The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Lifestyle

May 10, 2013

Surgeon: Stonewall Jackson death likely pneumonia

(Continued)

Pneumonia was common in the Civil War, becoming the third most fatal disease for soldiers.

Jackson is the subject of an annual conference Friday at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore that reviews medical diagnoses of historical figures. In the past, researchers have reviewed the deaths of Alexander the Great, Edgar Allan Poe and Abraham Lincoln, among others.

DuBose is a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute, where Jackson was a professor before the Civil War. A large statue of Jackson stands near the campus barracks. So, his legacy and death were ingrained in DuBose's experience as a cadet.

Jackson was shot by soldiers from the 18th North Carolina regiment in a moment of confusion. He had led a surprise attack in the Battle of Chancellorsville in Virginia, and the Confederates drove Union forces back about three miles. Civil War historian James I. Robertson Jr. recounts that Jackson wasn't satisfied and rode out at night to review the enemy's position. When he rode back, he was shot by his own soldiers.

Then, being dropped during a frantic nighttime rescue may well have contributed to Jackson's death, DuBose found.

"If he had been dropped and had a pulmonary contusion, or bruise of the lung, it creates an area of the lung that doesn't clear secretions real well, and it can be a focus that pneumonia can start in," DuBose said. "That's probably what happened in this particular instance."

DuBose, a U.S. Air Force veteran, said pulmonary embolism — a blockage of the major blood vessel in the lung — still occurs in nearly 6 percent of combat casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is even more common among those who have amputations, as Jackson did.

Still, the debate will continue over Jackson's death.

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