BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A hundred and fifty years ago Friday, Confederate General Stonewall Jackson died. But what killed him has been a subject of medical debate for a very long time.
Alex DeMetrick reports–once a year, University of Maryland doctors try solving this kind of medical mystery.
Even the best Civil War reenactors can only hint at the chaos and confusion of those battles. While each side aimed for enemy targets, sometimes they shot their own.
Confederate General Stonewall Jackson was a victim of friendly fire. He was shot in the arm.
“It appears he severed his artery and had a fracture of the arm. At that time it was an injury that necessitated amputation,” said Dr. Joseph Dubose, Shock Trauma surgeon.
Shock Trauma Dr. Joseph Dubose knows battlefield injuries. As an Air Force surgeon, he’s saved lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. That skill, coupled with historical research, will place him in this arena, where once a year University of Maryland doctors diagnose the deaths of historical figures.
On the 150th anniversary of his death, it’s Stonewall’s turn.
“As they were carrying him off the battlefield, it appears from the reports we have that are available, that indeed he was dropped,” Dr. Dubose said.
And Dr. Dubose thinks that fall bruised the general’s lung.
“It’s called pulminary contusion. And when a lung is injured in such a fashion, it doesn’t clear secretions very well. So those secretions pool and create an environment where pneumonia is more likely,” he said.
Jackson’s doctor, Hunter McGuire, remembered that same diagnosis, but because his records were lost:
“It’s a matter of great historical argument among medical providers. The diagnosis that actually Hunter McGuire had initially is the most likely diagnosis,” Dr. Dubose said.
That pneumonia killed Stonewall Jackson.
Other cases the University of Maryland Medical Conference has taken up include the causes of death for Alexander the Great and Edgar Allan Poe.