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As It Was: Bullet Turns Civil War Enemies into Friends

In 1862, Travis Meadows was a young Confederate sharpshooter at the siege of Vicksburg.  He settled behind a piece of boilerplate with a hole just large enough to shoot through and kept the Union soldiers at bay.

The Yankees assigned sharpshooter Peter Knapp to kill the sniper.  Knapp took the only shot he could—through the small hole in the boilerplate.  The bullet hit its mark.  Meadows fell over with blood flowing from his eye, and was left for dead.

But Meadows did not die.  Fifty-eight years later, he suddenly coughed up the bullet he had carried in his skull all that time.  Newspapers around the country wrote about it, but that was not the end of the story.  Henry Kilbourn of Central Point, Ore., would provide it.

His sister’s adopted father, Peter Knapp, had read the story of Meadows coughing up the bullet, and thought Knapp might be the shooter.  In 1921, Knapp contacted Meadows, who agreed.

After that, the two former enemies considered themselves good friends and corresponded until they died.

Thanks to Henry Kilbourn, the world learned of the remarkable ending to a strange story.

Source: Miller, Bill. "'Coughs up Bullet: the unlikely sequel to a Civil War Mystery." Mail Tribune, 11 Oct. 2009 [Medford Oregon].

Alice Mullaly is a graduate of Oregon State and Stanford University, and taught mathematics for 42 years in high schools in Nyack, New York; Mill Valley, California; and Hedrick Junior High School in Medford. Alice has been an Southern Oregon Historical Society volunteer for nearly 30 years, the source of many of her “As It Was” stories.