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Elmira Prison Camp OnLine Library
Submitted Information - Medical and Surgical History:
The Case of Private Thomas Conauton

[This medical case history was found in the Medical and Surgical History of the Civil War, Volume VIII, page 502.]

CASE -- Private Thomas Conauton, Co. F, 56th New York State Militia, aged 19 years, while on duty at "Rebel Camp," Elmira, New York, August 12th, 1864, was wounded by the accidental discharge of an Enfield rifle. A conidial ball entered half an inch to the right of and below the right nipple, passed through the lung, and emerged at the margin of the posterior border of the inferior angle of the right scapula. The same ball mortally wounded a second man, and passed through the knapsack of a third. Conauton felt faint from the loss of blood which followed, but did not fall immediately. Cold-water dressings and bandage were applied. Half an hour later, whiskey was administered, upon swallowing which, he raised blood, and, at each effort to cough, the blood ran freely from his mouth until he was nearly exhausted. Three hours after the reception of the injury, he was admitted to the hospital at Elmira. There was considerable hemorrhage from both wounds and great dyspnoea. On the removal of the dressings, the dyspnoea increased to almost immediate suffocation; but could readily be relieved by drawing the integument so as to close the external wounds. Assistant Surgeon Charles A. Leale, U.S.V., at once converted the anterior and posterior wounds into incised wounds and the edges brought together and retained in position by pressure over both wounds. An opiate having been administered, the patient was laid on his back. He passed a very comfortable night; on the next morning there was considerable febrile movement, increased bronchial respiration, and a slight cough, pulse 120. For four or five days, blood, of a bright arterial color, mingled with sputa, came away in woundfuls, amounting to at least eight ounces a day. The dressings came off in three days; the wounds had both closed by adhesion; not the slightest suppuration took place from the anterior wound, and only a few drops from the integumentary surface of the posterior wound. Acute pneumonia supervened in the right side, which lasted between two and three weeks. The patient convalesced without an unfavorable symptom, and was returned to duty in less than five weeks from the reception of the wound. On March 18th, 1866, he was carefully examined. Externally, nothing could be seen except the cicatrices and marks of the sutures, while on auscultation and percussion, a dullness was found at the middle lobe of the right lung, confined to a space of about four inches in circumference, where pleuritic adhesion had taken place. Otherwise that lobe was perfectly healthy, as were the remaining lobes of both right and left lungs. He was in perfect health. The case is reported by the operator.