So for those who follow An Amateur Genealogist’s Musings, I would first like to thank you and secondly you may be familiar with my great-great-Grandfather, Christopher McNanny. Christopher was the ancestor who led to my interest into my family’s genealogy. As you may know, Christopher fought on the side of The Union during The American Civil War and early on in my research I heavily focused on this aspect of Christopher’s life. This research led me to various websites regarding Christopher’s regiment, Company G – 106th New York Volunteers, in hopes of gathering any information on Christopher. Many websites were extremely helpful detailing the campaign and battles of the 106th, but I really wanted to see if there was any information on Christopher specifically.
I knew prior to conducting this research Christopher suffered some sort of amputation which I learned through family lore. Other than that I really did not know much about his service. Early on in my research I discovered Christopher’s obituary in The Madrid Herald which provided a high level overview of his service, but not the meaty in-depth information that I needed. With that being said, I decided to start asking experts on Company G to see if they had any information on Christopher or could at least steer me in the right direction.
I found an expert, Todd, through a website I discovered through a Google search (unfortunately this site is no longer or at least I couldn’t find it). I found Todd’s email and sent him a simple email asking for any information he may have on Christopher. I remember I received a reply late at night just before bed and the information in the email was one of the breakthroughs that make your jaw fall to the floor.
The email started off by going through the campaign history of Company G 106th describing when and where they fought. The email then described The Battle of Summit Point in West Virginia on Aug 21st, 1864. According to the email, this battle is where my great-great-Grandfather was wounded by a bullet thru his little toe and exiting through the sole of his left foot which eventually led to the amputation of his left leg below the knee on September 21st, 1864. I remember while reading this email thinking to myself what an amazing amount of detail to have on hand for only a private in Company G. Todd then went on to explain why he was able to provide such detailed information.
The reason I can relate this detailed medical information is that McNanny’s case is included in the “Medical and Surgical History of the Civil War” and I have a copy of the case file from the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology’s National Museum of Health and Medicine, that I’ll be happy to copy and send to you, if you email me your address.And to make matters a little more bizarre, while I can’t provide you an image of McNanny, since I have not come across one in my research on the 106th—it does appear I can put you in touch with McNanny himself—or least with his foot! According to the AFIP’s records, his amputated foot was retained as a teaching specimen after the war and remains in their anatomical collection as number 1000277. There are four such 106th NY soldier specimens in their collection, and I “visited” them about 15 years ago.
Keep in mind, before I read any of this email I really didn’t have much knowledge of Christopher McNanny’s Civil War service. If you read the above portion of the email not only did I find out about Christopher’s service, but one of the most strangest unique aspects of my genealogical research and that is Christopher’s skeletal left foot still be preserved at The Armed Forces Institute of Pathology’s National Museum of Health and Medicine (which closed in Sept of 2011). I still have not found a picture of Christopher, but I have plenty of photos of Christopher’s left foot!
To provide a brief history: The Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (AFIP) was founded as the Army Medical Museum on May 21, 1862, to collect pathological specimens along with their case histories. The information from the case files of the pathological specimens from the Civil War was compared with Army pensions records and compiled into the six-volume Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion, an early study of wartime medicine. Apparently when Christopher’s leg was amputated in Baltimore in Sept of 1864 his leg became part of the AFIP’s (now The National Museum of Health and Medicine) collection on Civil War specimens.
After receiving the email from Todd my next step was to try to locate a photo of Christopher’s foot since I was curious and simply wanted to see it. I called the AFIP and provided all the information I had from Todd’s email. A few days later I received an email with a series of photographs of Christopher’s foot. While viewing the photos I couldn’t help, but think of the adventures this foot has had. Being born in Ireland, making the voyage across the Atlantic as a child, stepping foot in the United States, farming in Northern New York, joining the Union to fight for your new home, and eventually losing that foot in battle for your country. That foot certainly went through a lot and seeing the photographs made me think of what an incredible life my great-great-grandfather, Christopher McNanny, lived.
P.S. As I mentioned in the blog post the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology closed in September of 2011. Currently the Civil War specimens are being held at The National Museum of Health and Medicine. I just received word the collection is safe and sound since the move. Also if you had an ancestor, who fought in The Civil War and had an amputation performed on him it may be worth looking in to see if his limb is part of this collection.