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Abner O. Shaw
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Personal details
Abner Orimel Shaw

(1837-02-16)February 16, 1837
Readfield, Maine
Died January 27, 1934(1934-01-27) (aged 96)
Portland, Maine
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Elizabeth Sanford
Residence(s) Portland, Maine
Alma mater College of Physicians and Surgeons
Profession Surgeon, Doctor
Military service
Allegiance United States of America
Branch/service United States Army
Union Army
Years of service 1862–65
Rank Private
Assistant Surgeon
Unit 7th New York Militia
20th Maine Infantry
Battles/wars American Civil War

Abner Ormiel Shaw (February 16, 1837 – January 27, 1934) was an American physician from Maine who served in the Civil War with the 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment.

Early life

Abner Orimel Shaw was born on February 16, 1837, to Eaton Shaw and Mary Roberts in Readfield, Maine. He was the son of a Methodist minister whose ancestors came to America on the Mayflower. Upon reaching adulthood Shaw set out for New York City where he entered the College of Physicians and Surgeons intent on realizing his childhood dream of becoming a doctor.

Civil War

While studying to become a Doctor in New York the Civil War broke out and Shaw broke off his medical study to enlist, serving in the 7th New York Militia as a foot soldier. Getting leave to return to school Shaw graduated in 1863 and was soon assigned to the 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment as assistant surgeon.

The famous regiment had just won many laurels at the Battle of Gettysburg but had done so without a surgeon with them. The newly arrived Shaw soon had his hands full when the regiment's colonel Joshua L. Chamberlain lost consciousness after ignoring early warning signs of Malarial fever. Chamberlain was apparently impressed with their new Assistant Surgeon for he wrote to the governor requesting that Shaw be made full Surgeon rather than bringing in a new Surgeon who would then out rank him.

And then a month later in another note to the Governor he added "Dr. Shaw is giving the best of satisfaction – few surgeons within my observation have been so faithful and have won the general good will of the Brigade, to the degree he has."

Shaw received the promotion and served with the regiment through the Battle of the Wilderness where Captin Walter Goodale Morrill was shot in the face by minie ball and was carried from the field blinded by his own blood, Lieutenant Holman Melcher was wounded and Captain William W. Morrell was mortally wounded.

On June 18, 1864, in the first days of the Siege of Petersburg after a full day's work tending the wounded of his regiment Shaw learned that Chamberlain, who had been placed in command of another brigade in the division, had been wounded during an ill-fated charge and was believed to be dying. Shaw lost no time in finding his former commander. The doctors of that brigade who had already examined Chamberlain discovered that the bullet passed from hip to hip through his body and through his bladder. At the time this wound would be considered "mortal" due to the fact that it involved the bladder but also most wounds to the hips were fatal due to loss of blood from several main arteries. The Third Brigade's former commander Strong Vincent had died at Gettysburg of a very similar wound. It is not surprising that Chamberlain's doctors were quick to declare the wound fatal and set him aside.

Chamberlain describes that while lying on the ground awaiting death...

Male metal catheter 01
Male metal catheter

Using a metal catheter much like the one seen at right, Shaw was able to get most of the urine to drain from its normal course rather than out through the wound, with that in place Shaw was then able to slow bleeding enough by locating and tying off major arteries that Chamberlain not only survived the night, but he lived for another 50 years before infection of the same wound finally killed him in 1914.

Shaw went on to serve in the battles of Weldon Railroad, Peeble's Farm and Hatcher's Run. He was appointed acting Brigade Surgeon December 1, 1864, after Dr Townsend, the previous chief was mustered out with his regiment the 44th New York. Shaw resigned February 22, 1865, after developing malaria.

Post-war career

After the war Shaw returned home to Maine and married Elizabeth Sanford. He set up a successful medical practice in the town of Portland practicing medicine well into his later years.

Dr. Shaw attended many army reunions throughout the rest of his life and kept in contact with many members of the 20th Maine. At the turn of the century Shaw was able to renew and deepen his relationship with Chamberlain when Chamberlain moved to Portland. In 1914 Dr. Shaw attended General Chamberlain on his deathbed and was named a pall bearer at the General's funeral. Shaw co-authored a eulogy for the General that was released later that year by the Military Order of the Loyal Legion.

Shaw died of pneumonia at the age of ninety-six at his Bowdoin Street home in Portland, Maine's West End on January 27, 1934.

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