Discussion Getting Shot In The Civil War

KianGaf

First Sergeant
Joined
May 29, 2019
Location
Dublin, Ireland
One of the causes of infection was when the projectile carried the man's clothing into the wound. The clothing being filthy.

An interesting but probably overlooked fact that one. It’s a bit like the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich in WW2 , it was the horse hair the bullet passed through that caused a lot of issues.
 

FedericoFCavada

First Sergeant
Joined
Jan 27, 2015
Location
San Antonio, Texas
In the case of SOE Operation Anthropoid, the assassination of the vile Reinhard Heydrich in Prague, the intended bullets did not emanate from the submachine gun, which remained on "safety." The lethal injuries were caused by the horse hair upholstery blown into his body by the explosion of a no. 82 grenade, the so-called "Gammon bomb."

https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/operation-anthropoid

The wounded head of the RSHA, SD, and organizer of the Wannsee Conference to plot the "Final Solution" refused to be treated by doctors other than his own brought in from Germany, and died of sepsis.

Certainly before antibiotics, sepsis killed very, very many people. It also prevented wounds from healing properly and often led to an ongoing incurable infection.

Infamously, in 1923, George Edward Stanhope Molyneux Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon, the financial backer of the Egyptologists who found King Tut's tomb died from infection of a mosquito bite he nicked with a razor while shaving...
 

SeaTurtle

Private
Joined
Jun 14, 2021
Did they know anything about the wound-cleaning benefits of alcohol back during the Civil War? I'm not talking about as a painkiller, but as an antiseptic. Even if they didn't fully understand the science behind it, but saw that wounds cleaned with alcohol might be less likely to turn green?
 

NH Civil War Gal

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Did they know anything about the wound-cleaning benefits of alcohol back during the Civil War? I'm not talking about as a painkiller, but as an antiseptic. Even if they didn't fully understand the science behind it, but saw that wounds cleaned with alcohol might be less likely to turn green?
Pretty much only the French. Europe, at this time, was much more advanced than the US and even the North. The microscope had been invented and it would take something like 30 more years before Harvard would even have ONE in its inventory, never mind being widely used.

The French used to use something like Spirit of Wine before cutting into skin. They didn’t understand germ theory but they understood that high potent alcohol kept infections at bay.
 

FedericoFCavada

First Sergeant
Joined
Jan 27, 2015
Location
San Antonio, Texas
Cleanliness was indeed recognized as important, although you wouldn't know if from some Civil War surgeries and surgical procedures. But certainly hospitals were often neat, tidy, and scrubbed.

In navies, the standard procedure when "yellow jack" or yellow fever broke out on board was to sail north or south out of the Tropics and to burn "brimstone" or sulfur to fumigate the decks. This actually proved effective, although no one like Carlos Finlay or William C. Gorgas had identified mosquitoes as the vector yet.
 
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Mdiesel

First Sergeant
Joined
Sep 28, 2010
Location
Maryland
You bring up a good point. In all of our discussions of battles, strategy, personalities, etc. we forget about the butchery that was happening on the fields. Men returning home (if they were lucky) with missing limbs or other permanent physical and mental disfigurements. That’s what war ultimately boils down to, regardless of the causes. Slaughter and
One of the causes of infection was when the projectile carried the man's clothing into the wound. The clothing being filthy.
These are both good points. It was the low velocity of the projectile which carried debris into the wound. This of course caused increased infection. Many modern wounds from high velocity weapons are sterile in comparison.

The slaughter had other consequences as well. It took large amounts of man power to care for the wounded soldiers. If a man was killed outright his body would later be retrieved. But if wounded friends and comrades might attempt to remove him from a field station for treatment and away from further harm. Thus taking themselves effectively out of the combat as well. Once unit Integrity broke down it was hard to get it back during those critical moments of combat or for following up on any gains.

An additional horror was hearing the calls from wounded soldiers trapped between lines. This happened at Cold Harbor for example. The psychological effects of that had to be scarring.
 

Mdiesel

First Sergeant
Joined
Sep 28, 2010
Location
Maryland
Pretty much only the French. Europe, at this time, was much more advanced than the US and even the North. The microscope had been invented and it would take something like 30 more years before Harvard would even have ONE in its inventory, never mind being widely used.

The French used to use something like Spirit of Wine before cutting into skin. They didn’t understand germ theory but they understood that high potent alcohol kept infections at bay.
I have read that 19th century sutures were made of silk. But of course they were not sterile. However a war time shortage, especially in the Confederate ranks led to the use of horse hair sutures. But they were so course that hair was boiled to soften them prior to use.... the rate of infection dropped drastically. But I’m not sure if a correlation was immediately made.
 

Cavalier

Sergeant Major
Joined
Jul 20, 2019
All this leaves me even more in awe of the bravery these guys so often demonstrated on 19th. century battlefields. And the incidents of men receiving serious wounds and returning to duty to face the likelihood of having to do it all over again.

They were indeed better men than I am, Gunga Din.

John
 

Cycom

Sergeant
Joined
Feb 19, 2021
Location
Los Angeles, California
And the incidents of men receiving serious wounds and returning to duty to face the likelihood of having to do it all over again.

Yes @Cavalier this always seemed unbelievable to me. I’ve read many accounts of soldiers receiving nasty wounds only to ask to return to battle at the earliest possible time 😮

Better? Maybe. Braver? Most definitely.
 

Story

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 5, 2011
Location
SE PA
Is there data for soldiers who became disabled due to battlefield injuries?
You might want to seek out De Costa Mendes' post-war interviews (IIRC, @ 700 guys).

Not all trauma from catching a slug is physical.

In a specialty hospital in Philadelphia, Jacob Mendez Da Costa, systematically followed a group of soldiers who experienced a constellation of cardiac symptoms that he called “soldier’s heart.” Using the tools of history, physical exam and follow-up, Da Costa’s observations marked the beginning of clinical cardiology in the United States. He published his final findings in 1871, after the war. The paper is a classic in the field of cardiology and psychiatry because it establishes the link between the brain and the heart as a form of functional disease. Up to this point, military medical departments in the U.S. and in Europe had been unsuccessfully seeking physical causes.
https://www.ncdcr.gov/press-release/ptsd-originally-known-soldier’s-heart
 
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