By Kristen M. Trout ’15
German immigrant Lorenzo Stocker enlisted in the 40th Pennsylvania Regiment of Volunteers in September 1861 in response to President Lincoln’s call for 75,000 troops. Private Stocker was one of the 800 Pennsylvania-Germans who enlisted in the regiment at Camp Worth in West Philadelphia. The regiment, which would be called the 75th Pennsylvania Regiment after the reorganization of the Army of the Potomac, participated in the battles of Cross Keys, Second Manassas, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Chattanooga, Missionary Ridge, and Knoxville.
According to the medical records from the Army of the Potomac’s Medical Corps, Private Stocker was “Healthy until wounded at Gettysburg.” At Gettysburg during the late afternoon of July 1, 1863, the 75th Pennsylvania, under Brigadier General Francis C. Barlow’s First Division of the Eleventh Corps, advanced upon Brigadier General George Dole’s Brigade at Barlow’s Knoll. During this assault, Pvt. Stocker was wounded in the left bicep while aiming his gun.
Pvt. Stocker would soon be taken to the Eleventh Corps’s field hospital at the George Spangler Farm. The surgeon had trouble understanding his accent, demonstrated in the records, where he wrote Pvt. Stocker’s name as “Laurence Shacker.” However, the surgeon had clear observations of Stocker’s wound. The wound was called by small arms fire, where the bullet entered the biceps and exited one-inch higher. The surgeon noted that Stocker bled greatly, but felt little pain until he arrived at the Spangler Farm hospital.
An interesting aspect of Pvt. Stockers’s records was that the surgeon did not amputate his left arm, the most common procedure to treat severe wounds in the Civil War. Instead, the doctor worked on Stocker for weeks at the Camp Letterman hospital by burning the wound to excrete the pus around it, due to suppuration. The median nerve in his left arm was injured from the wound, in which he lost flexion in his hand and wrist. Even more so, the doctor wrote, “It is a burning darning pain now better but increased by pressure on any part of the median nerve below wound.” Pvt. Stocker lost movement and feeling in his lower arm only temporarily. To stimulate the median nerve again, the doctor used a relatively new procedure for the time, an “electric test.” The test was a nerve conduction study with a nerve galvanometer, or a shock machine. The machine was held inside a wood box, and was contained a coil, metal lining, and two sponges attached to the coil. The electricity was conducted through the coil and would travel to the sponges, which were placed on the specific body part.
The medical procedures performed on Pvt. Lorenzo Stocker allowed his physical wounds to heal. According to his military records, Pvt. Stocker was honorably discharged on October 1, 1864 at the expiration of his enlistment term. He would go on to serve with the 75th Pennsylvania at Chattanooga, Missionary Ridge, and Knoxville. A monument to the 75th Pennsylvania on the Gettysburg battlefield, erected in 1888 by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, is located along Howard Avenue, where the regiment began their assault on Barlow’s Knoll.
Medical Records of Lorenzo Stocker, Courtesy of Mütter Museum, Philadelphia.
Blaufox, M. Donald. “Electricity.” Museum of Historical Medical Artifacts.
“Monument to the 75th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment.” Stone Sentinels.
“75th Regiment of the Pennsylvania Civil War Volunteers.” Pennsylvania Civil War Volunteer Soldiers. (accessed March 16, 2013).