Lieutenant J. E. Mallet, Medical History, 81st NY Volunteers

Many thanks to Bill Young, for contributing this very interesting account of a medical story on his g-uncle,  Lieutenant J. E. Mallet of the 81st NY Vol., as it has been written up in the Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion.  Bill has generously contributed the Roster of the 81st NY.








Prepared, under the direction of Joseph K. Barnes, Surgeon General  United Stares Army. By GEORGE A. OTIS, Assistant Surgeon, United States Army


Government  Printing Office


SE275: -- Lieutenant J. E. Mallet, Adjutant 81st New York, aged 21 years, was wounded at the battle of Cold Harbor, Va. by a musket ball, which entered three inches to the left of the umbilicus and made its exit a little to the right of column ( Note: From the drawing and information define it as his spinal column .) The officer, who still survives and holds a important civil office in the government., has kindly prepared an account of his case, which is peculiarly valuable because of the rarity with which formation of the immediate symptoms produced by severe wounds can be obtained. The authenticity of the facts is table, and, independently of the officers own statement, is affirmed by the testimony of the medical attention: “I died,” says this brave officer, “ at the battle of Cold Harbor, while serving as adjutant of the 81st New York Infantry, Oswego Regiment, then with the Army of the Potomac, and attached to the first (Marston’s) brigade, first (Brooke’s), Eighteenth  (Smith’s) Army Corps. It was at about five O’clock in the morning, and in the assault on the enemy’s lines, I was struck. I fell at the distance of about fifteen paces from the works which our men were charging with pieces. The missile entered my left side. I distinctly remember the sensations experienced upon being hit. I imagined a ball had stuck me on the left hip bone, that it took a downward course, tearing the intestines in its curse and against the marrow of the fight thigh-bone. I fancied I saw sparks of fire, and curtains of cobwebs wet with dew in the sun. I heard a monotonous roar as of distant cataracts. I felt my teeth chatter, a rush of blood in my eyes and the ends of my fingers and toes. These sensations crowded themselves in the instants in which I struggled and actually fell forward on my face. As I fell, I experienced another sensation as of a sudden and violent blow on the neck, and then became completely insensible. I was awakened to consciousness by cheering, and fearing to be it to be the advancing lines. I made a desperate effort to regain my feet; and, doubled up as one with a broken back, with a strapped on my right wrist, and the scabbard in the other hand, I dragged myself about forty paces to the right and entered the skirt of a wood, where I saw men hiding behind trees, which angered me, and I again fell insensible. Remember being put on a stretcher by some men of a Massachusetts regiment and carried some distance to an ambulance, some one had given me a piece of sponge cake dipped in wine; but it was at one rejected. It rained during the day, someone covered me up with a rubber blanket, which a passer-by presently carried off, and I had the will but not the strength to protest. The pain in the wound in the back was intense. I do not recollect distinctly my arrival at the corps hospital.

        The visit of Surgeon W.H. Rice, and his exploration of my wound, and his instructions to a friend to take my valuables and my inference that he considered my case hopeless, and these memento’s were to send home.

        On the afternoon of June 3rd, I was put in an ambulance wagon with
Lieutenant McKinney, and taken as far as Bethesda Church, where we
stopped over night. We proceeded on or journey next morning, over very 
rugged ground. I remember the wounded who could walk, often put their 
shoulders to the wagon to keep it from upsetting. We arrived at White  House Landing, on the York River, late on the afternoon of June 4th. I had  suffered much pain from shortness of breath, but was relieved by draughts  of water. I was put on a hospital transport, and ws laid by the side of the  deck, where the breeze could reach me; but it seemed to takeaway my  breath instead of restoring  it. I was very faint, and Captain Tyler, of my  regiment, and others, have since told me that I was regarded as a dead man.

        I remember nothing further until we reached Alexandria,Va. and finally
Washington, DC., where I asked to  be taken to Douglas Hospital; but nearly all the wounded were carried off in ambulance wagons, and I though I was deserted; but finally they brought a stretcher and carried me to Armory Square ( Hospital ), which was nearer the steamboat wharf I was placed in Ward I about midnight. On the morning of June 6th, Medical Inspector Coolidge examined me. From memoranda, made soon afterward, I find that I was frequently unconscious during the next week; But that on June 12th, I could read the leaded heading of newspapers. On June 15th, I had a distressing pain in my bowels. Gradually my vision improved, and on June 22nd, I began to keep my diary. Acting Assistant Surgeon Bowen was attending me. On June 27th, I ate some blackberries, which made me sick and for the next two days I was feverish and drowsy. On July 1st, I had severe colic. On July 23rd, Surgeon Bliss examined me. On the 5th , I was better , and asked to be sent home. On July 6th, I sat up in an arm chair. On the 12th, some blackberry seeds were found in the lint removed from the wound in the side. On July17th, I drank a glass of soda water, which in about fifteen minutes, began to bubble out of the orifice in the side, forcing off the adhesive plaster and compresses and soiling my clothing with a copious fluid discharge of a yellowish order. On July 27th, I was taken on a stretcher to the cars and rode to New York, and thence on to Albany, and thence by rail to Oswego, where I arrived on the 29th, and was attended by Dr. C.P.P. Clark office. My hospital diet nearly starved me and I suffered greatly during dressing of the wound.

Note: There is one more paragraph on Major Mallett, but hard to read and  translate in this outline. As nearly as I can determine it list the doctors in attendance over the period of time, plus the creditability of the report. 

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