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Minie Ball Wounds

Discussion in 'Civil War Weapons and Ammunition' started by allenhs, Mar 2, 2017.

  1. allenhs

    allenhs Cadet

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    Hello!

    I'm working on a novel set during the War, and I have a question about wounds inflicted by minie balls.
    I know that if a ball struck the bone of a limb, the bone usually shattered and the limb would be amputated. But what sort of wounds would a minie ball cause in soft tissue, say someone's calf or thigh, if it missed the bone?
    Thanks for your help.
     

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  3. Burning Billy

    Burning Billy Corporal

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  4. huskerblitz

    huskerblitz Captain Forum Host

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    In a word, devastating. Even missing bone, a Minie ball could tear and rip a good amount of tissue and sometimes leave huge, gapping exit wounds. Because the tip could flatten out on impact think of it like a bulldozer moving through tissue. And if the ball was tumbling in air before impact it cause even more damage. Potentially leaving permanent damage all without striking bone.

    Of course that is probably worst case scenario but it would leave a huge wound.
     
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  5. Henryseale

    Henryseale Cadet

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    My great grandfather was wounded 19 March 1865 at Battle of Bentonville, North Carolina. As he was standing and taking aim, a Yankee shot him, the minie ball passing through one thigh and lodging in the other. Fortunately no bone was hit, but he suffered major muscle damage requiring him to walk with the aid of a cane for the remainder of his life.
     
  6. JPK Huson 1863

    JPK Huson 1863 Colonel Forum Host

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    I'm not sure how far you need to take it but after causing a veritable crater, the body had to deal with filth carried into the wound by a Minnie ball. Our experts here have to verify this because it's been awhile- read somewhere one of the reasons it was such an awful invention is exactly that. With no antibiotics surgeons didn't wait for infection to set in ( unless you were lucky enough to lay out in the elements and have your wound cleaned by maggots, in which case you sometimes lived ) , there was a better chance at saving a life if the limb was amputated.

    Repulsive kind of war.
     
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  7. FarawayFriend

    FarawayFriend Captain Silver Patron Trivia Game Winner

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    @allenhs have a look in our "Medical Care of the Civil War" forum. There are several accounts on the damage minie balls have done on all parts of the body.

    There is a very good multi-volume book "Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion" which is free for download on www.archive.org:
    https://archive.org/search.php?query=Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion

    I'm sure you will find information in abundance there!
    Oh, and btw: Welcome to the forums from Germany
     
  8. JOHN42768

    JOHN42768 Sergeant Major Trivia Game Winner

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    Welcome, enjoy
     
  9. kevikens

    kevikens Sergeant Major

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    A modern high velocity projectile, say at 2800-3000, feet per second, obliterates clothing and cauterizes its wound channel while a minie ball at 900-1000 fps pushes ahead of it particles of dirty clothing directly into the wound channel just about guaranteeing sepsis. The minie ball was not a jacketed round as are modern military rounds so its soft lead immediately starting expanding simply from hitting muscle tissue. I heard one police officer describe it this way. It made a hole about the size of a dime going in and one about the size of a cash register on the way out.
     
  10. Package4

    Package4 First Sergeant Trivia Game Winner

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    Faraway Friend has it exactly right, the "Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion" has incredible detail and color wood cuts that depict what doctors and surgeons faced both in the field and in hospital. I have the set in book form, but it is online now, which is far more convenient for searches.
     
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  11. originalrebelyell

    originalrebelyell Corporal

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    Passing through human tissue, flesh. I would imagine it would a good bit of damage especially if it had flattened out, mushroomed or was tumbling when it impacted. Either way I imagine it would be pre.ty bad. Surgery in field hospitals was not the best at that time. If the wound didn't kill you, the germs in the wound or the germs associated with the surgery might. My gg grand father was wounded in the in the upper leg or thigh by a pistol ball or bullet of some sort at Lookout Mountain it missed the bone and he recovered with no ill effects and lived to be 87 yrs old. My other gg grandfather was hit at least twice maybe three times at Shiloh he was hit in the left shoulder but some how it missed the bone. He was also hit in the left hand, his left thumb was shot off and his left index finger was shot off at the second joint. He didn't lose the arm. He lived to be 67 yrs old but couldn't use the arm or hand it was useless the rest of his life it hung at his side.
     
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2017
  12. FarawayFriend

    FarawayFriend Captain Silver Patron Trivia Game Winner

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    I found this picture of deformed lead minie balls... and keep in mind, these were removed from the bodies of real people who felt pain just like we do. Next time I howl after hitting my shinbone or elbow I will try to remember...
    civil2.gif

    http://www.utoledo.edu/library/canaday/exhibits/quackery/civil2.gif
     
  13. Andersonh1

    Andersonh1 1st Lieutenant

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    I was watching a YouTube video of two guys firing minie balls at blocks of gel, and while I know it's not the same as human tissue, it's still disturbing to watch one of those things leave a hole big enough to put your fingers into. The two guys called it the most lethal bullet ever made.
     
  14. Bruce Vail

    Bruce Vail Sergeant Major

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    I have a family ancestor who fought at Bentonville too (for the Confederacy),

    His name was Jacob Wells Taylor and he was a member of the 'Red Infantry." He was captured by the Yankees and sent to Johnson's Island POW camp.
     
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  15. Package4

    Package4 First Sergeant Trivia Game Winner

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    From the "Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion"
     

    Attached Files:

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  16. originalrebelyell

    originalrebelyell Corporal

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  17. originalrebelyell

    originalrebelyell Corporal

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    Jacob Miller shot in the forehead at the battle of Chickamauga and survived many years afterward.
     
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  18. ucvrelics.com

    ucvrelics.com Sergeant Major Forum Host

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    It has always been said that the CW had the highest rate of death per troop numbers than any other American war. The means to kill verses the means to cure was VERY staggering. If the bullet or shell didn't kill you camp disease did.
     
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  19. DixieRifles

    DixieRifles 1st Lieutenant

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    Does your character HAVE to be wounded by a Minie ball?
    Many were wounded by round balls fired either from a buck-and-ball round from a rifle or a small caliber from a pistol.
    Ive read accounts of a soldier surviving 5 wounds but I assume they were all fired from pistols carried by cavalry men.
     
  20. allenhs

    allenhs Cadet

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    Hmm.. that might work. Seems like it would make it more likely that I would actually still have a character after the fact.
     
  21. Youngblood

    Youngblood Sergeant

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    Or a shell fragment.
     
    Cavalry Charger likes this.

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