Civil War Amputee Ended Up a Minister, Husband and Father

Though he lived only to age 29, Alfred A. Stratton led a full life.

Alfred A. Stratton
Alfred A. Stratton called to have his photographs taken in 1869. Many amputees sold their photos to support themselves.
Image reprinted with permission from the National Museum of Health and Medicine, AFIP, (SP 262) or (NCP 3451).

The loss of both arms in the Civil War did not prevent Alfred A. Stratton from becoming a minister of the gospel, a husband and a father.

But it did shorten his life. Stratton died at age 29, reportedly from consumption, which doctors said was connected to his war wounds.

Archived visions

Stratton was a 19-year-old private in Company G of the 147th New York Infantry, when “both arms [were] carried away by a solid cannon shot from the defences in front of Petersburg [Va.] on June 18, 1864,” according to an old document in the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Washington, D.C.

The facility was founded during the Civil War as the Army Medical Museum. Stratton, according to the old document, “called at the… [museum], in good health, on Dec. 24, 1869, to have his photograph taken.”

The photos were used for medical purposes. They also were displayed at the museum and exhibited in other cities.

In addition, amputees such as Stratton had their photos reprinted as carte-de-visites – mass-produced photo cards – and sold the pictures to help raise money to support themselves. Perhaps no image was more heart-rending than Stratton’s.

There are reportedly at least seven photos of him. In one he is stripped to the waist, clearly showing his residual limbs. Both arms were missing from just below the shoulders.

Civilian again

Other records in the National Museum of Health and Medicine show that Stratton joined the 147th New York Infantry in August 1863, after the regiment helped the Union army win the battle of Gettysburg. Stratton had been a blacksmith in Jamestown, N.Y.

In June, 1864, Union forces under Gen. Ulysses S. Grant besieged Gen. Robert E. Lee’s army at Petersburg, near Richmond, the Confederate capital. Fighting was fierce.

Lee knew if Grant won at Petersburg, Richmond could not be defended. But not until April 1865, was Grant able to capture Richmond and Petersburg and force Lee to surrender at Appomattox, Va., effectively ending the Civil War. By then, Stratton was a civilian again, “pensioned at twenty-five dollars per month and supplied with artificial limbs of Grinnell’s make,” the old document says.

A full life

Alfred A. Stratton
The photos were initially used for medical purposes. Later they were displayed at the Army Medical Museum.
Image reprinted with permission from the National Museum of Health and Medicine, AFIP, (SP 262) or (NCP 3451).

Stratton’s wounds were nearly fatal.

“The projectile struck both limbs about the elbow, tearing off the forearms, and greatly lacerating the soft parts above the elbow,” the document says. “Cordials [liqueurs] were given, and immediate amputation of both arms was performed by surgeon A.S. Coe, 147th New York Volunteers.”

Afterwards, Stratton was transferred to City Point (now Hopewell), Va., the main supply base for Grant’s campaign against Petersburg and Richmond.

“On June 28, he was sent to the Second Division Alexandria [Va.] Hospital, both wounds progressing very favorably,” according to the document. “The stumps rapidly cicatrized [formed scars], and on Oct. 3, 1864, he was discharged from the service.”

Stratton also was photographed in New York, where he married in 1865 and became the father of a son and a daughter. He was pastor of Washington Street Episcopal Church in Brooklyn before being named rector of the Epiphany Episcopal Church in Washington. He died in 1874.

Berry Craig is a correspondent for O&P Business News.

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