Dr. Wilson’s Injuries

Foremost among the reasons why many Brattleboro, Vermont residents came to believe that their long-time local physician, Dr. John Wilson, had been Martin’s “Captain Thunderbolt” in his former life were the injuries that were found on his body upon his death. John B. Miner’s pamphlet on Dr. Wilson quotes a second-hand account of those wounds:

“…he says the lower part of his leg was perished–that there was a scar on the calf of his leg, about the size of a cent, having the appearance of a knife or some sharp instrument run into that same scar, and slitted out, making the whole scar some two or three inches in length–that his heel was gone…Also, that a slash some four or five inches long was on the side of his neck, commencing near the carotid artery, and running round towards the back part; the scar being about one-half inch in width. That his front teeth in the under jaw had the appearance of having been knocked in, but were still in the jaw, and a bit of cork was insulated between the lip and the teeth.”

Miner and others thought it suspicious that Wilson tried to hide his injuries. They also believed that the calf injury coincided with the section of Martin’s confession where he relates that John Doherty, Captain Thunderbolt, was struck in the calf of his leg by a dragoon’s musket ball.

However, in Michael Martin’s account of the wound, which happened within the first year of their combined exploits, he mentions that Doherty spent two weeks recuperating after the musket ball was extracted. Martin never mentions the injury again, nor indicates that Doherty was in any way hindered by it. Martin also does not mention any injuries to Doherty’s heel, neck or teeth.

Publisher John B. Miner did relate that Dr. Wilson’s brother, Robert Wilson, explained that the doctor’s heel injury was the result of a sore that festered during a childhood fever. However, Miner then goes on to question Robert Wilson’s integrity, stating that he provided a different explanation for the doctor’s leg injuries on other occasions. Miner–apparently–did not consider the idea that the several injuries had different causes. Hugh Begg, Wilson’s son-in-law, said that Dr. Wilson received the leg injury as a boy at the Muirkirk Iron Works.

Miner, and Wilson’s other post mortem accusers in Brattleboro, not only took highwayman Michael Martin’s account about Thunderbolt to be absolutely true–they also suggested that Dr. Wilson’s family and friends were lying in order to protect his true identity. In Miner’s day, all his arguments assailing Dr. Wilson might have been described as: a pure cock and bull story.

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