1864: Lincoln General Hospital Patient to Zachariah Philip Dennler

I could not find an image f Zachariah but here is a CDV of Asst. Surgeon Edson E. Boyd of the 112th N. Y. Infantry holding a Medical Service sword.

This letter was written by an unidentified patient of the Lincoln General Hospital that was located at East Capitol and 15th Streets in Washington D. C. It was opened in December 1862 and was the largest of the military hospitals built by the army to take care of Civil War casualties. It was located on Capitol Hill, 15 blocks east of the Capitol building.

The unidentified patient of the hospital addressed the letter to Dr. Zachariah Philip Dennler (1838-1890), the son of Rev. Philip H. Dennler of Lyons, Wayne county, New York. Rev. Dennler was a Lutheran minister from Germany. He married Jane E. Moore of Rheinbeck, Dutchess county, New York. Zachariah was an 1862 graduate of the Geneva Medical College and served as an asst. surgeon with the 10th New York Heavy Artillery from 29 August 1863 until 3 April 1864 and then later in 1865-66 with the 7th USCT.

It should be noted that Dr. Dennler’s medical probe was claimed to have been used to extract the bullet from President Lincoln’s brain. This claim appears in the book, Maple Grove Cemetery (p. 88) authored by Nancy Cataldi in 2006 though the source for this claim is not given, nor can I find any other independent source to corroborate it. It isn’t clear where or what Dr. Dennler was doing at the time of Lincoln’s death which was a couple of months before Dennler signed on with the 7th USCT. Three separate obituary notices for Dr. Dennler in 1890 fail to mention the “probe” claim. Further, the National Museum of American History claims that the surgical instruments used at Lincoln’s Autopsy belonged to Dr. Alfred D. Wilson. See also: Visible Proofs.


Lincoln General Hospital
B. B. Ward 8
October 6, 1864

Dr. Dennler

We your former patients hope you will use your influence towards getting Patrick Cooper to his company. He is disgracing us here by getting drunk and exposing himself. We fear that through his meanness, we who are sick will lose the good will of the doctor of this ward. The other day he got drunk and commenced to tell what a mean man you are. He says your ward is not to be relied on. He told John Sheridan that you never would get his discharge because your ward was not trustworthy. And he says he don’t believe that ever meant to give the rest of us passes.

When he was drunk he began to tell how they used to water the tea in the cook house and how you and Dr. Russell lived on hospital rations, and that there was three hundred dollars saved in the cook house one month.

We hope you will write to the doctor and have him sent to his company for we are ashamed of him. He is mad with you because you did not give him a furlough or a discharge.

John Sheridan can tell you how he talked about you and how you tried to get a Major’s position and failed in the attempt.

Please do not tell him that you received any letter because this is written to you in friendship by one who will always respect and admire you for your kindness to him when sick. The doctor here is going to give us all papers to go home till after the election.

Believe me that you have the undivided esteem of all of us your former patients.

The doctor in charge of this ward is Thomas R. Sewall

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