Morbid History: Wounded American Civil War Soldiers

I wonder how he survived this!

I wonder how he survived this!

The American Civil War is considered the first modern war ever to be fought. While still using 18th century battle techniques they had weapons that were technologically advanced. This caused a high number of deaths due to both armies being burdened with the fact that they had no knowledge of how to actually treat the wounded so that they could survive. Many who were wounded died from either a total lack of treatment, or treatment that did not take infection into account.

His bone looks like it was shattered by a Menie ball.

His bone looks like it was shattered by a Menie ball.

The rifle musket was used extensively for the first time during this war. The bullet that it used, the Minie ball, caused far more damage than it’s predecessor. Instead of being a round ball that was used by muskets, the Minie ball caused far more damage, and tore through people in a terribly efficient manner. They tore through bellies and shattered limbs. If you were hit by one chances were that you were going to die, and you knew it. Also, the rifle musket was four times more accurate than the normal musket and could be fired four times in one minute.

A pile of the amputated legs of soldiers thrown in a pile.

A pile of the amputated legs of soldiers.

Quite possibly the worst thing that could happen to a soldier, besides death, was the need for them to get their limbs amputated. Because of the Minie ball’s destructive path many had to have their limbs sawed off in unsanitary conditions. This was done usually while the patient was fully conscious because they did not have the kind of sedatives that we have today. Instruments were frequently not sanitized so often these men died from infections acquired from when they had this type of surgery.

Starving Union soldier, prisoner of war at Andersonville.

Starving Union soldier, prisoner of war at Andersonville.

Yet another dangerous event that could happen to a soldier was being placed in a prisoner of war camp. One of the most infamous of these during the civil war was Andersonville, which was a Confederate led camp for Union prisoners. It was located in Georgia and had 45,000 prisoners. Of those over 13,000 died of disease or starvation. After the surrender of the Confederacy the commander of the camp, Henry Wirz, was convicted of war crimes and hung.

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