Month: August 2010

The Bullet Boy: a wonderful piece of apocryphal Americana

This is Dr. LeGrand G. Capers.

He was the author, in 1874, of a trivial piece of medical minutae published under the title “Attention Gynaecologists! Notes from the Diary of a Field and Hospital Surgeon, C.S.A.” In this essay, he spun a tale of such ostentation that it captivated American oddity-seekers for over a hundred years, being reprinted as fact in medical journals and compendiums of the unusual alike.

Capers claimed that during the civil war, he treated a young Mississippi belle, a sweet, virginal teenager who had somehow managed to become pregnant despite what Dr. Capers insisted was an obviously unbroken hymen. After some consideration, he pieced together a story offered as explanation in a Louisville, Kentucky-based journal called The American Medical Weekly.

The case, as described in the Old Farmer’s Almanac.

Containing unlikely love, a bizarre coincidence, and the Civil War, the story spread and was widely reported as true, although Capers later claimed he’d created it as a “satire upon folk-stories.” His additional to American lore was still being passed off as fact as recently as the 1970s, when the admittedly drug-addled and new agey editors of The People’s Almanac included it in one of their books of lists, among other stories of unusual births.

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