first decades of the 20th century. Keen is also remembered for being the first surgeon in Philadelphia to adopt Lister's principles of antisepsis (at St. Mary's Hospital in 1876). He also participated in a secret operation performed upon President Grover Cleveland in 1893 for a verrucous carcinoma of the mouth.

In 1866 he assumed charge of the Philadelphia School of Anatomy, which he managed until 1875, when the Government took possession of the building for the new post-office. In 1876 Doctor Keen became Professor of Artistic Anatomy in the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and he entirely re-organized the teaching in this department. In I889 he was called from the chair of Surgery in the Women's Medical College to the chair of Surgery in the Jefferson Medical College as successor to the late Prof. Samuel W. Gross, a position still held by him. As an author he has contributed largely to medical journals, and has both edited and written a number of valuable text-books, many of which are quoted as pre-eminent authority. He has edited "Heath's Practical Anatomy;" "American Health Primers;" "Holden's Landmarks;" "Gray's Anatomy;" and has written with colleagues, "Reflex Paralysis from Gunshot Wounds;" "Gunshot Wounds and other Injuries of Nerves;" "The American Text Book of Surgery," and papers on a large number of other subjects. These include some of the best known works in medical literature.

Ass't Surgeon W.W.Keen's multiple citations in the Medical and Surgical History:  115, 175, 176, 207, 370, 407, 430, 447, 475, 630

THOMPSON, KUND, Private, Co. I, 82d Illinois Volunteers, aged 30 years, received, at the battle of Chancellorsville, Virginia, May 3d, 1863, a wound by a pistol ball, which struck the head and denuded the left parietal of periosteum. He was admitted to the field hospital of the :hi division of the Eleventh Corps on May 4th, 1863, and transferred to Douglas Hospital at Washington on July 21st. During the progress of the case, paraplegia ensued. The patient also suffered from general and constant, pain in the head. He was transferred to Christian Street Hospital at Philadelphia on September 15th, 1863. Acting Assistant Surgeon W. W. Keen, jr., reports that, on the date of his discharge, although suffering from an evident disease of the brain, he had so far improved as to be able to walk. Discharged February 17th, 1864. His name does not appear on the Pension Rolls.

CASE.--Private Donald Gray, Co. E, 38th New York Volunteers, aged 38 years, was wounded at Fredericksburg, Virginia, December 13th, 1862, by a round musket ball, which entered just under the right eye, fractured the upper maxilla, not materially separating the fragments, and lodged. On admission to the Satterlee Hospital, Philadelphia, December 23d, 1862, the cheek was greatly swollen. On January 3d, 1863, the swelling having considerably subsided, the ball was removed from behind the masseter muscle by an incision. Numerous fragments of bone were found firmly imbedded in the ball, and an abscess, which had formed in its place of lodgement, discharged freely, and was kept open by the introduction of a tent. On the 22d, the wound had entirely healed. Gray had been wounded once, in the Crimea, in the head, and four times during the late war. One of these wounds had disfigured his nose. The right side was slit, at the junction of the ala and septum, for about half an inch, and on the left, a ^-shaped portion was lost at the same place. On February 11th, 1863, Acting Assistant Surgeon W. W. Keen, jr., operated on the right side, simply paring the edges, and approximating by five sutures. On the left side, the mucous membrane and fascia of the ala and septum were everted, their edges pared and approximated by sutures. A plug was also placed in this side to prevent inversion, and cold water dressings were applied. The edges united perfectly, except a portion of the elevated flaps, which, after a second opening, March 1st, 1863, united firmly, and completely filled up the gap. This man was discharged on March 14th, 1863, on account of inability to eat any hard food. He applied for a pension, but his claim was rejected, there being no disability.

CASE.--Private August Beck, Co. D, 54th New York Volunteers, aged 42 years, was wounded at Gettysburg, July 2d, 1863, by a musket ball, which passed laterally through the thyroid cartilage, destroying the upper half and two-thirds of the anterior part, thereby injuring the chordae vocales. He was, on July 9th, admitted to Satterlee Hospital, Philadelphia. Respiration was carried on largely through the apertures made by the ball, and when he attempted to speak, the air passed through with a hissing or sibilant sound. His voice was gone, but he could whisper with a strong expiratory effort; the sound, however never became hoarse. The edges of the wound were approximated with silver sutures and adhesive plaster, with head flexed on the chest. Cold water dressings were applied. On September 1st, the wound had entirely healed, but the patient had lost his voice, he was transferred to the Veteran Reserve Corps on September 26th, 1863. The case is reported by Acting Assistant Surgeon W. W. Keen, jr. He is not a pensioner.

CASE.--Sergeant Sylvester R-----, Co. B, 14th Indiana volunteers, was wounded at Antietam, Maryland, September 17th, 1862, by a conoidal ball, which entered the left lumbar region, half-way from the twelfth rib to the crest of the ilium, and lodged. He was taken to the field hospital of the 3d division, Second Corps, where he remained until the 29th, when he was sent to Hospital No. 1, Frederick. On October 14th, the ball was extracted by Acting Assistant Surgeon Redfern Davies. Cold-water dressings were applied. Obstinate diarrhœa. No feces passed from the wound. Paralysis of the sphincters of the <ms_p1v2_447>bladder occurred about October 20th, and continued until the 23d, when death occurred. Necropsy: The ball did not penetrate either the abdominal or peritoneal cavities. It fractured the left transverse process and pedicle of the third lumbar. The pathological specimen is No. 806, Section I, A. M. M., and was contributed, with a history of the case, by Acting Assistant Surgeon W. W. Keen, jr.

CASE.--Sergeant Adam Heim, Co. G, 105th Pennsylvania Volunteers, was wounded at Malvern Hill, Virginia, July 2d, 1862, the missile entering the right lumbar region, two inches from the spinal column, fracturing the body of the fourth lumbar vertebra, and lodging close to the spinal canal. He was treated in the field until July 7th, when he was admitted to Carver Hospital, Washington. Faeces and gas passed freely from the wound. Opium, quinine, and stimulants were given. He did well, the wound in the bowels closing, and his passages were natural until an officious friend gave him fruit surreptitiously, when diarrhœa supervened, and the wound reopened. He died on August 3, 1862. The pathological specimen is numbered 148, Section I, A. M. M., and was contributed by Acting Assistant Surgeon W. W. Keen, jr.

CASE.--Private Richard D. Phelps, Co. E, 25th Ohio Volunteers, aged 19 years, was wounded at Gettysburg, July 1st, 1863, by a fragment of shell, which entered one inch above and just to the inside of the right axilla, fractured the third rib, and passed into the lung. He was treated in the hospital of the 11th Corps, Surgeon Robert Thomaine, 29th New York Volunteers, in charge, until the 11th, when he was transferred to Satterlee Hospital, Philadelphia. The patient stated that on the reception of the injury he bled so profusely that the vein of the left arm was opened, with the effect of soon checking the internal haemorrhages. He spat up blood, however, until the 10th, but no secondary haemorrhage set in. His strength was almost exhausted, but he gained daily. Cold-water dressings were applied. When admitted to Satterlee Hospital, the wound, which was about an inch in length, was nearly healed. The probe was soon arrested, the track having closed centrally, but the direction of the wound was downward and forward. There was but slight discharge and no expectoration. The lung, on percussion and auscultation, revealed dulness and bronchial respiration over the central three-fourths, with no respiration over the point of wound, Expectorants, extra diet, and rest were ordered, and cold-water dressings applied to the wound. The case progressed favorably, and by July 18th the patient's general health was better; he suffered slight pain in the chest a little below the wound. On August 1st, he was transferred to the hospital at Camp Dennison, Ohio, at which time the dulness had entirely disappeared, and he was doing capitally, with every prospect of complete recovery. Phelps was returned to duty on September 22d, 1863; he is not a pensioner. The case is reported by Acting Assistant Surgeon W. W. Keen, jr.

W.W.Keen's multiple citations in the Medical and Surgical History:

(The personal edited research notes of Michael Echols, the source of which may or may not be completely documented)


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Civil War Medical Collections 


Direct links to all medical & Civil War collections on this site                         

American Surgical Sets:

Pre-Civil War:  1 | 2  -   Post-Civil War:  3  -  Civil War 1861-1865:  4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8   INDEX

Medical Text-Books:

1 | 1a | 2 | 2a | 3 | 3a | 4 | 4a | 5 | 5a | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 9a | 10 | 11 | 12    INDEX

Surgeon General's Office Library printed catalogues: 1840 | 1864 | 1865
Medical Lecture Cards: 1 | 2 | 34 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21    INDEX

Medical Faculty and Authors:


Navy Surgeon Exams:

1863 Navy Surgeon Applicant Exams with Biographies   INDEX ONE | INDEX TWO

Surgeon CDVs, Images:

Army: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8    INDEX

Navy: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8   

Hosp Dep't Bottles, Tins, 

U.S. Army Pannier:

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

American Civil War Medicine & Surgical Antiques

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Last update: Monday, December 12, 2016