Original U.S. Civil War 134th Pennsylvania Identified Union Surgeon’s Amputation Kit Belonging to Dr. Albert G. Walker, Pioneer Surgeon Who’s Hospital Served As Station for Underground Railroad - With Biography Copy

Item Description

Original Item: Only One Available. This is an incredible piece of medical history. This kit once belonged to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania’s foremost pioneer surgeon, Dr. Albert G. Walter. He was nationally known for his skills as a surgeon and abolitionist. During his time in Tennessee while working on injured slaves, he came across a Master whipping a slave. He was so enraged by this act that he went to the master and threw him to the ground with such force he broke the Master’s arm, picked up his whip and beat him with it.

Walter was not only an unsung medical hero, but an abolitionist as well, White said. Oral tradition claims that Walter conveniently employed his hospital as a “station” on the Underground Railroad, taking in and hiding runaway slaves who were headed north in hopes of freedom. Because harboring slaves at that time was, of course, illegal, no records were kept of the slaves that he sheltered. However, it’s generally thought that he aided at least dozens of slaves over the years.

During the years of the Civil War he served with 134th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment.  This kit came from the descendants of Private John Hany, Co. C, who was seriously wounded during the Battle of Fredericksburg on Dec, 13, 1862 and survived the battlefield amputation of his left arm. He was wounded in the shoulder in the charge made on the enemy lines in the rear of Fredericksburg on Saturday evening, the 13th of December, 1862. He applied for his pension while the war was still going on in 1864 at the age of 20 years old and died a few years later from complications from his wound. 

However, long before the fighting had ceased during the Battle of Gettysburg, the following was written in the book “Under the Maltese Cross” published in 1910, about the day he arrived:

“Dr. Walter and a staff of twenty-two nurses, hospital stewards and members of the Christian Commission arrived at the front with instruments, medicines, lint and other needed supplies. The wounded were gladdened by the arrival of this surgeon of national reputation and by the unremitting zeal with which he labored under the murderous shell fire at Little Round Top and later among those bivouacked in the town. His cordial sympathy for the pain and suffering of those gallant soldiers endeared him greatly in their hearts and memories.”

The Mahogany case measures approximately 16 ⅞” x 9 ⅛” x 2 ⅜” and has DR. A.G. WALTER engraved and blackened on the lid. The case is in impeccable condition and still retains a lovely purple felt padding and lining, with perfect reliefs of the tools impressed on the top portion. All tools are in good condition but definitely show heavy use and wear, which in this case is a lovely sight!

The Instruments Featured In This Kit:

- x1 Early Capital Bonesaw: Used for cutting through larger bones during amputation procedure.

- x1 Metacarpal Saw: Always stored underneath the Capital saw and is used for amputating small bones, fingers, toes etc.

- x1 Tenaculum: It consists of a slender sharp-pointed hook attached to a handle and is used mainly in surgery for seizing and holding parts, such as blood vessels.

- x1 Bone Cutting Forceps (Ronguer): A rongeur is a heavy-duty surgical instrument with a sharp-edged, scoop-shaped tip, used for gouging out bone.

- x1 Catlin: A catlin or catling is a long, double-bladed surgical knife. It was commonly used from the 17th to the mid 19th century, particularly for amputations.

- Tourniquet With x3 Bands: Tourniquets are used to stop blood flow in arteries and veins. They are mechanical instruments for ligating a limb or artery to stop bleeding prior to amputation or surgery. Most amputation sets will have at least one and sometimes more than one tourniquets, depending on the maker.

- x2 Liston Knives: The Liston knife is a type of knife used in surgical amputation. The knife was named after Robert Liston, a Scottish surgeon noted for his skill and speed in an era prior to anesthetics, when speed made a difference in terms of pain and survival. The knife was made out of high-quality metal and had a typical blade length of 6–8 inches. Surgical amputation knives came in many styles and changed very much between 1840 and the American Civil War.

- x2 Scalpels: Used for tissue incisions.

Also included in the kit are suturing materials including curved needles, silk thread on what appears to be a carved bone spool and last a brass spool containing silver suture wire.

Also included is an invoice for the sale of this kit by Hendershott Museum Consultants, Inc in 2002 for $6500

This is a remarkable kit, packed full of contents and history. This is perfect for the advanced collector of early surgical equipment for a “sawbones”. Comes more than ready for further research and display.

Excerpts From Included Biography Printout

Dr. Walter was born in Germany on June 21, 1811. Nothing is known of his family as he was left an orphan and raised by a guardian who gave him the advantages of receiving a good education. His guardian was extremely religious and wanted him to take up ministry, but he refused and all further financial aid was denied and he was left to his own demise.

He took a medical course at Königsberg in what was at the time a province of East Prussia. He conducted extra work in the laboratory, dissecting dogs and other vertebrates, mounting skeletons and in general studying human anatomy. Upon graduation he spent another year at the University of Berlin where he became the assistant of one of the greatest teachers of the day, Professor Dieffenbach. It was during this time he learned a newly discovered technique for treating contracture deformities of tendons and muscles. It was on the advice of this Professor that Walter sailed to America to introduce this new and revolutionary treatment. Before his final destination to America, he arrived in London penniless and took up a job as a cab driver and copy clerk in a Law Office. During his time in London he managed to enroll at the Royal College of Surgeons and through the year of 1837, he attended lectures from Sir Astley Cooper, receiving his diploma around the time he had saved enough money to sail further across the Atlantic.

Soon after arriving in New York, things went badly for him. He was greeted with hostility and unfriendliness and was told they “had no room for a Dutchman” as he stated later. He was forced to work as a common laborer to make ends meet. He traveled from Philadelphia where he received the same negative treatment on to Pittsburgh and then down the Ohio river to Tennessee. It was during his time in Tennessee that his medical practice started to blossom. He had difficulty making an income, but the plantation owners permitted him to operate on afflicted slaves. His keen desire was the correction of deformities and through this “golden opportunity”, he gained wide and practical experience which would make him one of the first in America to correct clubfoot and perform other difficult types of orthopedic surgery. He was deeply touched by the evils of slavery and the cruelness that some of them won his sympathy.

A plantation owner once sent him a ham and sack of dried apples for saving the mangled leg of one of his favorite slaves. Some time later, he happened to find the master in the act of whipping the slave he once saved. Walter grabbed the master violently, breaking his arm in the process, threw him to the ground and then grabbed the whip to unmercifully thrash him with it. He lost all compassion for the man and refused to set the broken arm. He was threatened by the owner’s son but he wisely escaped the scene. He quickly made his way back to Pittsburgh. This was where he settled down, got married and established his practice for many years until his death.

The 134th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment was organized at the state capitol in Harrisburg, PA, August, 1862 and became part of the Army of the Potomac. Most of the men had no prior military service. Some had served in the Mexican–American War, but many were fresh recruits. After being trained at Camp Curtin, they were moved to Washington D.C. on August 20, 1862, following the Confederate advance on the capital during the Northern Virginia Campaign. After one day at Washington, they were moved to Arlington Heights, where they engaged in drill and other duties. They joined a brigade with the 91st, 126th, and 129th Pennsylvania regiments, under the command of General Erastus B. Tyler. It was here that the organization of the regiment was completed. For the field officers, Matthew Quay of Beaver County was commissioned as colonel, Edward O'Brien of Lawrence County as lieutenant colonel, and John M. Thompson of Butler County as major.

On August 30, the 134th marched towards Manassas, Virginia, but arrived too late to participate in the Second Battle of Bull Run. The men returned to camp and were put in the defenses. On September 13, Tyler's Brigade, as part of the Third Division, V Corps, marched towards South Mountain in central Maryland. It arrived near Sharpsburg, Maryland, on the 18th, but had arrived too late to participate in the Battle of Antietam.

During the night of the 18th, the Confederate army withdrew into Virginia. Until September 30, the regiment remained near Sharpsburg and drilled. During this time, Colonel Quay was caught typhoid fever and O'Brien took command. In November, the regiment moved to Fredericksburg, Virginia, where it went into camp.

In early December, Quay was forced to resign due to his disease and O'Brien was promoted to colonel, Thompson to lieutenant colonel, and Captain William H. Shaw to major. The 134th fought in the Battle of Fredericksburg on December 13, losing 14 killed, 106 wounded, and 19 missing. Despite his illness, Quay volunteered to serve as an aide to General Tyler throughout the battle, for which he would receive a Medal of Honor in 1888.

The regiment fought in the Battle of Chancellorsville from May 1 to 3 1863, on the left flank of the Union army. Total casualties were 48 men killed, wounded, and missing. The enlistments of the men expired soon after the battle, and the 134th was mustered out in Harrisburg on May 26, 1863.

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