Hernstein U. S. A. Hosp. Dept. Field Surgery Set

Used by Documented Gettysburg Surgeon Frank Ridgway

73 rd & 74th Regt's N.Y.V.

Hermann Hernstein surgical instruments  (major supplier of instruments to the U.S.A. Hosp. Dept.)

1851-52: 68 Duane

1853-54: 81 Duane

1855-57: 81 Duane and 393 Broadway

1858: 81 Duane, 131 Mercer, and 393 Broadway

1859-61: 131 Mercer and 393 Broadway (pre-War)


Hermann Hernstein & Son (Hermann and Albert L. Hernstein)

1862-65: 131 Mercer and 393 Broadway (Mid-War)

Hermann Hernstein & Son & Co.

1865: 2 Liberty and 393 Broadway  (Post War)

Above reference: Edmonson

This early Civil War period set is three layer (16 x 6 1/4 x 3 3/4 in.) mahogany, purple velvet lined case and is typical early Hernstein military issue with sliding latches and no key lock.  There are no brass screws as are seen on later military sets, but the exterior corner-pieces are there for re-enforcement as is normal for military issue.  Instruments are marked for the U. S. Army Hospital Department, with both Hernstein and Hernstein & Son to key on for the date and source.

There are three levels of the case: lid with removable partition, removable tray, and the lower section for a set of gullet forceps, urinary sounds and catheters.   This type of set would have seen service in the field rather than in a rear area hospital.

Frank Ridgway, M.D.  Graduate of New York University, Medical College, 1860 - 1861

According to the Roster of Regimental Surgeons and Assistant Surgeons, Frank Ridgway, M.D. transferred to the 74th infantry from the 73rd infantry in July 1863, and mustered out of the 74th on July 26, 1864.


Frank Ridgway, (born 1840) was as an assistant surgeon in the Second Fire Zouaves, which was commissioned on Nov 27, 1861, after which they were known as the 73rd New York Volunteers. They consisted mainly of fireman and runners from New York. They were originally camped near Washington, D.C., then were in the battle of Yorktown,  Fredericksburg, as well as Gettysburg.

Frank Ridgway, age 22 years; enrolled July 17, 1861, at Camp Decker to serve three years ; mustered in as Assistant Surgeon, September 5, 1861 ; discharged, June 30, 1863, for promotion to Surgeon, 74th Infantry ; commissioned Assistant Surgeon, November 27, 1861, with rank from September 5, 1861.

Assistant Surgeon Ridgway was in the 73rd NY, Excelsior Brigade with Gen. Sickles.  He saw action thru Chancellorsville.  Then, just before Gettysburg, he was promoted/commissioned as a Surgeon in the 74th NY, also he was with the Excelsior Brigade and  Gen. Sickles, which saw heavy action at Gettysburg.  Ridgeway was with the 74 and 73 rd NY (Excelsior Brigade) for the duration of the war.  He was promoted Surgeon 6/30/63 just prior to Gettysburg.  The engraved cartouche on the lid of the case indicates Ridgway was involved in twenty eight battles.  Truly a lucky man to have survived the War and it may have influenced the professional decisions he made after the War.


Read the full article published in the 1961 New-York Historical Society Quarterly about Frank Ridgway and his exploits during the Civil War 1861 to 1864, based on Ridgway's personal diary.   Also shown are citings or operations performed by Ridgway from the Medical and Surgical History database.

Following his discharge, he did not follow a medical career, instead he entered the construction field. He is listed in the 1880 census, living in Richmond, Staten Island. He did have 2 daughters, Clara and Mary who donated his papers and this surgery set to the New York University in 1924 (see note attached to the surgery set) according to "Report of the President, by New York University, Published by the University, 1956, item notes: 1924 - 1925.  The set was then given to a New York doctor, who later gave it to a surgeon friend from whom I procured the set.

From Frank Ridgway's Diary : "From the Wilderness to Petersburg: The Diary of Surgeon Frank Ridgway." Edited by James J. Heslin. New-York Historical Society Quarterly, 45 (April 1961), pp. 113-140. [73d New York Volunteer Infantry 4th Excelsior Regiment)]

Additional information on the 73rd Infantry N.Y. Volunteers

Click on any image to enlarge



Damage to the case by someone who couldn't figure out how the 'sliding latch ' unlocks!

Exterior of the Hernstein set, showing the cartouche (brass name plate) in the center of the case


Above: An example of the 'Primary' factory engraving of the cartouche (brass name plate)  from a mint 1865 Hernstein set in this collection, showing just the engraving for:

U.S.A. /  Hosp. Dept.  

Above: The cartouche of this Hernstein set used by Frank Ridgway.  There is a 'Primary' factory engraving of U.S.A. /  Hosp. Dept. (similar to the one to the left from a later Hernstein set),  and a later 'Secondary' post-Civil War engraving of the cartouche:

"Used by Surg. Frank Ridgway / 73rd & 74th Regts  N.Y.V  /  28 Battles, 1861 - 1864" 

Obviously the 'Secondary ' engraving is not factory original and was added after the War as is typical for presentation sets.  These sets were owned by the Federal Government, not an individual, and if engraved after the War as a 'presentation' then the engraving is secondary to the original ownership by the government.  There is also a four year time frame difference and obviously there was another engraver involved between the original factory example on the left and the 'Primary' factory example on the right. 


The engraving which was added to the original 'Primary' engraving is obviously not intended to 'fool' anyone, but rather is an effort to document Ridgway's exploits during the War by whomever 'presented' this set to him as a gift.


An old hand-typed note is glued over the embossed Hernstein  Eagle on the partition, detailing the set as: "Gift to the New York University in February 1924 / by the Misses Ridgway, of Bronxville, N.Y. /  daughters of /  Dr. Frank Ridgway


This information is documented (Google Books) in a publication of the New York University President's Report, describing the donation of Frank Ridgway's papers and surgical set in 1924 to the New York University by his daughters after his death in honor of his having graduated from the New York University medical school.



 Obviously there are a number of instruments missing including the capital saw, but what is there is rare and telling



 A similar Hernstein set with some of the missing instruments from the Ridgway set



This chain saw has the 'Hernstein' name impressed on both handles



Interesting use of a cut-head screw to hold the handle in place


Gullet forceps from the bottom of the case, marked: 'Hernstein' on one side and 'USA Hosp. Dept.' on the other




Bone forceps marked:  'Hernstein' on one side and 'USA Hosp. Dept.' on the other


These two original-to-the-set broken catheters document an important fact: they were using 'French' leather catheters with ivory collars during the War.  For more information on this issue, see: Sounds and Catheters on this site


Note the lower catlin amputation knife is coated with crusted blood, both knives are marked: 'Hernstein & Son'




Bullet forceps with 'Hernstein' mark, the handles on both bullet and bone forceps are cross-hatched


The bone brush is unique in that it appears to have a sharpening stone (?)  embedded in the back end and is unlike any other this collector has seen in a Hernstein set

The Hey saw is marked: 'Hernstein'


Above is a typical, but very large screw-type tourniquet with the brass 'T'  marked 'Hernstein', plain cloth strap,  forged iron buckle clamp

Below is a 'field' tourniquet and marked: 'Hernstein' / U.S.A. Hosp. Dept'



Set of ivory handled bistories, tenaculae, artery needles, finger saw, but curiously no standard scalpels



Civil War Medical Collections 


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American Surgical Sets:

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

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American Civil War Medicine & Surgical Antiques

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Last update: Tuesday, September 27, 2016