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A Sketch of the life and career of Hunter Holmes McGuire, M. D., Ll. D.

Surgeon, physician, teacher, patriot.

So faithful was the eminent surgeon and physician, Dr. Hunter McGuire, in execution of his conception of duty, and so signally worthy and useful in all that he undertook, that it might seem as if he were one appointed by the Divine Master for a life mission.

That he was a sincere patriot, every moment, quite, of his manhood and maturity, convincingly is in attestation.

His judgment and manual skill singled him as amomg the first surgeons of his era, whilst his essays in the broad field of the science of Medicine made him honored wherever his proficiency was known, and reflected lustre on not only the State of his birth, but on our nation.

He was broadly and comprehensively not only a Virginian in every ennobling characteristic, but he was loyal in every sinew and [268] fibre of his being; in every beat of his noble heart—in entire service, to what is held by the simply earnest and honest, as proper love of and duty to one's country—in what has been ever held to merit the appellation—patriot.

The regard in which he was so widely held has been given in evidence in the numerous tributes to his memory from societies and institutions of learning, and which have been published. The shadow of the grief which his death cast upon this community in which he had so endeared himself by his virtues, yet remains.

Not only in his exemplification as faithful citizen, and in tender performance in his professional ministration, but also in his association with the invincible chieftain of the Southern Cause, Stonewall Jackson-and his constant zeal for the truthful interpretation of constitutional right, and thus a typical exponent of justice and liberty, should some memorial of Dr. McGuire be preserved in the pages of the Southern Historical Society Papers. It would have been a great pleasure to have also thus embalmed the admirable report (so cogent in its presentation of fact) of Dr. McGuire, as Chairman of the History Committee of the Grand Camp of Confederate Veterans of Virginia, made in 1899, had not the distinguished author — in his generous munificence—printed at his own cost and distributed so large an impression of it. Its timely influence has been constantly and convincingly manifest.

Dr. McGuire, in the full exercise of his gifted faculties, and with broader plans of beneficence to his fellow beings in progress toward maturity, was suddenly stricken with paralysis on March 19, 1900. He lingered, his condition gradually growing worse, until relief from suffering mercifully came on the morning of September 19, 1900, at his country home in Henrico county.

The funeral services were held at St. Paul's church, Richmond, two days later.

The sketch of his life, herewith, is taken from the columns of the Richmond Dispatch of September 20, 1900.—Editor.

Dr. Hunter Holmes McGuire, M. D., Ll. D., was born at Winchester, Va., October 11, 1835. He was the son of Dr. Hugh H. McGuire, an eminent surgeon and physician, and of Anne Eliza Moss, his wife, the family being directly descended from Thomas More McGuire, Lord, or Prince, of Fermanage, Ireland, born in 1400, and died in 1430. Dr. McGuire's scientific studies were [269] directed by his father, to whom the development of his mind and his skill as a surgeon were largely due. He received his medical education at Winchester Medical College, whence he graduated in 1855, and soon afterwards he left for Philadelphia, where he entered as a student of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and Jefferson College, Philadelphia, and matriculated at both in 1856; but, being seized with a violent attack of rheumatism, he was compelled to return to his home, in Winchester, and, consequently, was unable to graduate. He was Professor of Anatomy at Winchester Medical College, 1856-58, and in the latter year, feeling the need of greater clinical advantage, he resigned his chair and went to Philadelphia, where, assisted by Drs. Lockett and W. H. Pancoast, he held a very large ‘quiz’ class—a private class in operative surgery. He attended, also, the regular lectures at Jefferson Medical College.

When the body of John Brown (of the Harper's Ferry infamy) was taken through Philadelphia a great outcry was raised against all southern people, and popular feeling running very high against them, all the southern students proposed to return to the South, and Dr. McGuire telegraphed to Richmond to know upon what terms the Medical College of Virginia would receive them. The authorities replied that no fees would be demanded, and that all expenses would be paid. Upon this, in December, 1859, Dr. Hunter McGuire started from Philadelphia with over 300 students. He had saved nearly $2,000 by teaching, and with this money he paid the fares of the students from Philadelphia to Richmond. The students marched to the place of their departure in a body. All were armed, for they had been led to fear violence on account of threats.

On their arrival they were received with great demonstration, during which Governor Henry A. Wise made a stirring speech and the city refunded the railroad fare of all the students. Drs. Lockett and McGuire finished the course with the students at the Medical College of Virginia in March, 1860, when Dr. McGuire went to New Orleans and established another quiz class. Upon the secession of South Carolina, seeing the inevitability of war, he hastened home to offer his services to Virginia. Dr. McGuire volunteered in Company F, 2nd Virginia Regiment, and marched with the regiment from Winchester to Harper's Ferry, on April 17, 1861, the day Virginia seceded. He was commissioned May 4th of the same year as surgeon in the provisional army of the Confederate States, and was immediately assigned to duty as medical director of the Department of Harper's Ferry, known as the Army of the Shenandoah, and [270] then under the command of General T. J. Jackson (Stonewall). When General Joseph E. Johnston took command, Dr. McGuire served under him until July 1st, 1861. when General Jackson, having organized the 1st Virginia Brigade (the future Stonewall Brigade), requested that Surgeon McGuire might be assigned to him as brigade surgeon, which was done.

Dr. McGuire soon proved that he possessed the requisite qualifications for his position, for besides his personal skill as an operator he possessed equally the essential power of organization and the ability to select competent men to carry out his plans. Never shirking work himself, he demanded the same zeal from his subordinates, and the Medical Department of Jackson's army soon became famous for its promptness and efficiency.

At the first battle of Manassas, July 21st, 1861, when General Jackson made the celebrated charge with his brigade which turned the fortune of the day, he raised his left hand above his head to encourage the troops, and while in this position the middle finger was struck by a ball and broken. He remained upon the field 'till the fight was over, and then wanted to take part in the pursuit, but was peremptorily ordered back to the hospital by the general commanding. On his way to the rear the wound pained him so much that he stopped at the first hospital he came to, and the surgeon there proposed to cut the finger off, but, while the doctor looked for his instruments, and for a moment turned his back, the general silently mounted his horse and rode off to Surgeon McGuire, who was then busily engaged with the wounded. He refused to allow himself to be attended to until ‘his turn came.’ By judicious treatment the finger was saved, and in the end the deformity was very trifling. Surgeon McGuire remained as brigade surgeon from July to October, when General Jackson took command of the Army of the Valley District, of which McGuire became Medical Director.

In the Valley campaign.

The Valley campaign commenced January 1st, 1862, and included the battles of McDowell, Winchester, Cross Keys and Port Republic, after which the army joined General Lee during the celebrated Seven Days fight against General McClellan. After this came the fight at Cedar Run against Pope, followed by the Second Battle of Manassas against Generals Pope and McClellan. During the battle, General Ewell received a wound which caused the amputation of his leg by Dr. McGuire. [271]

Then followed the campaign in Maryland and battle of Sharpsburg (Antietam), and the battle of Fredericksburg, closing that campaign. At all these engagements Surgeon McGuire was present, never missing a battle where the troops were fighting.

Jacksons death wounds.

At the battle of Chancellorsville, May, 1863, General Jackson received his death wounds, and being placed upon a litter, was passed on as rapidly as the thick woods and rough ground would permit, when, unfortunately, one of the bearers was struck down, and the General was thrown to the ground, but was again placed on the litter, when he was met by Surgeon McGuire, to whom he said: ‘I am badly injured, Doctor; I fear I am dying.’

His clothes were saturated with blood, his skin cold and clammy, his face pale, fixed and rigid, and his lips compressed and bloodless, showed that his sufferings were intense. His iron will controlled all evidence of emotion.

On reaching the hospital he was placed in bed, and was told that amputation would probably be required. He was asked whether if it was found necessary it should be done at once, he replied promptly: ‘Yes, certainly, Dr. McGuire. Do for me whatever you think best.’

Chloroform was administered, and as he began to feel its effects and its relief to the pain he was suffering, he exclaimed: ‘What an infinite blessing!’ and continued to repeat, ‘blessing,’ until he became insensible.

The round ball (such as used for the smooth-bore Springfield musket), which had lodged under the skin, on the back of the right hand, was extracted first; it had entered the palm about the middle of the hand, and had fractured two of the bones. The left arm was then amputated about two inches below the shoulder. There were two wounds in this arm, the most serious dividing the main artery and fracturing the bone. Throughout the whole operation, and until all the dressings were applied, the patient continued insensible. Two or three slight wounds of the skin of his face, received from the branches of trees when his horse dashed through the woods, were also dressed. As there was some danger of capture by Federal troops, it was decided to remove him, and Dr. McGuire was directed to accompany and remain with him, and his duties as medical director were transferred to the surgeon next in rank, although General [272] Jackson had previously declined to allow the Doctor to accompany him, as complaints had been so frequently made of general officers when wounded carrying off with them the surgeons belonging to their commands. Whilst Dr. McGuire was asleep, he directed his servant, Jim, to apply a wet towel to his stomach, to relieve nausea. The servant asked permission to first consult the Doctor, but the General refused to allow him to be disturbed.

About daylight the Doctor was aroused, and found him suffering great pain, and examination disclosed pleuro-pneumonia of the right side, which the Doctor believed was attributable to the fall from the litter the night he was wounded, and thought the disease came on too soon after the application of the wet cloths to admit of the supposition, once believed, that it was induced by them. Dr. McGuire continued, in conjunction with other physicians summoned to assist him, to minister assiduously to his beloved leader until his death.

Honored by Jackson.

It was, therefore, a great honor in itself to have served satisfactorily on the staff of such a commander; but a higher meed of praise than this belongs to Dr. McGuire. He possessed Jackson's entire confidence, his warm friendship, and received his highest commendation. The sword presented by Jackson to his surgeon at the battle of Winchester, 1862, could only have been bestowed on one possessed of indomitable energy, transcendent skill, and unflinching fidelity. Associated as closely and conspicuously as it was possible for a surgeon to be with the greatest war ever waged in America, following the standard of the most brilliant military genius developed in the struggle and aiding with all the resources of his and that intrepid brigade whose name has become immortal — the fame of its surgeon is inseparably united to that of the heroic band that stood ‘like a stone wall’ in the face of assailing hosts.

After the death of General Jackson, Surgeon McGuire served as chief surgeon of the Second Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia, under Lieutenant-General Ewell. After defeating Milroy at Winchester they were engaged at Gettysburg.

Surgeon McGuire afterwards acted as Medical Director of the Army of the Valley, with Lieutenant-General Early, to Lynchburg, and the campaign of the Valley down to Frederick City and Monocacy and almost to Washington, and then at Winchester, Fisher's Hill and Waynesboroa, where Dr. McGuire was captured, and paroled for fifteen days and then released. He rejoined the 2nd Corps under [273] General Gordon, and remained as Medical Director till the surrender at Appomattox.

Some notable Innovations.

In May, 1862, at the battle of Winchester, Va., Surgeon McGuire inaugurated the plan of releasing captured medical officers. Eight federal surgeons were set free upon the simple condition that they would endeavor to procure the release of the same number of Confederate surgeons. Afterwards General Jackson himself approved of this action. A few weeks after this, all of the medical officers who had been confined by both parties as prisoners of war were released and returned to their respective commands. Although this plan of exchanging medical officers as non-combatants was interrupted by some disagreement between the Commissioners for the Exchange of Prisoners, yet Dr. McGuire continued to release surgeons whenever it was in his power. As late as February, 1865, he liberated the Medical Inspector of General Sheridan's army. When Surgeon McGuire was himself captured at Waynesboroa, in March, 1865, General Sheridan showed his appreciation of Surgeon McGuire's action by immediately ordering his liberation.

Surgeon McGuire was the first to organized Reserve Corps Hospitals in the Confederacy, in the spring of 1862, in the Valley campaign. About the same time he succeeding in perfecting the ‘Ambulance Corps.’

His life in Richmond.

The war being ended, Dr. McGuire, in November, 1865, removed to Richmond, having been appointed to fill the chair of surgery in the Medical College of Virginia, made vacant by the death of Dr. Charles Bell Gibson. This position he held until 1878, when the demands of an extensive practice compelled him to resign it, the College conferring upon him in 1880 the title of Emeritus Professor. In his new home he rapidly acquired an extensive practice, both medical and surgical. His remarkable successes in lithotomy, lithority, ovariotomy, etc., placed him in the first rank of civil surgeons. As a teacher, he was fluent, lucid and impressive, and as a writer had contributed many instructive and interesting articles to Northern and Southern journals.

In 1883 Dr. McGuire established St. Luke's Home for the Sick—a private infirmary for the accommodation of his surgical cases. The institution has grown until now it contains between fifty and sixty [274] beds, and is one of the largest and most successful sanitariums in the country. Dr. McGuire was founder, and at his death President and Professor of Clinical Surgery in the University College of Medicine, in this city, and also President of, and one of the surgeons to, the Virginia Hospital, an institution which, largely through his influence, was established for the sick poor of the State.

His abilities have been recognized both at home and abroad in a most flattering manner, and he has received many honorary degrees and held many positions of eminence. The degree of Doctor of Laws was conferred upon him in 1887 by the University of North Carolina, and in 1888 by the Jefferson Medical College, of Philadelphia. He was President of the Richmond Academy of Medicine in 1869; of the Association of the Medical Officers of the Army and Navy of the Confederate States in 1875; of the Virginia Medical Society in 1880; of the American Surgical Association in 1886; of the Southern Surgical and Gynecological Association in 1889, and of the American Medical Association in 1892. He was VicePresi-dent of the International Medical Congress in 1876, and of the American Medical Association in 1881. He was Associate Fellow of the College of Physicians, of Philadelphia. He was also Honorary Fellow of the D. Hayes Agnew Medical Society, of Philadelphia; of the Obstetrical Society of Philadelphia, and of the medical societies of various States, among which may be mentioned Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, and Texas.

He was the only surgeon in this country who ever tied the aorta. He operated fifty-seven times for stone in the bladder after his return to Richmond. He had contributed numerous articles to various journals on gunshot wounds, diseases of the bladder, ovariotomy, etc., besides a detailed account of the ‘Last Wound of General Stonewall Jackson; His Last Moments and Death.’

Work for true histories.

Dr. McGuire's service to the Confederacy did not end with Appomattox. He had lately distinguished himself as Chairman of the History Committee, having succeeded Colonel W. L. Royall about two years ago.

During the past three years Dr. McGuire had done a very fine work in behalf of fair school histories. As Chairman of the History Committee of the Grand Camp of Confederate Veterans he presented a report at the meeting of the Grand Camp of Confederate [275] Veterans, at Pulaski, last October, which attracted widespread attention.

General John B. Gordon, general commanding the United Confederate Veterans, issued a special order, commending in highest terms, the report of the History Committee.

Leaves a large family.

Dr. McGuire married Mary Stuart, daughter of Hon. A. H. H. Stuart, of Staunton, Secretary of the interior under President Fillmore. He is survived by his wife and nine children—Dr. Stuart McGuire, of this city; Dr. Hugh McGuire, of Alexandria; Mrs. Edward McGuire, of Richmond; Mrs. William Law Clay, of Savannah, and Miss Francis B. Augusta, M. Gettie, and Margaret, and Mr. Hunter McGuire.

Dr. McGuire's reputation was not local, nor was it even national, for he was known and honored and beloved in Europe as well as in this hemisphere.

He was frequently honored by the societies of his profession. At different times he filled the following offices:

President of the Medical Society; President of the American Surgical Association; President of the Association of Medical Officers of the Army and Navy, Confederate States; Vice-President of the International Medical Congress; Vice-President and President of the American Medical Association, and President of the Gynecological Association in 1889.

Dr. Foy's tribute.

Dr. George Foy, F. R. C. S., a distinguished physician and writer on medical subjects, who had visited Dr. McGuire, dedicated a fine work on anaesthetics to his host. The dedication read as follows:

To Hunter McGuire, M. D., Ll. D., Fellow and Past President of the American Association of Surgeons, Late Medical Director of the Stonewall Jackson Corps (Second), Army of Northern Virginia, C. S. A.

Those numerous, brilliant and successful operations, many of which he performed under great difficulties, have made his name honored and esteemed in two hemispheres. This book is dedicated as a mark of respect for his great ability, as a token of personal friendship, by the author.

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