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Individual Record

Porter, Charles Burnham

Age: 25, credited to Rutland, VT
Unit(s): USV
Service: Acting ASST SURG, USV, Armory Square Hospital, 1865 (College: Harvard '62, MD 65)

See Legend for expansion of abbreviations

Birth: 01/19/1840, Rutland, VT
Death: 05/21/1909

Burial: Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, MA
Marker/Plot: Glen Ave., Amethyst Path, Lot 5402
Gravestone researcher/photographer: Heidi McColgan
Findagrave Memorial #: 111092627
Alias?: None noted
Pension?: Unknown
Portrait?: Harvard University Portrait Collection
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: None

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Copyright notice


Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, MA

Check the cemetery for location/directions
and other veterans who may be buried there.


Harvard University Portrait Collection,
Gift of Mrs. Charles B. Porter to
Harvard Medical School, 1911
Used with permission


Porter, Charles Burnham (1840-1909)

Charles B. Porter came of a long line of medical men, being a descendant of Daniel Porter, who in the first half of the seventeenth century practised in Connecticut. His father was James Burnham Porter (q.v.).

Born in Rutland, Vermont, January 19, 1840, Charles Burnham took his A. B. and M. D. at Harvard University in 1862 and 1865 respectively, and was surgical interne at the Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, from 1864 to 1865. In April, 1865, he was appointed acting assistant surgeon in the army and served at the Armory Square Hospital in Washington until mustered out. At one time here he had the care of seventy-four compound fractures. He was assistant demonstrator of anatomy at Harvard Medical School in 1867; demonstrator in 1868. This latter position he held for eleven years. In 1868 and in 1870 he visited Europe, doing post-graduate work in Berlin, London and Vienna. In 1879 he was made instructor in surgery; in 1882 he became assistant professor of surgery; in 1887 professor of clinical surgery. His connection with the staff of the Massachusetts General Hospital began as surgeon to out-patients in 1866. He was appointed, in 1875, surgeon, and served in this capacity until 1903 when he was retired under the age limit, going on the consulting board. He also resigned his professorship in the medical school.

Dr. Porter's professional career began before the revolution in surgery started by Lister. His activity began when surgery was always risky and extended into the time when it became nearly always safe, provided it was clean. He early won renown as an unusually skilful and very judicious surgeon. He taught operative surgery on the cadaver; his rapid and precise operating in the surgical amphitheatre was the delight of the medical students. His counsel was much sought, and for many years his physical endurance seemed unlimited. In his last term of hospital service he operated on a policeman for an extremely complicated intestinal obstruction with innumerable adhesions, requiring multiple resections. The patient was under ether six and one-half hours. The house-officers were exhausted and Dr. Porter was fresh at the close of that time. The patient recovered and continued his customary work.

The end came as one thinks he would have wished, May 21, 1909. He was visiting a patient, a warm personal friend, when he was stricken, soon became unconscious and died in less than twentry-four hours, truly in harness. He left a widow, who was Miss Harriet A. Allen, three daughters (one the wife of Dr. Percy Musgrave of Washington, D.C.), and a son, Charles Allen Porter, whose appointment as assistant professor of surgery in the Harvard Medical School was one of the closing joys of his father's life.
Howard A. Kelly and Walter L. Burrage, American Medical Biographies, (The Norman, Remington Company, Baltimore, 1920), p. 923

Charles Burnham Porter, M.D.*
by James G. Mumford, M.D.,
Visiting Surgeon, Massachusetts General Hospital.

(Extract) …Early in 1865 he was graduated M.D. from Harvard; then he went to Washington looking for army service. In 1865 the medical service in the army was effectively and thoroughly organized, while both hospital and field work were carried on in a fashion far more compelling and effective than was known in the early days of the war. Dr. Porter's method of getting the hospital work he wanted was instructive and marked the times. Presenting himself at the Armory Square Hospital, he showed his credentials and asked the chief surgeon for work as a dresser. He was told that there was no vacancy. Not discouraged, he applied again and again. At last he impressed himself on the surgeon in charge, who asked why he continued to apply. "Because I want work, and I don't care what it is," was the answer. He got his job, and within a month was in charge of a great ward full of serious cases. Seventy-four compound fractures, requiring two daily dressings, fell to his share at one time.

After the war he came home to marry…
The Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, clxii, No. 23, June 9, 1910, p. 776