Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Son of a Gun?

Darwins! you ask. What is there to laugh about in this vale of tears?

Well. Tonight, going through books in the library, we came across a photocopied article tucked into a book of ethnographical studies of Mississippi. It recounted the fabulous story, related by a Confederate doctor, of a minie ball fired during a battle near Vicksburg, which passed through both an unfortunate soldier and a hapless young lady in such a fashion as to result, 278 days later, in a bouncing baby boy.

How common it is now-a-days, and how natural, too, for men to tell wonderful stories about "the war"; their desperate charges; hair-breadth escapes; numbers who have fallen victims to their feats of personal valor, etc., etc. Then every surgeon has performed any number of wonderful operations before unheard of in the annals of surgery!

Until the present moment, I have refrained from bringing before the public, and more particularly the Profession, any of my daring exploits or remarkable surgical procedures; and even now I feel a delicacy in offering the remarkable case, the relation of which is prompted only by a sense of duty to my professional brethren. Doubtless many will pronounce the facts to be presently related as unusual or impossible; to such I need only say, if not, why not?...

...Just two hundred and seventy-eight days from the date of the receipt of the wound by the minnie ball, I delivered this same young lady of a fine boy, weighing eight pounds. I was not very much surprised; but imagine the surprise and mortification of the young lady herself, her entire family. This can be better imagined than described. Although I found the hymen intact in my examination before delivery, I gave no credence to the earnest and oft-repeated assertions of the young lady of her innocence and virgin purity.

About three weeks from the date of this remarkable birth, I was called to see the child, the grandmother insisting there was "something wrong about the genitals." Examination revealed an enlarged, swollen, sensitive scrotum, containing on the right side a hard, roughened substance, evidently foreign. I decided upon operating for its removal at once, and in so doing, extracted from the scrotum a minnie ball, mashed and battered as if it had met in its flight some hard, unyielding substance.

To attempt to picture my astonishment would be impossible! What may already seem very plain to my readers, as they glance over this paper, was, to me, at the time, mysterious. It was only after several days and nights of sleepless reflection that a solution flashed before me, and ever since has appeared as clear as the noon-day sun!

"What is it?" The ball I took from the scrotum of the babe was the identical one which, on the 12th of May, shattered the tibia of my young friend, and in its mutilated condition, plunged through his testicle, carrying with it particles of semen and spermatozoa into the abdomen of the young lady, then through her left ovary, and into the uterus, in this manner impregnating her! There can be no other solution of the phenomenon! These convictions I expressed to the family, and, at their solicitations, visited my young soldier friend, laying the case before him in its proper light. At first, most naturally, he appeared skeptical, but concluded to visit the young mother. Whether convinced or not, he soon married her, ere the little boy had attained his fourth month.

As a matter of additional interest, I may mention having received a letter during the past year, reporting a happy married state and three children, but neither resembling, to the same marked degree, as the first -- our hero -- Pater familias!

I leave the state of hilarity that ensued to your own fertile imaginations.

Snopes debunks it
-- naturally -- and also links to the 1874 medical journal article that spawned the furor, as well as the journal's follow-up notice, published two weeks later, that the original piece had been a joke.


Emily J. said...

Aw, I might've believed it if that part about the minnie ball in the scrotum of the baby weren't added in. Stranger things.

Most recently in my adopted state, new Confederate dead have been discovered in the Vicksburg cemetary. Apparently, after a WWII veteran's recent death, the plot he had reserved and paid for some time ago was opened and found occupied by an unknown soldier. Other plots were subsequently scanned and at least 14 unidentified bodies have been found. Only 50 graves are left at this cemetary for war veterans.

I wouldn't have bored y'all with this story, except you seem like history buffs.

Calah said...

I actually heard this story in high school, except (unless my memory is badly damaged, and I think it isn't) back then a certain teacher presented it to us as a true story.

And I'm ashamed to say we believed her. Biology wasn't high on the strong points at my high school.

Anonymous said... This one, however, is likely true, and an amusingly written medical article to boot.

Anonymous said...

There is a MythBusters on this--check it out :)

BettyDuffy said...

I really thought the minnie ball was going to end up a reference to that Babe's testicle.

John Henry said...

Ha - had never heard of that legend. We just drove through Vicksburg, MS last night as part of the trek back east, fortunately without the occurrence of a similar incident.

CMinor said...

And I thought I'd heard 'em all. It should give would-be pranksters pause to consider how such stories have legs. They should have at least held off publishing until the April 1 issue! Thanks for the laugh!

The British Journal article was veddy interesting, but come on! What are the odds? Not published April 1, either. I looked it up on alt. folklore, the Randi Foundation and Snopes and nobody seems to have debunked it. The author and journal seem to exist. The alt. folklore and Randi discussions are very recent (yesterday and today,) but the mention on Snopes is dated 2002 so reportage on this story isn't of recent vintage. The "incident" was in Lesotho, so tracking down good independent verification might be tricky, esp as the article is dated late '80's. So I
can't debunk--but absent more evidence than the one article I ain't buyin' it!