Birth Date: October 11, 1835
Birth Place: Winchester, Virginia
Date of Death: September 19, 1900
Location of Death: Richmond, Virginia
Education: Winchester Medical College
Military Experience: United States Civil War
Major Battles: Served as a surgeon in the Army of Northern Virginia throughout the Civil War
Awards/Medals/Promotions: Enlisted as a private Company F, 2d Virginia Infantry regiment (1861), brigade surgeon (1861), chief surgeon, 2d Corps, Army of Northern Virginia (1862)
Hunter Holmes McGuire was born on October 11, 1835 in Winchester, Virginia. The third of seven children born to Hugh and Ann McGuire, young Hunter was known to spend much time with his father who was a prominent eye surgeon. Inevitably this made a strong impression on the son who would study medicine at Winchester Medical College, graduating in 1855. Moving to Philadelphia, to continue his medical education, he would return home when hostilities became inevitable during the secession crisis.
After returning to Winchester, McGuire would enlist as a private in the Winchester Rifles. Upon mustering into Confederate service, in April 1861, his unit would be designated Company F, 2d Virginia Infantry regiment. Assembled in Charles Town the regiment was quickly moved to Harper’s Ferry where it would be brigaded with four other Virginia infantry regiments and the Rockbridge Artillery. The brigade was commanded by a relatively unknown brigadier general, Thomas J. Jackson. With the growth of the Confederate army, surgeons were highly sought after and McGuire would quickly be promoted full surgeon on July 15, 1861, reporting directly to Jackson. His services would be needed quickly as Jackson’s brigade, which was part of the Army of the Shenandoah, would be sent to reinforce Brigadier General P.G.T. Beauregard’s Army of the Potomac at Manassas, Virginia. There, on July 21, 1861, the first major battle of the Civil War fought. The First Battle of Manassas (known as Bull Run in the North) was a deadly affair resulting in nearly 4,900 combined casualties. This would keep McGuire, and his team of surgeons, busy for an extensive period of time.
Over the next twenty-two months McGuire would command the medical department assigned to Jackson’s command. With Jackson’s promotion to lieutenant general, commanding the 2d Corps Army of Northern Virginia, prior to the Battle of Fredericksburg, McGuire would receive promotion to chief surgeon of the corps. Ironically, McGuire would become most well known for amputating Jackson’s left arm after the general was wounded by friendly fire at the Battle of Chancellorsville in May 1863 – an injury which would ultimately lead to Jackson’s death on May 10. McGuire remained with Jackson until his death, recording Jackson’s last words, “Let us cross over the river and rest beneath the shade of the trees.”
McGuire continued his service with the 2d Corps for the remainder of the war, serving under generals Richard S. Ewell and Jubal A. Early. He would witness the destruction of battle first hand and would suffer the anguish of losing his close friend, Lieutenant Colonel Sandie Pendleton (Third Winchester, September 22, 1864) and his brother, Hugh, who was mortally wounded in 1865. On March 2, 1865 McGuire was captured at Waynesboro, Virginia with the majority of Early’s 2d Corps. Federal Major General Philip Sheridan would parole him for his generous treatment of Union surgeons captured while tending to their patients. He would return to General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia and would surrender to US Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865.(i)
After the Civil War, McGuire settled in Richmond, Virginia and continued to practice medicine – often treating Confederate soldiers for no cost. A lifelong admirer of Stonewall Jackson, he would often give speeches about his commander and published several articles about his times serving with the legendary commander. Besides his practice, McGuire also chaired the surgery department at the Medical College of Virginia. He was active in many organizations and was president of the American Medical Association. Recognizing the need for quality nurses he founded St. Luke’s Hospital and Training School for Nurses. McGuire would marry Mary Stuart and father ten children, one of which, Stuart, followed in his father’s footsteps becoming a noted physician. McGuire died on September 19, 1900 from complications of a cerebral embolism.
I leave you with a couple of quotes regarding McGuire which appear on Jennifer Goellnitz’s site, Stonewall’s Surgeon:
“When people needed to talk, he listened. Those who knew him said Dr. Hunter McGuire made you feel like the most important person in the world.” – John W. Schildt, from his biography on McGuire
“Make not patients of your friends – but friends of your patients.” – Hunter McGuire
(i) See Jennifer Goellnitz’s wonderful biography on McGuire: http://www.huntermcguire.goellnitz.org/biography.html