Today medical journals rarely intentionally publish jokes. How pleasant that in the 1800s they took a more enlightened attitude towards merriment. Sure, it led to a brief period when the public was sure women could get pregnant via bullet, but think of the laughs.
Legrand Capers was born in 1834. He went to medical school and served for years as a respectable military doctor before thoroughly living up to his name. In 1874, after having served as a doctor in the service of the Confederate military, he sent a little case history in to The American Medical Journal. It concerned a double-wounding on the battlefield. Capers wrote:
I was soon by the side of the young man, and, upon examination, found a compound fracture, with extensive comminution of the left tibia; the ball having ricochetted from these parts, and, in its onward flight, passed through the scrotum, carrying away the left testicle. Scarcely had I finished dressing the wounds of this poor fellow, when the estimable matron came running to me in the greatest distress, begging me to go to one of her daughters, who, she informed me, had been badly wounded a few minutes before. Hastening to the house, I found that the eldest of the young ladies had indeed received a most serious wound. A minnie ball had penetrated the left abdominal parietes, about midway between the umbilicus and anterior spinal process of the ilium, and was lost in the abdominal cavity, leaving a ragged wound behind. Believing there was little or no hope of her recovery, I had only time to prescribe an anodyne, when our army fell back, leaving both field and village in the hands of the enemy.
Seven months later, he found the wounded young woman alive, but in the late stages of pregnancy. Soon the woman gave birth to a healthy boy. A few months after the delivery, the grandmother asked Capers to see baby, as there was something wrong with his testicles. Upon examination Capers found, "a minnie ball, mashed and battered as if it had met in its flight some hard, unyielding substance."
In the next issue, the editor claimed that the entire case was a joke that had had been played out between himself and Doctor Capers. Many breathed a sigh of relief, but the legend remained. Personally, I think that when Capers got to the point of the baby having the minnie ball in its own testicles, he was gilding the lily. Did the kid grow from the testicles outward? Or did the leftover patriarchal testicle just have an affinity for testicle flesh? It introduces an element that's not needed. Still, good one, Legrand. Good one.
Image: United States Marine Corps