December 1971 | Volume 23, Issue 1
History is not lacking in tales of virgin birth. Few such stories have had the benefit of professional attestation, however, and a good many have given rise to skeptical jibes, especially among neighbors of the young ladies concerned. During the Civil War a remarkable case was carefully recorded for the annals of medicine by a Union doctor, Captain L. G. Capers. It involved a refined, seventeen-year-old girl who became pregnant by a young soldier whom she had never even met, much less had intimate connections with.
According to Captain Capers’ story, he was acting as a field surgeon during a skirmish near an unnamed Virginia village on May 12, 1863. About a hundred yards from the rear of his regiment was a big house, on the steps of which a matron and her two daughters stood watching, ready to act as nurses if necessary.
Suddenly a young soldier was hit and fell to the ground near Captain Capers; at the same moment the doctor heard a piercing scream from the steps of the house. Capers quickly examined the soldier, and observed that the bullet that struck him had broken his leg and then evidently ricochetted upward, passing through his scrotum. While the Captain was giving first aid, the lady who had been standing on the house steps came running to him in a state of great agitation: one of her daughters, she said, had been hit.
Capers found that the girl had indeed been seriously hurt : the abdominal wall was punctured by a jagged wound. The exact resting place of whatever had hit her was not ascertained; but Captain Capers did what he could for her comfort. The fortunes of war made the adjacent village his regimental headquarters for several weeks, and before he left the area, the Captain had the satisfaction of seeing his patient recover from the peritonitis brought on by the wound.
About eight months after the incident, Captain Capers’ regiment was again in
the vicinity. He was astonished, upon calling at the young lady’s home, to find her in what appeared to be an advanced stage of pregnancy; she was otherwise in excellent health. Four weeks later, with a good deal of embarrassment, the girl gave birth to an eight-pound boy who strongly resembled the soldier wounded nine months earlier. As Captain Capers reconstructed things, a bullet had carried at least one sperm from him directly to the girl’s uterus, impregnating her.
The end of the story is a happy one: the young soldier, having recovered from his own wound, courted the girl and won her heart; they were married and in due time produced two additional children by a more conventional method.