c. 1861 Civil
War Surgical Set by Geo. Tiemann, N.Y.
Owned by Norman Smith, M.D., Mass. 6th
Possibly the first
amputation of the Civil War performed in the Rotunda of the Capital,
As sited in the Medical &
Surgical History: Documents the date of the amputation and the
patient. If the War began on April 12, 1861 at Fort Sumter, this
operation took place on April 26, 1861 after the
Baltimore and one of the first documented surgical amputation
of the Civil War.
Herrick, M. S.,
Lieut., E, 8th Massachusetts. April 26, 26, '61. Surgeon. N. Smith, 6th
Mass. Disch'd May 21, 1861."
This is the personal military surgical set
and papers of the 6th Massachusetts Volunteer Militia surgeon
Norman Smith, M.D. ,who performed one of, if not 'the' first amputations of the Civil
War. Included are the papers of Dr. Norman Smith,
who enter the Civil War with the 6th Massachusetts Volunteer Militia in 1861.
Dr. Smith was at the first skirmish of the Civil War in Baltimore, (The
Pratt Stree Riot),
where a fatality occurred two weeks after the fall of Fort Sumter.
This c. 1861 Tiemann
military surgical set is historically significant because it belonged to
a doctor who was the attending surgeon for the troops at one of the
first skirmishes (Pratt Street Riot) of the Civil War in Baltimore,
Maryland. And, it is believed he performed one of the first amputations of the Civil War in the
Rotunda of the Capital in Washington, D.C., which is documented in the Medical
and Surgical History of the War of Rebellion.
Dr. Norman Smith,
who graduated from Vermont Medical College in 1843, served as a Surgeon of
the 6th Massachusetts Vol. Militia for five years before the Civil
War. At the time he left for the Civil War, he was already 50 years
old. His volunteer regiment was mustered into
the Union Army early in 1861 and out
of the Union Army after 3 months. He cared for the
wounded of his regiment during and after the famous
'Pratt Street Riot'
in Baltimore, April 19th, 1861 when they were attacked by southern
sympathizers and the first Union troops were killed.
The Medical and Surgical History of the War of the
"The following are examples of contused and lacerated wounds of the
scalp produced by stones, bricks, and similar missiles: Cases.- An
officer and eight men of the 6th Mass. Militia received contusions
or lacerations of the scalp by paving stones, bricks, etc., on the
occasion of the memorable attack upon that Regiment by insurgents in
Baltimore, on April 19th, 1861: Privates G. Alexander, C. H.
Chandler, and Sergeant W. H. Lamson, of Co. D.; Sergeant G. G.
Durrell, Co D.; Lt James F. Rowe, of Co. L.; Privates S. Flanders,
J. Porter, J. Pennell, and Charles B. Stinson, of Co. C.. These
patients were conveyed, by rail, to Washington, and were treated in
the E. Street Infirmary,
under the charge of Surgeon Norman Smith, 6th
Mass. Vols., and the late Dr. J. Sim Smith, Assistant Surgeon,
Smith biography from various History of Mass. sources.
In the documents below, the events
during the first days of the War are documented and it is shown that
Norman Smith, M.D. performed the first amputation of the War in the
Rotunda of the Capital on one Lt.
Moses Herrick after
he was accidentally shot in the ankle, which required the removal of
his foot by Dr. Smith. It is assumed Smith would have
used this surgical set to do the amputation since it was his
personal militia set which he would have brought with him from
Mass. when he traveled to Washington, D.C. by train.
Citation from the Medical and Surgical
History, Part III, Volume II
Chapter X.--Wounds And Injuries Of The Lower Extremities.
Section V.--Wounds And Operations In The Leg.
Fatal Primary Amputations in the Lower Third of the Leg
Page: 283 Herrick, M. S.,
Lieut., E, 8th Massachusetts. April 26, 26, '61. Right. Surg. N.
Smith, 6th Mass. Disch'd May 21, 1861.
provenance details are presented here to
illustrate how surgical sets are dated and analyzed, then related to
historical information about an owner or surgeon. This is also
a fine example of a
state volunteer militia military surgical set.)
The Tiemann surgery set is unique in several ways. It has the early trade
label with the 63 Chatham St. address, placing the maker time frame prior to
and during the first year of the Civil War. The mahogany case's
brass cartouche is not engraved and has never been removed from the case or reversed
(examined by x-ray), and there are no military markings on the
instruments, which would have indicated a Federal goverment military issue. The case does have military style sliding latches,
which anyone could have ordered from Tiemann. Ordinarily, the lack of
U. S. Army markings would be unusual, but it is believed this set was purchased by Dr. Smith while in the Mass.
Vol. Militia (5 years prior to the Civil War), or in anticipation of his
being mustered into the Union Army and he took it with him to and from the
service. A Federal government military issued set would not have been
taken with the surgeon if he left the service due to the shortage of
surgical sets or instruments during the early part of the War.
Smith was in the Union service for three months as part of the 6th Mass.
Vol. Militia and then was discharged with the rest of his Militia
regiment when the Union Army reformed his
regiment. His dated discharge paperwork is part of this collection and
is shown below. The document is signed
by Col. Jones, who later became a
governor of New York.
The 6th Mass.
militia was an a old colonial entity and part of the state, not
the Federal Army. The reason the set isn't marked as
Federal military issue is
because Smith would have
bought it to use in the Mass. Old 6th militia (a remnant of the 1776 militia
in Mass.,) and then carried it to and from his service in the Mass. 6th
Infantry regiment when it was formed as part of the Union Army. The Old 6th
was only (assigned) in the Union Army for three months before it was
re-organized as a different regiment under the Union Army and so the
Union had to
officially discharge all the Old militia, thus the discharge paperwork for
Smith. Due to Smith's advanced age and medical problems, it is
unlikely he would have continued in the Army.
If Smith wanted to buy a Tiemann
amputation set during the 5 years he was in the 6th Militia, this set is the
exact one that would have been available from Tiemann in that time frame.
Tiemann and other makers provided military style sets to the U.S.A.
Medical Department before and during the Civil War.
If Smith was going to order or buy an existing set during the time window of
his being a surgeon in the 6th Militia, he would have ordered or bought one
with military latches to use in the field. (Keyed locks being
unnecessary during war-time use) After 1861, the sets and
instruments for a Civil War era set would have been totally different from
this set. The five years before Smith was mustered into the Union Army and
the five years during which Tiemann produced the 'D' handled capital saw
totally match. What are the odds today of anyone finding an unmarked
amputation set with military latches that would fall in the years
during which Smith could have bought this set? Zero and none.
The set contains the basic amputation instruments, marked with the old
English font 'TIEMANN'
inscription, but as mentioned, there is no reference to the U. S. Army Medical or
Hospital Dept. and this fact is significant to relating the set to Dr.
Smith. Since this kind of set would have been bought by an individual
from the New York Tiemann company prior to the War the
lack of markings is not unusual. If it had
been purchased by the government for government use or issue it would most likely be marked
'U.S. Army Medical Dept. prior to the war.
So, that explains how Dr. Smith left the service with his own set.
The presence of the 'D' handle style capital saw is telling because this style
saw was only sold by Tiemann from about 1855 to 1861. This type of
small saw was not specified or produced later in the War for the Union Army.
This set would not have been used as a contract production set made by Tiemann and used during the War.
It is a set bought by an individual during a narrow time frame, for use as a
field set during battle.
For comparison, look at the following sets:
1850's Tiemann Ivory
surgical set with a "D" type saw handle that preceded the later 1860
version without vertical slots in the blade.
compared to an 1861 Tiemann surgical set with the same "D" type saw
handle in a set with more extensive instruments.
Two interrelated facts are important here to connect this set to Smith:
first, the narrowly defined dates when the Tiemann set was made and the details
supporting the fact that it was not government issue or owned. Second,
the dates when Smith was in the 6th Mass. Militia and would have procured a
surgical set for his use in the Militia, then taking the set to Washington with him during
the first days of the War. It is especially important that this is not
a U. S. A. Medical Department owned set since Smith would not have been able to take
the set home with him when he left the army. It was his set
as a member of the Mass. militia and
he took it with him when he left the service.
The answer again to the question about why the set is not Army
marked is as follows: Smith could have
special ordered and purchased the Tiemann surgery set before his Mass. Vol.
militia regiment was mustered (assigned) into the Union Army in 1861.
The presence of the sliding military latches indicates Smith intended to use
the set in the field while in the Militia. The reason for the sliding
latches being one did not
want to have to keep up with a key under military conditions and Tiemann had
experience making sets for the Army Medical Department prior to the War, so
Smith would have drawn on that experience in buying a military style set.
The dates of the location on the Tiemann trade label as well as the
configuration of the saw and other instruments narrow the time frame
to immediately before the War during the time Smith was in the Militia and
before his unit was mustered into the Union Army.
The odds of the Smith documents, him
being in the Militia, and the time frame of the set production being
'put-together' by someone to commit fraud are extremely unlikely and
infinitesimally remote. Finding a set with the parameters present in
this set would be impossible to find and to correlate with Dr. Smith's time
line or his history. The history of Smith and the unique features of
this set are just too unique for anyone to have put together with the intent
to defraud. The source of this paperwork and set were from an antique
dealer who had no
knowledge of any of the information I have spelled out on this page.
There are maybe five people in the world who would have had the
knowledge to assemble this confluence of set and paperwork. Finding a
set to match the history of Smith...impossible~!
Norman Smith, M.D.
Surgeon (age 50's) in uniform , his grave site, an earlier CDV, and his signature
Above photos courtesy of Larry DeCan, Eleanor Gavazzi, and Echols' collection
Additional information on Dr.
Norman Smith in his uniform
Above is a selection of some of the Smith signed paperwork accompanying this set.
In the letters Smith wrote (in 1885) to an author who was writing a history of the
War, describing an
amputation Dr. Smith performed in the Rotunda after a
mini ball accidentally struck the ankle of a solder by the name of Lt.
Moses Herrick in the
Rotunda of the Capital in Washington during the opening days of the War.
Above, Smith's discharge document dated 1861, mustering him out of the
Union Army. It is signed by Col. Jones, who later became the governor
of New York. Smith was in his 50's at this time.
from Dr. Smith
below is from Baltimore, May 15, 1861, describing events the day
Pratt Street Raid,
which is the first skirmish of the War after the assault on Ft. Sumter
and accounted for the first fatalities of the War.
Dr. Smith's personal surgical set made by George Tiemann, New York, N.Y. c. 1860 - 61
Tiemann's address from
1855-1863/64: 63 Chatham
The cartouche' is
not marked, has never been removed ,and there are military latches.
Military latches could have been ordered from Tiemann by anyone, but would
most likely have been ordered for the Mass. 6th Vol. militia by
Smith. Engraving of the cartouche' would have been performed for 'U. S. Army
Medical Dept.' ordered sets and this set is not engraved on the top surface..
This capital saw
is very small, typical of c. 1860-1. Also shown is a tiny finger saw.
This is not the kind of instruments that would have been ordered by the
Medical Dept. for use in the field. The instruments are too light in
construction for field use by the army. But, the saw and light
amputation knives were the style being produced by Tiemann post 1850 and
just prior to the Civil War.
The tourniquet is
marked with the early font for Tiemann and is the smaller version as
compared to earlier tourniquets by Tiemann. Note the strap is not red
nor does it have the stripes associated with later tourniquet straps during
the War. The buckle is typical of the Civil War era with the blued
Note the elongated
tip of this artery forceps
forceps in new condition, marked with the early Tiemann font,
cross-hatched handles typical of earlier instruments, without
the blued spring between the handles of later forceps
Note the various
markings on the knives. Only one has the later version of Tiemann,
typical of the Civil War period.
shows the long slim blades of the amputation knives, so typical of the
1850-61 period at Tiemann. All the later knives during the War
are much heavier as were those blades and handles which preceded this short
period right before the Civil War.
This is the first
instance of a wire pin retained trephine shaft I've seen. I've also never
seen a trephine shaft marked 'Tiemann'. Note the tip of the handle has a pull
wire which moved in and out through the middle of the handle to retain
the tip of the brass shaft. There is no threaded retaining screw to
hold the handle on the brass shaft as normal.
There is a brass key on the top of the shaft to prevent rotation and to align the
hole in the shaft for the sliding wire pin in the handle interior.
Further evidence of this being a unique set with limited production
The crown of both
trephines are the earlier non-tapered edge-cutting version
Note the upper left and center/right fonts for 'Tiemann', this mix is found
frequently in the Civil War period
Bone wax to stop bleeding of cut bone, suture needles and silk thread
See article on
suturing and suture
of the amputation performed by Norman Smith,
M.D. in Washington, D.C. after the Baltimore Riot
Moses S Herrick
Dr. Norman Smith's amputation patient
auction page from the sale of Dr. Smith's Colt Dragoon pistol
Documentation regarding the uniform worn by Dr. Smith in the document photos
Additional information on Dr.
Norman Smith in his uniform
Return to the
the Norman Smith surgical set
Documentation regarding the uniform worn by Dr. Smith in
Vol. Militia and the Pratt Street (Baltimore) Riot at the start of the