Privat Dennis Sullivan, Company E, Second Virginia Cavalry, Reed Brockway Bontecou (American, 1824–1907), Albumen silver print from glass negative

Privat Dennis Sullivan, Company E, Second Virginia Cavalry

Reed Brockway Bontecou (American, 1824–1907)
April 1865
Albumen silver print from glass negative
Image: 13.1 × 18.9 cm (5 3/16 × 7 7/16 in.), oval
Credit Line:
Gift of Stanley B. Burns, M.D. and The Burns Archive, 1992
Accession Number:
Not on view
Not all of Dr. Bontecou’s patients were Union soldiers, nor did they all survive their wounds or his best surgical treatments to relieve them from pain. Twenty-one-year-old Confederate Private Sullivan died at Harewood Hospital on April 27, 1865. Bontecou tells his story in the patient history mounted on the reverse of this enlarged print used by the doctor for teaching his assistants.
Inscription: Printed on label affixed to mount, verso: "Dennis Sullivan. Dennis Sullivan, Private Co. E, 2d Va. Cav., aged 21, was admitted to the Harewood U. S. A. Gen'l Hospital, April 19, 1865, with gunshot wound of the scalp, anterior aspect, over coronal suture, denuding bone of its pericranium. Previous to his admission he was attacked with chills, which continued to occur at intervals of about twelve hours, varying somewhat till April 25th. The sulph. of quinine was freely administered in full doses but without any appreaciable effect. During pyrexia, pulse ranged between 90 and 100. April 24 the lower lobe, right lung, was discovered to be slightly congested. April 26th the lung was now involved, with great pain in the cardiac region. Upon auscultation the bellows sound was distinctly heard, and occasionally the regurgitant murmer, the pulse rising rapidly from 90 to 156 per minute. Ten o'clock P. M., of same day, patient became comatose. - Shortly after he was trephined by Dr. R. B. Bontecou, Surg. in charge of Hospital, when the external table of the cranium was passed pus was found to exude from diploic structure, upon the latter being perforated, the singular circumstance presented itself, that while the outer table was uninjured the internal was fractured. The opening being enlarged. the portion of fractured bone was removed with the forceps, being nine lines in length and six in breadth. During the operation the patient seemed almost entirely unconscious, in which state he remained until he died, on the next morning, April 27th, 1865. The operator discovered as has already been anticipated, and as he had correctly diagnosed, that the patient was suffering from abscess of the brain.
What was most remarkable in this case the patient suffered very little cerebral disturbance, never having complained of pain in the head during his entire sickness, and being perfectly rational at all times until a state of coma supervened.
Harewood U. S. A. General Hospital.
Surgeon U. S. Vols., In charge."
Stanley B. Burns/The Burns Archive

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Photography and the American Civil War," April 2, 2013–September 2, 2013.

Gibbes Museum of Art. "Photography and the American Civil War," September 27, 2013–January 5, 2014.

New Orleans Museum of Art. "Photography and the American Civil War," January 31, 2014–May 4, 2014.