New York State Journal of Medicine
February 1, 1959

Two Unusual Cases of Gunshot Wounds of the Uterus

F. DONALD NAPOLITANI, M.D., BRONX, NEW YORK

(From the Department of Obstetrics, Harlem Hospital, New York City)


The following two case histories show the diversity of treatment for gunshot wounds of the uterus. Although not revolutionary in treatment, these two cases are presented for their unusual results. Both cases have been authenticated.

Case Reports

CASE 2. -- This case of a seventeen-year-old girl was reported by Captain L. G. Capers after the Civil War. It is remarkable in its unusualness and in the treatment of the gunshot wounds of the uterus which resulted.

While stationed with a regiment on May 12 during the battle of R, his regiment met the advance of the enemy. One mile from the village of R about 100 yards in the rear of the regiment was a fine mansion where a matron and her two daughters and servants were standing about 3:00 P.M. in the afternoon. The battle was raging furiously, and the woman and her two daughters were filled with extreme interest, standing bravely in front of the house, hoping to give some degree of aid to any of the wounded soldiers. Our men were fighting bravely, but pressed by superior forces, they had gradually fallen back to about 100 yards of the house.

Since Captain Capers was stationed with the brigade, he suddenly beheld a gallant young lad stagger and fall to the earth. At the same moment a piercing scream came from the vicinity of the house. The young man was examined and found to have a compound fracture with extensive involvement of the left tibia. The bullet evidently had ricocheted from the left portion of the abdomen and in its upward flight passed through the scrotum, carrying away the left testicle. The matron came running in the greatest distress, begging Captain Capers to go to the assistance of one of her daughters, who had been badly wounded. A few moments later, after examining the young lady, who was sitting on the steps and groaning severely, the seriousness of the wound was apparent.

The bullet evidently had perforated the girl's abdomen in the left abdominal parietes about midway between the umbilicus and the interior spinal process of the ilium. Evidently the bullet was still in the spinal canal, and the wound itself was very ragged and irregular. Dressings were applied and medication given, and since the Army had first call on Captain Capers' services, he left after prescribing a sedative. The town was soon left in the hands of the enemy, but several days later the rest of the brigade settle in the village of R, and Captain Capers had the opportunity of treating the young lady for the next few months. It was apparent that she seemed to have recovered from the severe peritonitis which resulted from the injury.

About six months after her recovery, the movement of our Army again brought Captain Capers to the village of R, and again he was sent for by the young lady's mother. The young lady herself appeared to be in excellent health, but her abdomen had become enormously enlarged, resembling pregnancy of the seventh or eighth month. Captain Capers stated that if it were not for the fact that he knew the injury and had known the family, he should have diagnosed the case as a definite pregnancy. Therefore, under the circumstances, he failed to give a positive diagnosis, determining to keep the young lady under surveillance.

Two hundred and seventy-eight days from the receipt of the wound by the young lady, a fine boy weighing 8 pounds was delivered by Captain Capers, since there were very few doctors available at this time in the vicinity of the town. The mortification and mystification of the young lady and her entire family was apparent! In fact, before the examination Captain Capers stated that he gave no credence to the young girl's assertion of her innocence and virgin purity!

About three weeks after this remarkable birth, the Captain was called to see the baby by the grandmother, who stated that there was something wrong about the infant's genitals. Examination revealed an enlarged, swollen, sensitive scrotum containing in the right side a hard and roughened substance, evidently foreign. The doctor decided to operate for the removal of this object at once. In doing so, he extracted from the scrotum a mass which was mashed and battered as if it had met in its flight some hard, unyielding substance. Captain Capers stated that he was astonished and that he finally decided, after several days of seriously considering the matter, just how the incident had occurred. He surmised and stated that no other way was possible -- that the mass taken from the scrotum of the baby was the identical one which on the twelfth of May had shattered the tibia of the young soldier and then had plunged through the air into the abdomen of the young lady, carrying particles of semen and spermatozoa through her left ovary and into the uterus, in this manner impregnating her! No other solution to this birth was apparent. Captain Capers explained this to the family, and at their solicitation visited the same young soldier, who at first was most skeptical but then appeared very interested in the young lady. Before four months had passed, he had married the young girl. Several years later Captain Capers received a letter from the young man stating that they were happily married and that they now had three children but the last two not resembling to the same marked degree as the first, the young hero, or the young soldier.

This case occurred on May 12, 1863, and was reported November 7, 1874, in the medical annals.1

              1381 BRONX RIVER AVENUE, BRONX 59

Reference
    1. Med. Ann. 1:62 (Nov. 7) 1874.