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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Pain of Gunshot Wounds

Confederate surgeon Dr. Julian Chisholm described the sensation of a gunshot wound:
 
"The pain which accompanies the reception of gunshot injuries is often so trivial, that the attention of the wounded is only called to the fact by blood streaming down his legs. The majority liken the striking of a ball to a smart blow with a supple walking-cane, whilst with a few the pain is very severe, and simulates the feeling which would be produced by running a red-hot wire through the flesh. McLeod mentions the case of an officer who had both of his legs carried away, and who only became aware of the injury which he had received when he attempted to rise.
 
"It appears that every gunshot wound is accompanied by a certain amount of shock, or a partial paralysis of sensation, which is nature's preparation, permitting a thorough examination, with little or no pain. The unusual quiet of a hospital the night following a battle has been repeatedly noticed, and is accounted for by this nervous shock. When this condition passes off, then reaction brings with it much suffering."
 
At the Battle of Shiloh, Tennessee in 1862, Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnson was struck behind the knee by a minie ball. The General may not have realized he'd been wounded until he collapsed and slid off his horse. He bled to death within fifteen minutes.
 
PHOTO: Bone fractures from a Civil War gunshot wound.

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