I Ought to Have Died: Captain Lu Drury Survives A Ghastly Chest Wound

The echoes of Chickamauga still reverberated through the woods in Georgia when the Janesville Daily Gazette in Wisconsin reported sad news from the front. "We regret to learn from telegraphic dispatches that Captain Lu H. Drury of the 3rd Wisconsin Battery and chief of artillery on Van Cleve's staff, has been dangerously wounded in the bowels by a sharpshooter." This type of news often was soon followed by an announcement that the soldier had died; abdominal wounds during the war so often proving fatal. 

    But despite all odds, Captain Drury survived and by mid-October, he had made his way back to Nashville, Tennessee where the army correspondent of the Cincinnati Gazette told the full story of his wounding at Lee & Gordon's Mills nearly a week before Chickamauga.

Captain Lucius H. Drury of the 3rd Wisconsin Battery served as General Horatio P. Van Cleve's chief of artillery and chief of scouts during the Chickamauga campaign, he was nearly killed when a Confederate bullet penetrated his chest and lodged between two of his ribs. "It was supposed that my liver was perforated but a man that has "pluck" can get along with a liver!" Drury stated. The "plucky" captain would go on to be the major of the 1st Wisconsin Heavy Artillery after mustering out after his three-year term with the 3rd Wisconsin Battery. 

          “Captain Lu. H. Drury, chief of artillery on General Van Cleve’s staff and chief of scouts, came on the train with us,” the Gazette reported. “He received his wound on the 13th while the brigade was forming its line of battle to confront a portion of Buckner’s corps. The gallant captain was just bringing his artillery into position when one of the enemy’s sharpshooters sent a ball right through his body. The ball struck the soft hollow one feels just below and in advance of the right breast and it passed out within less than three inches of the spine. Subsequent facts would seem to indicate that the leaden messenger found its way through the plethoric captain without lacerating liver, stomach, or lungs. But how it did so will long be a marvel!”

          Shortly thereafter, a letter direct from Captain Drury arrived in Wisconsin, a few days behind the telegraphic dispatches. Writing from a hospital on the north bank of the Tennessee River near Chattanooga on October 8th, Captain Drury stated that his “wound is doing remarkably well and as soon as Forrest gets through playing the devil with the railroad, I shall start home. The surgeons of the army are having a nice little time over my wound. They say that by all the rules of surgery and anatomy I ought to have died in three to four hours, and some of them, the most enthusiastic in their profession, are indignant because I can’t see it.

          I was struck about an inch from the center of my body about three inches below the right nipple, the ball lodging between two of the ribs and about three inches from the spine. An incision was made in my back and the ball removed with forceps. It is supposed that my liver was perforated but a man that has “pluck” can get along without a liver!

Four guns placed depicting the gun line of the 3rd Wisconsin Battery near the southern edge of the Chickamauga battlefield. The battery, equipped with four 10-pdr Parrott rifles and two 12-pdr howitzers, went into action around 1:30 on the afternoon of September 19th under the command of Lieutenant Cortland Livingston. Captain Lu Drury suffered his wound nearly a week before in preliminary fighting a few miles south near Lee & Gordon's Mill. 
(Author's Collection)

          But enough about the subscriber! The army is in bully condition and if the crackers hold out not all the troops in the Confederacy can start our boys from the entrenchments which they threw up in a single night. The Army of the Cumberland needs no reinforcements to hold Chattanooga. If the government will keep it supplied in rations and ammunition, our boys, those of them that are left, can make the valley of the Tennessee “the valley of the shadow of death” to every armed Rebel in the land.

          But Forrest, with 6,000 Rebel cavalry, has crossed the Tennessee and succeeded in burning a train of 400 wagons laden with ammunition and supplies, he then went to McMinnville, one of the prettiest towns in the state, and burned it. From thence he made a demonstration on the railroad and burned the bridge over the Duck River between Decherd and Tullahoma and is now on the “rampage” between Nashville and Louisville. But retribution is after him in the shape of Stanley’s cavalry and it is thought that he will meet the fate of John Morgan.


Lee & Gordon's Mills in Chickamauga, Georgia

    Captain Drury returned to Wisconsin in December 1863 to both recover his health and recruit for the 3rd Wisconsin Battery. "The captain appears as jovial as ever, notwithstanding the passage of a rifle bullet through his body," reported the Racine Advocate. "How he lived with the wound he received is a mystery to all versed in surgery and can only be accounted for by his genuine good nature and determination on his part to do the Rebels yet more damage before the rebellion is closed out. The captain is one of the three oldest artillery captains in the service from this state and stands among the first as an artillerist, proving that editors can shoot something besides paper bullets." 

    In early February 1864, Captain Drury, fully recovered from his ghastly wound, returned to the battery with both a host of recruits and a new mascot for the battery: a live eagle. 


"We regret to learn," Janesville Daily Gazette (Wisconsin), September 21, 1863, pg. 2

Letter from Captain Lucius Hollenbeck Drury, 3rd Wisconsin Battery, Racine Advocate (Wisconsin), October 21, 1863, pg. 2 

Article from Cincinnati Gazette, recopied in Racine Advocate (Wisconsin), October 21, 1863, pg. 2

"Personal," Racine Advocate (Wisconsin), December 16, 1863, pg. 3


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