Missouri's Mad Doctor McDowell: Confederates, Cadavers and Macabre Medicine

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Arcadia Publishing, Nov 13, 2009 - Biography & Autobiography - 128 pages
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Discover the twisted 19th century tale of a respected St. Louis doctor who was also a body snatcher and suspected murderer in this true crime biography.
Though he was never caught in the act, it was widely known among St. Louis locals that Dr. Joseph Nash McDowell routinely stole corpses for strange and illegal experiments. McDowell was so loathed for this practice that he wore body armor in public. Meanwhile, he was so idolized by his anatomy students that they often dug up the bodies for him. 
The ghoulish Dr. McDowell—who later served as a Confederate Army surgeon—left a host of fiendish rumors and mysteries behind. Did he ever resort to murder for the sake of a fresh specimen? Did his mother's ghost actually help him escape an angry mob? Did he really hang the corpse of his daughter in the Mark Twain Cave of Hannibal, Missouri? What very real horrors remained in his medical college after Union soldiers took it over? In this grimly fascinating biography, Victoria Cosner dissects a life surrounded by speculation and a legend littered with ghosts.


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Joseph's father Major was not promoted to Captain during the Rev War. His top rank was Lt. Joseph's grandfather Col. Samuel McDowell did not fight at King's Mountain, his cousins Charles and Joseph did. Samuel's Regiment the Rockbridge County militia did fight at Guilford Court House.

Selected pages


Meet the Doctor
The Making of a Surgeon 18051821
Body Snatching
Mentor to a Madman? 18211827
The Conquest of Kemper College 18381847
Body Preservation
The War on Everyone
The Civil
Civil War Surgery
Postwar Years
Death of a Legend
The Doctor and the Spirits
The Ghosts

The King of McDowell Medical College 18471861
Surgery and Medicine in the Nineteenth Century
Eternal Love
The Cave
The Mark Twain Connection
Myth versus Fact
Letter to Henry Ward Beecher
Letter for Reinstatement as a U S Citizen
Confederate Guide for Hospital Inspectors

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About the author (2009)

Victoria Cosner has been involved with museums and historic sites for over thirty years. She holds a master's degree in American studies, specializing in cemetery landscapes and is a member of the Association for Gravestone Studies. She currently works for Missouri State Parks and lives in the St. Louis area.

Lorelei Shannon has been Victoria's friend for thirty-five years and counting. They share a love of dark history and co-authored a book on the life of Madame Lalaurie.

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