Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

William Bell: photographed injured veterans

William Bell was a veteran of the American Civil War who fought at Antietam and Gettysburg, and became chief photographer of the Army Medical Museum in Washington. He took photographs of injured soldiers as part of a project to document the range of injuries among veterans. On the left, the solider is cleverly posed in front of a mirror to display both the entry and exit of the bullet that had perforated his ileal bone. On the right is the excised knee joint of Private Gardiner Louis with a musket ball contained in it.

Bell’s work was an important start for the field of military medicine, as it allowed physicians to see the types of wounds soldiers received as well as assessing ways to care for those wounds. His extensive field experience later led him to work as photographer for the Pennsylvania railroad and on an expedition to Patagonia.


Photograph of injured Civil War soldier in front of a mirror Photograph of knee joint with musket ball inside.
Major H. A. Barnum, Recovery After a Penetrating Gunshot Wound of the Abdomen with Perforation of the Left Ilium by William Bell. 1865. from the Photographic Catalogue of the Surgical Section. Smithsonian American Art Museum. Excised Knee Joint. A Round Musket Ball in the Inner Condyle of the Right Femur by William Bell. 1866–67. Metropolitan Museum of Art. Public Domain.



Highlighted Vignette Volume 13, Issue 1 – Winter 2021

Fall 2019  |  Sections  |  War & Veterans

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