Henry J. Churchman Pension Testimony
July 6, 1877

Henry J. Churchman gives testimony as to his war-related injuries and illnesses in order to obtain a pension. 

Invalid Claim.

231, 372.

Hon. J. A. Bentley—

Commissioner Pensions:

     Would respectfully state that since the reception of forms 58 & 59 transmitted June 11th, I have been closely confined to my room by reason of my inflamed bladder and inflamed left kidney, both sequelae of the original urethral stricture contracted in the service of the U.S. and in the line of duty.

But for this recent suffering, I should have sooner answered the papers before mentioned.

1st. “The affidavit of a commissioned officer of claimant’s company, or regiment, which should state when & where and the circumstances under which the alleged urethral stricture was contracted &c.”

2. I reply, “Such testimony can not be obtained” and the reasons I will give: As Surgeon U.S. Vols, I was “Surgeon in Chief” (or Medical director) of the 4th Division 17th A.C. from Atlanta Ga. to Goldsboro N.C. between which points of travel my stricture was formed as stated in a previous communication by the riding of a rough horse furnished by the division quartermaster—(see that paper for details.).

My duties as Medical director on such a rapid march as Genl. Sherman’s (as all know who were on it) wholly precluded consultation upon this malady.

I surely was not contemplating application for pension (as the effort of today attests) or I might possibly have taken certain precautionary measures with this in view. With no expectancy of permanent disability, or such results, or even asking a pension, the natural delicacy that belongs to such a malady would tend to restrain one from undue exposure, or revelation and particularly when I was yet able to discharge the duties of my office. But again, to whom could I go for relief under such circumstances? There was not a surgeon in the 17th S.C. who knew anything comparatively about the nature and treatment of this disease-had the skill or opportunity of treatment on such a march; nay more, there was not an instrument in our whole outfit adapted to such treatment.

Neither you nor I nor any other sensible man would have submitted to treatment-even had there been opportunity-to such bunglers as we had.

Urinary surgery is but little understood even by the best men in this country and almost not all by ordinary practitioners. Again, the stricture was developed towards the latter part of the travel mentioned—more fully as we approached Goldsboro, N.C. where I was taken ill with bilious fever. I mentioned in my previous communication how often on the route I was made to dismount to urinate and my entreaty of the quartermaster for an easier-going animal-(Please see that paper again).

A case of stricture occurring with one under such circumstances is wholly different from a case of fractured limb or gunshot wound whose date of injury and all attending circumstances may be easily established. From Goldsboro N. C. I was taken to Newbern N.C. General Hospital where I was for a very short time suffering from dysentery while convalescing also from fever. At neither place was I in any suitable condition for treatment because of the dysentery & bilious fever; besides at New bern N.C. the hospital was rapidly breaking up at the time. Thence I was taken to David’s Island Gen. Hospital, Long Island Sound where I remained a very short while convalescing—when I left for Louisville, Ky. where together with the whole 17th A.C. I was mustered out of service. I was mustered out I think about the 22d July 1865 (papers previously sent will show).

            What I have already stated answers paragraph 2d in form No. 58 as to the Surgeons or Assistant Surgeon’s affidavit as to treatment of urethral stricture while in the service. I now turn to form 59 and shall reply to both 1st & 2nd paragraph in the remarks I may make without referring to them again in detail:

I never had a family or a family physician, but I have proven (or endeavored to prove by the sworn testimony of Dr. Joseph Robbins of Quincy, Illinois, a pension examiner of high standing and the leading Mason of the State that he and I lived in the same town (Quincy Ill.) for two years immediately preceding my entering the service practicing medicine and that for a long time before the very day I enlisted the service) we boarded at same hotel (and he might have said at same table meanwhile); that we were intimately acquainted and that he does not think it possible for me to have been troubled with urethral stricture without his having known it. Again the Board of Medical Examiners at St. Louis before whom I stood my examination were satisfied as to my physical soundness. This alone should be satisfactory. But again, at Fayetteville, AK. I roomed and slept and ate at same table for about two and a half months from about the 20th Dec 1862 to the latter part of February (or 1st March) with Dr. Seymour D. Carpenter, then Assistant Surgeon U.S. Vols very soon afterwards surgeon US Vol and you have his sworn testimony that he knew of no such malady and that in his opinion it is wholly improbable I had such. My Commission was dated Oct. 4th 1862. I entered service early in Nov for the reason that I did not receive orders till then owing to some oversight at Washington D.C. And now four months afterwards, A Medical officer of high standing with whom I had eaten roomed and slept for two and a half months &with whom I was as intimate as with a brother & in daily active service swears to the same points as Dr. Robbins. ‘Tis wholly unreasonable to entertain a doubt as to my freedom from stricture up to my entrance into the U.S. Service[.] 

Now to the 2d paragraph: I was discharged July 22d I think about the middle of August I was at Cedar Rapids, Iowa at Dr. Seymour D. Carpenter’s eight weeks & subsequently for nearly six mo’s in same town & was probably seen by him nearly every day (not professionally). Dr. Carpenter (same who was an Army Surgeon) swears that I was suffering from urinary trouble (believes I was—was told so). While sojourning at his house in August 1865 I went to Chicago to consult Dr. Dan Brainard since dead for apprehended stone—was much as I had passed some small portions wh[ich]. had formed behind my stricture. (see Dr. Cs Statement—you have it—I have not)—With greatest difficulty—& much hemorrhage he introduced his smallest sound—finding no stone—were he living he might testify to my stricture perhaps. From this time up to my leaving in February 1866 (Cedar Rapid I mean) and whilst I lived in Chillicothe, Missouri I treated myself finding no one else in either place mentioned who knew any thing more about my case or disease than myself. While in Chillicothe, Missouri, from about June 1866 to February 9th 1869 I was suffering from same cause as the affidavit of Doctors McArthur, Williams and May shew. (You have their affidavit) My stricture was traumatic and difficult to manage as the failure of Dr. Joseph Pancoast Phil’a Shews. Had I my time to go over again with the knowledge gained by experience I should at an earlier date put myself under some skillful surgeon of known repute in the [geints?]—urinary department—but I did not; not then knowing them. When I went into Dr. Joseph Pancoast’s hands (Feby 1869) I tho’t I was doing the very best thing I could but ‘twas a sad mistake; for were it not for his blunders my bladder would not have become inflamed. “One’s hind sight is far better than his fore sight” was a frequent saying of one our most distinguished men— About the 13th February 1869, I was in the hands of Dr. Jos. Pancoast, Phila’. With whom I remained till the 20th May following. I then visited Virginia (my father’s home) and remained till November following still under his treatment by correspondence. I then returned to Phil’a and was under his care till about the 25th Decr (nearly two mos.). He failed utterly to relieve my stricture. I returned to Virginia and remained till May (8th or 10th) 1870 when by the advice of my old friends Drs. Cabell & Davis (University Va.) I put myself under Dr. John W. S. Gouley’s care New York City—under whose treatment I was for about 18mos—from May 10th 1870 to November 1871.

Please see statements of both Dr. Pancoast and Dr. Gouley wh. you have; would have asked affidavits of them with seals of State appended but you know how difficult it is to get such men to go out of their way to do such things. I did the best I could with [this]. 

Before leaving New York in Novr 1871, I consulted Drs. Willard Parker, Wm. H.Van Buren and James R. Wood but they had nothing in addition to offer that was satisfactory to me—for the care of my then chronic cystitis. Dr. Gouley had stated on my first interview that he could not cure the cystitis. He did by the aid of steel sounds and Sir H. Thompson’s divalsor divulse my stricture which was very tight and obstinate up to no. 18 of his Scale wh. is nearly 20 of American Scale. Stricture was from half an inch to three quarters of an inch long & in membranous urethra. When I went into Pancoast’s hands (Feby 13th 1869) I had no cystitis that I can remember (—or it may have been very slight); ‘twas his failure to dilate or divulse that caused chronic cystitis to be already established in May 1870 when I applied to Dr Gouley— In November 1871, I returned to Staunton and practiced upon the advice given me by Dr Gouley— introduced my sounds regularly—kept my room and lived on lightest diet and still corresponded with Dr Gouley about my case up to June 1875. Dr. Fauntleroy of Staunton one most eminent surgeon in the Valley of Va. and a brother in law of the present Surgeon Genl U.S.A. often kindly visited me from 1871 to 1875 but had but little to offer. With regard to cystotomy as a method of cure in the winter of 1874-5, I consulted Drs Paul Eve and Briggs of Nashville; Dr Powell of Chicago; Dr Massey of Cinncinnatti; Dr Hodgen, St. Louis; Dr. Nathan R. Smith, Baltimore; Dr S. D. Gross Phil’a and Drs Van Buren, James R. Wood, Willard Parker, and Frank Hamilton and Dr Gouley of New York City. For reasons I needn’t state, I declined the operation. In April 1875, I heard of the nitrate silver treatment (strong solutions from 4 to 10 yrs to the ounce of water therein into bladder as practiced by Dr John Peter Mettauer D.D. L.L.D. of Prince Edward County, Virginia. Before submitting to it, I consulted by letter most all of the eminent surgeons above given and Profs. Mackor & Alfred Post of N.J. and Prof. Hayes Agnew, Phil’a—Profs Cabell & Davis University Va. Prof. Hunter McGuire of Richmond & many others—respecting it. In June 1875, when I was up to urinate every 40 min – or less night & day, I went into Dr. Mettauer’s hands. In November 1875, he died—aged 88 years. By this treatment following since his death as this best &c—I have been much improved, my bladder having been made able to retain urine from 3 to 5 hours according according as I am still in the contrary. Still my urine deposits much pus & I suffer much pain in my stricture—kept [....] passing over it &c; suffer much pain in my loins & back—being unable to walk any distance because of pain or to lift any thing—suffer much at times from urinary fever—have been wholly unable for twelve years to attend to any active business. For the past 3 or 4 weeks my left kidney has been suffering from pyelitis—the result of extension of inflammation from bladder & I have been closely confined to my room. Please consider Dr. Fauntleroy’s affidavit wh. you have; he has been cognizant of all that has been going on in my case since 1869. His affidavit was so recently sent to you—if I thought you wanted any thing more from him in detail at present than he has already given in his recent affidavit I would have him examine me and send you a fuller statement.

Ever since Gouley divulsed me I have been using large sounds to keep the stricture well dilated. I am [watching?] myself closely and leading a quiet life. I can’t stand long upon my feet at a time. The discharge from my bladder chiefly pusculent has made me impotent ever since May 1870—I have not had a perfect erection since that time. I apprehend seeing difficult from my kidneys.

I fear I will not long survive the bestowment of my pension. In closing, I would remark that not until recently (except in 1866 I think when I consulted Dr Robbins, pension examiner, by letter—abandoning the idea soon after) have I thought seriously of applying for a pension. At the distance of twelve years it is not easy to establish all points.

I ask you to consider the certificate you have of my moral standing—my veracity. I have been a communicant of the Prot Epis. Church for nearly 27 years—no man can place his finger upon a dishonorable act in my whole life.

I went from Virginia in May 1860 & went into the Federal Service in 1862—worked most faithfully as all my testimonials will attest; was the only one of our family on the Union side-have suffered much in various ways since then because of the pact enacted by one born in Va.—I am now a cripple for life—have been for twelve long years and not till now have I undertaken to ask sympathy of the Government I defended.

Respectfully Submitted,

Henry J. Churchman {Seal}




Pension Records for Henry J. Churchman, RG15, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.