WJTV News Channel 12 - MYSTERY MONDAY: "Son of Gun" Fake Medical Article Spreads Seeds

Curators at Vicksburg's Old Courthouse Museum

MYSTERY MONDAY: "Son of Gun" Fake Medical Article Spreads Seeds of a Story

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Retired Curator Gordon Cotton of Vicksburg's Old Courthouse Museum recalss the story of the Minie Ball Pregnancy. Retired Curator Gordon Cotton of Vicksburg's Old Courthouse Museum recalss the story of the Minie Ball Pregnancy.
Dr. LeGrand Caper is the Confederate Soldier attributed to the birth of the Minie Ball Pregnancy Myth. He was not living in the Vicksburg area at the time of the Battle of Raymond. Dr. LeGrand Caper is the Confederate Soldier attributed to the birth of the Minie Ball Pregnancy Myth. He was not living in the Vicksburg area at the time of the Battle of Raymond.
Curator of Vicksburg's Old Courthouse Museum, George Balm, shows off what a Minie Bolm is. Curator of Vicksburg's Old Courthouse Museum, George Balm, shows off what a Minie Bolm is.
Curator of Vicksburg's Old Courthouse Museum, George Bolm, describes the devastation caused to bones and extremities hit by a minie ball in the Civil War. Curator of Vicksburg's Old Courthouse Museum, George Bolm, describes the devastation caused to bones and extremities hit by a minie ball in the Civil War.
The myth of the Minie Ball Pregnancy is said to have been at the Battle of Raymond - depicted in this drawing. The myth of the Minie Ball Pregnancy is said to have been at the Battle of Raymond - depicted in this drawing.

Almost every mother has a story about when she found out she was pregnant. For some couples it's difficult to conceive. For others, the news is unexpected.

And that brings us to Vicksburg where a Confederate surgeon wrote a surprise story of the highest caliber.

NEWS CHANNEL 12's Jacob Kittilstad looks down the barrel of a minie ball myth on this MYSTERY MONDAY.

Civil War historians estimate 94,000 confederate soldiers died in battle. Vicksburg's Old Courthouse Museum makes the devastation clear.

But...

"Along with the serious side we decided to include one not-so-serious note from Vicksburg history. The minie ball pregnancy," retired curator Gordon Cotton said.

Click Here to watch last week's MYSTERY MONDAY: "Witch of Yazoo" Legend Lives On

Cotton, who still works part time at the museum, shows off the 1874 medical article written by confederate surgeon Dr. LeGrand Caper.

"The war's been over for nine years. My colleagues in the field keep on revealing the almost impossible things they accomplished on the field of battle," Cotton repeated from Caper's article.

Caper's tale comes from the Battle of Raymond. The story centers on a center kind of bullet - a minie ball.

It's a and elongated ball that's larger that bullets used in modern combat. It was also the most commonly used ball during the Civil War.

Current Curator, George Bolm, said the write-up was - at first - accepted. Dr. caper was General Stonewall Jackson's personal staff surgeon for a time.

"Well, I think the way the story was written up - it was written by a credible person. And they thought 'yeah. it's possible,'" Bolm said.

Cotton recounts the story, taking place in Raymond, on May 12, 1863.

"There's this woman and her daughter standing on the porch of their house on the edge of the field were the battle was taking place, you might say cheering them on, and all of a sudden the rebels are retreating," Cotton said.

"The yankees are chasing them. Dr. capers is retreating and he hears this scream. And he turns and this young confederate soldier had been shot through the testicles," Cotton said.

"And he wasn't going to die but he felt like it I'm sure," Cotton said.

"Almost immediately he hears another scream, another high pitched scream, from the porch of this house. And when he goes over there the young lady had been shot," Cotton said.

Both survived - and more, the story goes.

"[Caper] goes back and the girl is very pregnant. And he can't believe it because he knew the family they were not that kind of people. and the girl protested, she swore, she was a virgin," Cotton said.

"He went to the Confederate soldier who, of course, had recovered, and, of course, he knew him. He told him his theory and persuaded the young man to go meet the young lady. And he did. And they feel in love and got married," Cotton said.

But the story seemed odd. In fact, Dr. Caper did not even serve in that area at the time.

And if you needed any extra convincing that this story is a complete fake - consider this. That medical journal entry goes on to say that Confederate soldier fathered two more children with his wife - but wouldn't his injuries prevent just that?

"In fact it was so devastating when these [minie balls] were to hit limbs during that war there was really nothing medically that could be done. Their bones were shattered to such an extent that amputation was the only way to solve the problem," Bolm said.

"The American Medical Weekly printed a retraction saying the whole thing was a farce, the whole thing was a joke, but nobody read it," Cotton said.

So the prank lives on well passed the sarcastic doctor.

"Vicksburg had its very first Christmas parade in 1874. And he was Santa Claus," Cotton said.

"So he'd been a jokester all along, I think," Cotton said. "The original son of a gun."

Caper died at just age 43 and is buried in Vicksburg's Cedar Hill Cemetery.

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