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Individual Record

Goldsmith, Middleton

Age: 0, credited to Rutland, VT
Unit(s): USV
Service: SURG, USV

See Legend for expansion of abbreviations

Birth: 08/05/1818, Port Tobacco, MD
Death: 11/26/1887

Burial: Poughkeepsie Rural Cemetery, Poughkeepsie, NY
Marker/Plot: Section G
Gravestone researcher/photographer: Heidi McColgan
Findagrave Memorial #: 138571879
Alias?: None noted
Pension?: Unknown
Portrait?: Unknown
College?: Not Found
Veterans Home?: Not Found
(If there are state digraphs above, this soldier spent some time in a state or national soldiers' home in that state after the war)

Remarks: Died in Rutland, VT

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Poughkeepsie Rural Cemetery, Poughkeepsie, NY

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and other veterans who may be buried there.


Middleton Goldsmith (born Smith), physician and surgeon in Kentucky and Vermont and army surgeon during the Civil War, was the son of Dr. Alban and Talia Ferro Middleton Smith of Virginia. (Dr. Alban Smith's name was changed to Goldsmith by Act of the New York Legislature.) Middleton was born at Fort Tobacco, Maryland, August 5, 1818, and was educated at Hanover College, Indiana, and in 1837, when his father was called to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of New York, as lecturer on surgery, he accompanied him, matriculating in the same institution and graduating therefrom in 1840. For some time after his graduation Middleton acted as assistant to his father, but for a brief interval went to China as ship's surgeon, making a study in that country of ophthalmia. He and his father are credited with being the first practitioners in this country to adopt the practice of lithotrity. During these early years of practice in New York, he acted as coroner's physician and became intensely interested in pathological anatomy. Together with his personal friends, Dr. Lewis A. Sayre (q. v.) and John C. Peters (q. v.), Dr. Middleton Goldsmith founded the New York Pathological Society, in which he ever maintained a great interest. Shortly before his death he gave the Society $5,000 to endow the lectureship, which bears his name.

In 1844 Goldsmith was called to the chair of surgery in the Castleton (Vermont) Medical College. His reputation as a surgeon was wide, his counsel largely sought throughout the state. He was president of the Vermont State Medical Society in 1851. In 1856 he was called to Louisville, Kentucky, to the chair of surgery in the Kentucky School of Medicine, formerly held by his father, and later he became dean of the faculty.

In 1861 he entered the Federal Army as brigade surgeon and went into active service in Buell's army, participating in many engagements, including the battle of Shiloh. After other assignments of a supervisory character, he was placed in charge of the construction, and later became medical director in charge of the large General Army Hospital at Jeffersonville, Indiana. This hospital at times had as many as four or five thousand patients in its wards. Dr. Goldsmith maintained his connection with this hospital to the end of the war. While in charge here, he made exhaustive studies of pyemia and hospital gangrene and the action of bromine in these and kindred diseases. These studies and their practical application became widely known and the bromine treatment of hospital gangrene within, as well as outside, army circles became generally recognized as the most successful yet discovered. The mortality from this disease in the field hospitals had always been high and the new treatment undoubtedly resulted in great saving of life. It was during these studies into its action and that of other disinfectants in diseased tissues that Dr. Goldsmith became interested in the subject of the germ theory of disease.

He was an indefatigable and brilliant student of anatomy and pathology and was thoroughly in touch with the latest European theories. Virchow cordially received him in 1874, and even invited him to lecture to his students.

In 1866 Goldsmith resumed practice in Louisville. The trustees of the old Kentucky School of Medicine, which had been moribund during the war, appointed him president of the school and he began to reorganize it on strictly professional lines. Factional feeling at that time in Kentucky ran high and Goldsmith finally relinquished his efforts and in the autumn of 1866 removed to Rutland, Vermont.

In Rutland, during the succeeding years of his life, Dr. Goldsmith occupied a prominent and picturesque position, not only professionally, but in other directions. He was interested in agriculture and in the dairy interests of the state and gave much time to promoting scientific methods. In 1878 he was appointed special commissioner to examine the State Insane Asylum, in regard to which he made an able and critical report. He established the Rutland Free Dispensary. A most convincing expert witness before juries, his appearance on the witness stand was very apt to increase the court attendance of the laity.

Of large frame and commanding presence, he was instantly conspicuous in any gathering. Brusque in manner, sometimes even gruff, he was withal a gentleman, and his generosity and unselfishness were best known by the poor and afflicted.

He maintained to his last days a lively interest in every new discovery in his profession, and followed eagerly the early developments of the germ theory. His medical library was the best private library in the state. At his death this went to the New York Academy of Medicine.

Dr. Goldsmith married in June, 1843, Frances Swift, daughter of Henry Swift of Poughkeepsie, New York. She died suddenly of heart disease in November, 1887, and the doctor survived the shock of her death but a few days. His death occurred November 26, 1887. Of three daughters one died in infancy, the other two, Rebecca Swift and Mary Middleton, survived him.

Charles S. Caverly.
In Memoriam, Middleton Goldsmith, J. C. Peters, 1889. Med. Rec, N. Y., 1887, vol. xxxii.

A Cyclopedia of American Medical Biography, pp. 447-448