Investigating the fallen soldier, the doctor found “a compound fracture, with extensive comminution of the left tibia; the ball having ricochetted from these parts, and, in its onward flight, passed through the scrotum, carrying away the left testicle.” He then ran to the house, where the 17-year-old woman had suffered a terrible wound. “A minnie ball had penetrated the left abdominal parietes, about midway between the umbilicus and anterior spinal process of the ilium, and was lost in the abdominal cavity, leaving a ragged wound behind.” The doctor gave the poor woman anodyne and left, writing that he had little hope she would recover.
Six months later, the doctor wound up again in Raymond, only to find that the woman had indeed recovered. In fact she had recovered well enough to get herself pregnant. And a few months later, the very same doctor delivered the woman’s new child.
But there was something strange about the little boy. First, the woman claimed to have never had sex. The doctor said that her hymen was intact when she delivered the baby, but he waved off her assertions of virginity, since, after all, she was pregnant. A few weeks after delivery he saw the little boy again, and examined “an enlarged, swollen, sensitive scrotum, containing on the right side a hard, roughened substance, evidently foreign.” From the baby’s scrotum he removed a Minnie ball. According to his report, it took the doctor several days to figure out how this Minnie ball got into a baby’s scrotum, but he ultimately figured out what you might have already deduced:
The ball I took from the scrotum of the babe was the identical one which, on the 12th of May, shattered the tibia of my young friend, and in its mutilated condition, plunged through his testicle, carrying with it particles of semen and spermatozoa into the abdomen of the young lady, then through her left ovary, and into the uterus, in this manner impregnating her! There can be no other solution of the phenomenon!
Impregnated by a speeding bullet.
If this sounds extremely unlikely, that’s because it is. In fact, it never happened. The article in The American Medical Weekly was satire, a joke meant to poke fun at the aggrandized Civil War stories the doctor kept hearing. Two weeks later the journal ran an editor’s note clarifying that the piece had been a gag. But somehow, along the chain, the fact that it was a joke got lost. And the story of the impregnating bullet persisted as medical fact as late as 1959.
In 1982, the story was the subject of a Dear Abby column. The writer recounted the tale and ended with, “You don’t believe it? If it hadn’t been published in the very reliable American Heritage magazine (December 1971, page 99 in a story titled “The Case of the Miraculous Bullet”), I wouldn’t have believed it either.” Abby replied: “Several years ago I ran that item in this space, which brought me a letter from a 90-year-old South Dakota Indian. HE said he heard a different version of the same story. Only the girl wasn’t a Virginia farm girl, she was an Indian maiden who claimed she had been impregnated by a bow and arrow.”