This short narrative, delivered in the first person by the protagonist, George Dedlow, is a summary of the fictive experience of a wounded Civil War Captain. George's training as a surgeon was interrupted by the war and he entered the Union Army as an infantry officer. He was shot by musket in both arms, resulting in the amputation of one at the shoulder. After rehabilitation, he returned to the battlefield, only to lose both legs at mid-thigh and subsequently the remaining arm to infection.

The remainder of the story is that of a trunk, a body and head without extremities, who experiences all the manifestations of the phantom limb syndrome. The final episode is an encounter at a seance during which Dedlow is transiently reunited with his missing legs.


It has been inferred that George Dedlow is a case study from Mitchell's experience treating the Civil War injured who suffered neurological sequelae. Mitchell's own introduction to the story refers to it as a "tale," the manuscript of which was purloined from the physician's files by an acquaintance who submitted it to the Atlantic Monthly magazine, where it appeared without author's name in 1866. The short work is a bit fantastic and totally without emotional content, considering the nature of the narrator's injuries and his disability. It makes for an interesting study of literary realism at its most stark, and of the state of the art of managing war wounds in the 1870s.


First published: 1866

Primary Source

The Autobiography of a Quack, and The Case of George Dedlow



Place Published

Upper Sandy River, N.J.



Page Count