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Semiotics of the Kitchen (excerpt), by Martha Rosler

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Private George Ruoss, Co. G, 7th New York Volunteers

Reed Brockway Bontecou (American, 1824–1907)

Former Attribution:
William Bell (American (born England) Liverpool 1831–1910 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
Date:
1865–1866
Medium:
Albumen silver print from glass negative
Dimensions:
Image: 16.6 × 21.7 cm (6 9/16 × 8 9/16 in.) Sheet: 19.3 × 24.2 cm (7 5/8 × 9 1/2 in.) Mount: 27.7 × 35.4 cm (10 7/8 × 13 15/16 in.)
Classification:
Photographs
Credit Line:
Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005
Accession Number:
2005.100.99
  • Description

    According to the medical history on the verso of this photograph, "Private George Ruoss, Co. G, 7th New York Volunteers, aged twenty-seven years, was wounded at the South Side Railroad, near Petersburg, Virginia, on March 31st, 1865, by a conoidal musket ball, which struck the anterior and outer aspect of the right thigh...comminuting portions of the upper and middle thirds of the femur, and passed out posteriorly about the middle of the gluteal fold." Ruoss was taken to the corps hospital at City Point and after one week transferred to a general hospital in Washington. Two and one half years later Ruoss was still in "generally feeble condition," a patient at the Post Hospital.
    Before the use of antiseptics infection was considered a normal part of the healing process. During the Civil War, however, five infections were recognized as abnormal: tetanus, hospital gangrene, pyemia, erysipelas, and osteo myelitis. While the first four had a fatality rate of over ninety percent, with death ocurring within weeks of infection, osteomyelitis, a chronic bone infection, lasted for years. Slowly eating away at the bones of the patient, the infection was responsible for the majority of amputations after the war. This photograph shows the ravages of osteomyelitis. Although his complete medical history is unavailable Private Ruoss, fortunate not to have contracted one of the four fatal hospital infections, apparently survived his extended hospital stay.

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Inscription: Inscribed in negative: "179"; Labeled on mount, verso C: "Surgeon General’s Office, // ARMY MEDICAL MUSEUM. // PHOTOGRAPHS NOS. 139, 178 AND 179. Partially Consolidated Gunshot Fracture of the Upper Third of the Right Femur. // Private George Ruoss, Co. G, 7th New York Volunteers, aged twenty- // seven years, was wounded in the engagement at the South Side Railroad, // near Petersburg, Virginia, on March 31st, 1865, by a conoidal musket // ball, which struck the anterior and outer aspect of the right thigh, about // three inches below the great trochanter, and inwards and a little down- // wards, comminuting portions of the upper and middle thirds of the femur, // and passed out posteriorly about the middle of the gluteal fold. He was // taken to the Base Hospital at City Point, and on April 6th, was trans- // ferred to Campbell Hospital at Washington. On July 8th he was removed // to Stanton Hospital, and on September 12th to Harewood Hospital. On // his admission at Harewood he was able to sit up, and the constitutional // condition was tolerably good. The fracture had united, though with // great deformity; yet there were several fistulous orifices, through which // fragments of necrosed bone were extracted almost daily. On May 1st, // 1866, Ruoss was transferred, on the closure of Harewood, to the Post // Hospital at Washington. On June 8th he was etherized, and Brevet // Major Wm. Thomson, Assistant Surgeon, U.S.A., made a V shaped // incision at the upper and outer part of the thigh, and removed several // fragments of diseased bone. September 30th, 1866: the wound has // nearly healed; there are three sinuses, (two on the upper and one on the // lower surface,) which lead to what is evidently necrosed bone. December // 31st, 1866: Sinuses still open and discharging, general condition feeble; // there is great deformity, and about five inches shortening of th limb, // with almost complete anchylosis of the knee joint. The photograph was // taken July, 1867. Ruoss is still, November 4th, 1867, an imante of the // Post Hospital. // Photographed at the Army Medical Museum. // BY ORDER OF THE SURGEON GENERAL: // GEORGE A. OTIS, // Bv’t Lt. Col. and Ass’t Surg. U.S.A. Curator A.M.M.”; Stamped on mount, verso BC: "Surgeon General's Office. // ARMY MEDICAL MUSEUM. // PHOTOGRAPHIC SERIES."

  • Provenance

    [Rinhart Galleries]; Gilman Paper Company Collection, New York, October 31, 1991

283206

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