The Confederate Brigadier in the northern branches of our family tree is a fascinating anomaly. Oral tradition held that General Archibald Gracie, the third in four successive generations to bear that name, had his head blown off by a cannon ball at Petersburg. Contemporary newspaper accounts in our family archive variously describe the agent of his destruction as shell fragments and even a sniper's bullet, but thanks to a niche area of Civil War studies and a book by Jack D. Welsh detailing the The Medical Histories of Confederate Generals, I believe I can now say with certainty that he kept his head but was done in by artillery fire.
"He was killed December 2, 1864, in the Petersburg trenches by the explosion of a Parrott shell. He was looking through a telescope at the time, the top of his head exposed. His neck was fractured, and he was struck three times in the shoulder."
Welsh also provides more information about a wound General Gracie received in 1863.
"On December 14th, 1863, near Bean's Station, Tennessee, his left arm was struck by a rifle ball; that same day, after having it examined, he returned to the field. The surgeon could detect no lesion of the bones. Later examination revealed that the musket ball had struck his forearm posteriorly two inches below the elbow, passing deeply and transversely through the deep flexors, and had come out before the radius. Twenty days after the injury, the limb was markedly swollen, and the little and ring fingers wee paralyzed. Abscesses formed, and at the end of six weeks, two exfoliations were removed. Rapid recovery followed. Gracie rejoined his brigade in April 1864, while it was located in the vicinity of Lick Creek (Virginia)."
Gracie probably convalesced in Richmond, with his wife Josephine Gracie née Mayo. A child was born to this couple on December 1st, 1864, which was also Gracie's birthday. He had received leave to go visit his wife and newborn daughter just before he went to inspect the trenches. He was 32 years old.