John Syng Dorsey Cullen (29 July 1832-22 March 1893)

J. S. Dorsey Cullen was the son of Dr. John Cullen (1797-1849) of Dublin, Ireland and Richmond, VA – one of the founders of the medical department of Hampden-Sydney College, which became the Medical College of Virginia — and his wife, Charlotte Eliza Howard.

He studied at the University of Virginia in session 27 (1850-1851), then attended the Medical College of Virginia, graduating in 1853, then entered the University of Pennsylvania and interned at hospitals in Philadelphia for two years before returning to Richmond to set up his practice. When war broke out, Cullen enlisted in the Confederate army and was appointed surgeon of the 1st Virginia Infantry Regiment. During the Civil War, Dorsey Cullen served as brigade and division surgeon, and at the time of the surrender was the medical director of the First Army Corps, the Army of Northern Virginia. An interesting note is that Dr. Cullen was the physician who treated General James Longstreet’s neck wound received at the Battle of the Wilderness on May 6, 1864.

After the war’s end, Cullen joined the faculty of the Medical College of Virginia, where he served as professor of diseases of women and children until 1881. At that time, he was chosen as the chair of the department of surgery and as dean of the faculty. Dr. Cullen was one of the co-founders of the Virginia Clinical Record in 1871, and a charter member of the Medical Society of Virginia.

In 1856, Dorsey Cullen married Jane “Jenny” Maben (1836-1924); their children were: Elizabeth Campbell, Othelia, Mildred, John Maben (d. young), J. Dorsey, and Mary Cullen. He died after a long illness of chronic nephritis, and is buried at Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, VA.


  • “Notes and items: J.S. Dorsey Cullen.” Medical Review, v. 27, no. 24 (June 17, 1893), p. 477.
  • Slaughter, Robert M., “Cullen, John Syng Dorsey” in Kelly, Howard A. and Walter L. Burrage. A cyclopedia of American medical biography. Baltimore, MD, 1920.
  • Steckler, R.M. & Blachley, J.D. “The cervical wound of General James Longstreet.” Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2000 Mar;126(3):353-9.
  • Tombstones of the Cullen family in Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, VA. (Accessed 6/17/2011).
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One Response to John Syng Dorsey Cullen (29 July 1832-22 March 1893)

  1. James Simcoe says:

    It was Dorsey Cullen who labored for 3 nights and days to save the life of General James Longstreet, wounded at the Battle of the Wilderness. Longstreet was immediately taken to the home of Erasmus Taylor at Orange Court House, then to Charlottesville. Longstreet was the Corp commander of the soldiers whose commemorative statue stands at Charlottesville’s Court House.

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