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Read this incredible story, “The First Case of Artificial Insemination by a Bullet,” from an 1874 issue of The American Medical Weekly, by Bernard Lamere. Was it a miraculous bullet or a joke?
During the Civil War, Union doctor Captain L. G. Capers was acting as a field surgeon at a skirmish in a small Virginia village on May 12, 1863. Some distance to the rear of the captain’s regiment, a mother and her two daughters stood on the steps of their large country home watching the engagement, prepared to act as nurses if necessary.
Just as Captain Capers saw a young soldier fall to the ground nearby, he heard a sharp cry of pain from the steps of the house. When the surgeon examined the infantryman, he found that a bullet had broken the fellow’s leg and then ricocheted up, passing through his scrotum. As he was administering first aid to the soldier, Captain Capers was approached by the mother from the house to the rear. Apparently, one of her daughters also had been wounded.
Upon examining the young woman, Capers found a jagged wound in her abdomen, but he was unable to tell where the object had lodged. He administered what aid he could for such a serious wound, and he was quite pleased to see that she did recover from the injury.
Eight Months Later …
Thereafter, it was a full eight months before the captain and his regiment passed through the same area, at which time he was quite surprised to find the young woman very pregnant. Within a month, she delivered a healthy baby boy whose features were quite similar to those of the young soldier who had been wounded at nearly the same instant the girl had been struck nine months earlier. The surgeon hypothesized that the bullet that struck the soldier had carried sperm into the young woman’s uterus and that she had conceived.
The theory has never been tested again, either involuntarily or by design, so the surgeon’s hypothesis remains to be debated. For the wounded soldier and young woman, however, the end result of the incredible circumstances must have been appealing. They courted, fell in love, and married, later producing two more children using a more common technique.
P.S. In a subsequent issue of the medical journal, it was revealed that the story was all in humor. The doctor reported the case to the Journal without signature, but the editor recognized the handwriting and decided to run the story, to much amusement of the authors—and the readers.
Jud Hale is the honorary Editor-in-chief of The Old Farmer’s Almanac; Jud was the 12th editor of The Old Farmer’s Almanac (since 1792!) and joined the parent company Yankee Publishing in 1958 as an Assistant Editor. Read More from Judson D. Hale Sr.