That’s Some Magic Bullet: Thirty-Eight Years After Revolutionary War, Bullet Exits Louisa Man’s Arm. Surfaces in Library’s Vault

Bullet removed from Edward Houchins' arm, Jamestown Exhibit Papers, Accession 42098.

Transcript of documents shown above.

Edward Houchins, a veteran of Captain Edmund Curd’s Company of Goochland Militia, petitioned the General Assembly on 10 December 1818, requesting an increase in his forty-dollar-a-year pension. According to the Louisa County resident, he was severely wounded in the arm at General Horatio Gates’s defeat at the Battle of Camden, South Carolina, in 1780. It was this very wound that allowed Houchins to successfully petition the Assembly in 1805 for his current pension. In the 1818 petition, Houchins complained of unusual pain from the lead ball that had become lodged in his arm thirty-eight years earlier. An affidavit from Richard Sandidge accompanying the petition asserts that he saw Houchins’s wife take a poultice of her husband’s arm, thereby producing the bullet. Upon further examination of the bullet, Sandidge determined that it contained pieces of bone from Houchins’s arm. As a result of this evidence, the General Assembly decided favorably on Houchins’s petition for an addition to his pension. Houchins later relocated to Mercer County, Kentucky, in 1821, collecting his pension until his death on 14 April 1846.

Edward Houchins’s petition is just one example of the more than twenty thousand legislative petitions included in the Library’s Legislative Petitions Online Database. According to a note filed with the 1818 petition, the affidavit of Richard Sandidge (containing the extracted projectile) was removed from the petition for State Librarian John P. Kennedy’s exhibition case on 13 May 1904. The affidavit was not returned to the petition file, and would probably have remained missing had item-level cataloguing of the Jamestown Exhibition Collection not been done in 2005. For reasons unknown, the affidavit ended up in this collection, stored in the Library of Virginia’s vault. The Report of the State Librarian, which lists the manuscripts exhibited by the Virginia State Library at the Jamestown Exposition of 1907, has no record of the document being used for this exhibit. While researching the affidavit, I decided to check the Legislative Petition Database to see if Edward Houchins ever petitioned the General Assembly for a pension. The search yielded the two petitions mentioned above. Unfortunately, microfilming of the Legislative Petitions Collection was completed in March 2001, well before the affidavit was rediscovered. The affidavit will remain in the LVA vault with the Jamestown Exhibit Papers, but a note has been included in the Petition Database to inform researchers of its existence.

-Craig Moore, State Records Appraisal Archivist

2 Comments

  1. Kathy Jones-Kristof said:
    19 August 2010 at 12:41 pm

    Why would the affidavit remain with the Jamestown Exhibit Papers, even though the microfilming of the Legislative Petitions Collection has been completed? Shouldn’t it be filed with that collection with a note that it wasn’t microfilmed so at least it is in the correct location if anyone is trying to access it?

    • CSMoore said:
      19 August 2010 at 2:47 pm

      Unique items such as this affidavit and bullet were often separated to the Library’s vault. We decided that it should remain in the vault, but to include a note in the legislative petitions database telling researchers how to find the affidavit. In addition, there is a copy of the affidavit with the original petition. Researchers coming across the catalog record for the affidavit are also directed to the Goochland County petition.

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