"The Medical Department"

June 2002

a monthly column in the Civil War News

by Jim Schmidt


"A Hometown Hero"

Joel Craig has a bone to pick! After seeing my review of Dr. Alfred J. Bollet’s new book, Civil War Medicine: Challenges and Triumphs (April 2002 issue), he took issue with Dr. Bollet’s lamentation that "no village has a monument to a Civil War surgeon," as compared to the many other stone and bronze Civil War heroes that dot our country’s landscape.

Joel wrote: "Jim, I enjoyed your recent column. I noted with interest Dr. Bollet's comments that no village had erected a monument to a Civil War surgeon. I would like to draw your attention to the fact that the Civil War monument which stands in Freedom Square Park, in Stanford, NY, bears the likeness of Surgeon Cornelius N. Campbell of the 150th New York Volunteers."

I wanted to learn more about Dr. Campbell, and Joel directed my inquiry to Jim Shockley. Joel identified Jim as a "Committee of One" who helped get the Campbell monument erected and continues to maintain it. Jim’s research revealed the interesting story of a regiment stocked with hometown heroes who marched off to war; a local and trusted physician who gladly accompanied those men into battle as their surgeon; and even a little about his own family’s role in the war.

"Cornellius Nase Campbell was born in Amenia, New York, in 1821, and received his medical education at New York University," Jim told me. "In 1848, Campbell moved to Stanford, New York, where he appears as one of three local physicians in the 1850 Town Census. He was elected a town Supervisor in 1858 and again in 1861."

"At the outset of the war, Campbell sat on the ‘Dutchess County War Committee’ until he was appointed 1st Surgeon, with the rank of Major, of the 150th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment in August 1862, and mustered into Federal service on October 11, 1862," he continued.

The 150th was stationed for garrison duty in Baltimore until the early summer of 1863. Jim continued his narrative by relating the regiment’s and Dr. Campbell’s service at the Battle of Gettysburg:

"In June 1863, the 150th, numbering about 600 men, joined General Lockwood’s ‘Independent Brigade,’ and joined the XII Corps en route to Gettysburg. The brigade was in reserve on the Federal left until the evening of July 2nd, when they moved left to shore up the III Corps area. There they recaptured three previously overrun 12-pounders at the Trostle Farm," he said.

"In his book, As Seen From The Ranks, Charles Benton, a 150th veteran, described how, as a musician, he was detailed to a XII Corps field hospital at Gettysburg, of which Dr. Campbell was in charge," Jim continued. "According to Benton, Dr. Campbell said: ‘Charlie, you better get on over the hill and see how the boys are doing.’"

After Gettysburg, Dr. Campbell returned to Stanford on leave, but returned in time to accompany the regiment for the Atlanta Campaign, including the battles at Resaca, Dallas, Kolbs Farm, Peachtree Creek, Kenesaw Mountain, and Atlanta itself. Campbell mustered out in June 1865 as a brevet Lt. Col., and returned to New York, where he lived until his death in 1876.

How did Jim learn so much about Dr. Campbell?

"I was asked in the fall of 1991 to serve as the chairman of a historical society monument committee to ready a report on Stanford’s role in the Civil War for the town’s bicentennial in 1993," Jim told me.

He spent more than a year doing research to find Stanford’s forgotten heroes. "Since Stanford was relatively small in the 1850's (about 2500 citizens), it was thought there would be few soldiers to document, perhaps a dozen or two. Instead, we found 140 from various units, including 33 who were killed in action or died of wounds and disease, and that number has gone up," he said.

As for Dr. Campbell himself, Jim told me "The 150th regimental history speaks of him in glowing terms, as does the booklet produced by the regiment on the occasion of their monument dedication, in 1882. We also hear about him in letters home, diaries, and tributes at veteran’s gatherings." Nevertheless, Dr. Campbell remained somewhat of a mystery for want of his own memoirs, papers, or letters.

Among the extant papers and photographs that Jim perused were nearly a dozen letters from Stanford resident Talmadge Wood. Wood joined the 150th in the fall of 1862, and served with it until his mortal wounding at the Battle of Gettysburg the morning of July 3, 1863. Wood was in the XII Corps lines, near where the 150th’s monument stands now, when a sharpshooter found his mark and shot Wood through the chest. He died on July 14, 1863, and is buried in the National Cemetery at Gettysburg. A line from one of Wood’s letters is quoted on the plaque on the base of the monument: "Our Cause is a good and just one."

Dr. Campbell became less of a mystery when Jim found a letter written by the surgeon to Talmadge Wood’s wife, Lydia, explaining the nature and seriousness of the wound. Excerpts from Dr. Campbell’s letter, which Jim was kind enough to share with me, make it clear that Stanford’s citizens were certainly fortunate to have this trusted citizen and friend of the town acting in the capacity of surgeon among their sons, husbands, and brothers. It is sensitive and kindly in nature, and it is clear that Dr. Campbell knew Mrs. Wood before the war:

"My dear old friend I have some sad unwelcome news to write you. At the battle of Gettysburg, Talmadge was wounded, I think mortally. However on Monday (July 6) he was more comfortable. He was struck by a Minnie [sic] ball in the left breast just below the collarbone, the ball pushing directly through the chest, coming out beneath the shoulder blade. He was fighting behind breastworks and was shot by a rebel sharpshooter from the top of the trees surrounding...He is in the 12th Army Corps Hospital under efficient surgeons where every attention that can be, will be shown him."

"After the battle, we were ordered to march and were obliged to leave all our sick and wounded behind. We are now several miles away…Lydia, I do not expect him to live, yet occasionally one who is shot through will recover…Talmadge has been a good faithful soldier. Remember me to the good. I sympathize with you. Yours truly, C.N. Campbell."

Jim was especially struck by part of a note dictated by Talmadge to Lydia as he lay wounded:

"Dear Wife, thinking possibly you might be desirous of hearing from me, I accepted the offer of a friend to write for me to you. I was wounded about 9 o'clock in the morning of July 3d, the third day of battle. The ball entered my left shoulder blade and passed out thru my breast. I suffered at first very much but at present am feeling somewhat easier. With care I hope in time to recover. I am placed in a comfortable tent and am receiving kind attention. I would like to hear from you soon. Affectionately, your husband, Talmadge Wood."

Jim told me: "As Talmadge was the one hit, and never left the firing line until carried out, he unashamedly tells his wife all. But in Dr. Campbell’s letter to Lydia, he tells her that Talmadge was hit in the left shoulder blade. We surmise then, that Dr. Campbell wanted no stigma attached to Talmadge because he was hit in the back."

As Dr. Campbell was a "Town Father" involved in raising troops from the earliest days of the war, and took a leadership role in ‘War Rallies’ up until the time of his service, he seemed the logical choice of an image to be portrayed for a local memorial, and Jim’s request to use him as the statue model was approved.

Artist Peter Wing agreed to work for a minimal sum, and sculpted the statue using some period photographs and prints of Dr. Campbell. Interestingly, Peter had relatives in the 150th NY himself!

"Peter’s distant cousin, 18-year old Johnny Wing of Amenia, New York, was a member of the 150th, serving in company A," Jim told me. "On Culp’s Hill, on the morning of July 3rd, a bullet from a sharpshooter (the same that hit Wood?) went through the body of Stanford’s other Gettysburg fatality that day, one Levi Rust, and then hit Johnny Wing. Both were killed on the spot," he said.

The research also had a terrific effect on Jim Shockley: "This journey into my town’s past had a couple of other surprises: I found a great uncle (a Quaker) who also joined Co. C of the 150th and served throughout the war, and I found another uncle who served in the 90th New York Volunteers (XIX Corps)," Jim told me. Today, Jim Shockley (and Joel Craig) is a member of a 150th NY Infantry living history unit.

Peter Wing was not satisfied with the carved statue, so he found a way to help Jim’s committee raise an additional $10,000, which allowed the statue to be cast in bronze. Dr. Campbell now occupies the centerpiece of the Stanford Town Green area, and his likeness now looks down Stanford’s Main Street, towards his old home, which was recently saved from the wrecking ball and will be restored. Jim Shockley says "that’s another story!"

Joel Craig joins Matthew Farina, M.D, whose letter-to-the-editor appeared in the May 2002 issue, in recognizing that other wartime surgeons have been immortalized in statuary. Dr. Farina pointed out that Richmond, VA is home to a statue of Dr. Hunter H. McGuire, most famous for his association with "Stonewall" Jackson.

For his part, Dr. Bollet, whose statement about the lack of statues "stirred this pot" in the first place, tells me that he is pleased to learn about these monuments to these hometown surgeon-heroes. If readers know of any other memorials to Civil War surgeons, please feel free to contact me at the e-mail address listed at the end of this column.

I am indebted to Joel Craig and Jim Shockley for their cooperation and many kindnesses in relating this wonderful story.

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first posted June 2, 2002
last revised June 2, 2002
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