Surgeon Bowie Knife
This Bowie knife with ivory handle and handmade leather scabbard belonged to Surgeon F. G. Porter.
The typical Bowie knife was 9-10 inches long, made from high carbon steel and extremely flexible, strong and razor sharp, the result of a tempering process developed by New Orleans blacksmiths in the early 1800s.
Dr. Frank Gibson Porter of St. Louis was born in New Castle, Pennsylvania in 1829. He graduated from the Cleveland (OH) Medical College (Hudson University) in 1851, and moved to St. Louis in 1854. When the Civil War began, Porter served as a volunteer surgeon, then was in charge of the U.S. Marine Hospital in St. Louis. In April 1862 he was commissioned a brigade surgeon in the Missouri State Militia, and that summer became medical director of the South West Division of Missouri. As medical director, Second Division, Army of the Frontier, Porter took part in the battles of Prairie Grove and Hartville. He also served as medical director of the St. Louis District and District of North Missouri. In October 1864 Porter was captured during the Battle of Glasgow, Missouri, but was paroled by the Confederates. He was discharged at Fort Leavenworth with the rank of brevet lieutenant colonel in November 1865.
Following the war, Porter became a pension examiner and medical examiner for the Mutual Life Insurance Company and the Travelerâ€™s Life and Accident Insurance Company. He died in 1879.
The Bowie knife could be used as a surgical instrument, although it is unlikely that Dr. Porter was called upon to use his Bowie either in his treatment of the sick and wounded or as a weapon for personal defense.
Image Courtesy Wilsonâ€™s Creek National Battlefield; WICR 30632