LaHISTORY: A Senator With Two Artificial Arms

In 1876 the ultra-conservative Redeemer Democrats were only one vote away from having control of the Louisiana Senate.

As a means to bringing about that majority, the most radical members of that faction targeted for assassination then-Sen. Marshal Harvey Twitchell, a Republican and former Union Army soldier.

Twitchell was a carpetbagger from Vermont who represented Red River Parish in the upper chamber. He was elected largely because of strong support from the black community in his district; Twitchell considered many free men of color his personal friends.

The assassin hired by the Redeemer Democrats went after Twitchell with a rifle and put six rounds into the senator. His brother was murdered during the attack, but Twitchell managed to play dead so convincingly that the assassin made his exit without firing another shot.

Twitchell’s two arms took on most of the bullets somehow, and both had to be amputated above the elbows. Surprisingly he finished his term with a pair of wooden artificial arms, both of which were fashioned to hold a pen or a fork.

Twitchell eventually returned to his home state of Vermont and married his second wife, who was also his childhood sweetheart.

He also went on to be appointed by both President Rutherford B. Hayes and President Grover Cleveland as the American consul to Kingston in Canada, where he died at the age 65.

His memoir, “Carpetbagger From Vermont,” was published in 1989.

***This story was originally published in The Tuesday Tracker one year ago this week…

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