Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 41.djvu/168

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tal wounds insist that nothing serious is the matter, and act up to the idea until death or nervous exhaustion lays them low.

This much, however, may be said in a general way: When felt at all, bullets through the flesh usually produce a burning sensation more or less acute. When bones are broken, stinging accompanies the burning. When bones are hit but not broken, there is a numbing sensation in the whole region involved in the shock, followed very soon by severe and sometimes intense pain. When muscles and tendons are involved, there is a tugging sensation, sometimes very slight, and shell-wounds produce feelings similar to those by bullets, more or less exaggerated, according to the size of the missile and the degree of velocity. Bayonet-wounds I never saw except upon corpses—for I was not a hospital attendant—and as for cannon-balls, they do not, as a rule, leave anything behind to exhibit feelings.[1]

Again, a soldier may receive two or even more hits so close together as to produce counter-sensations. I once saw my commanding officer prostrated by a piece of shell that shattered his thigh-bone. While he was falling, pieces of another shell hit him in the arm and hand, and a piece of a third shell quickly following grazed the crown of his head. He has always believed that he felt three ways at once during those few seconds, and he is very positive that he felt badly hurt, and cordially wished to be out of it.

Not infrequently, too, when a victim has been spared the smallest amount of vitality after the impulse of anger is cut short by a slashing wound, he feels very much as did an enthusiastic tar upon a trying occasion. In an affair now memorable in history, a certain war-vessel's crew was compelled by the etiquette of the service to stand by and see their country's flag hauled down in contempt, without being given a chance to strike in its defense. "It was the saddest hour of my whole life," said one of them, "and for quite a spell I alternated between a desire either to cry like a baby or swear like a pirate."

All this preliminary to a paper the scope of which is only partially suggested by the title. Poets and orators, who take a wholly sentimental point of view, ask the world to accept the notion that it is a glorious fortune for the individual man to suffer punishment in honorable warfare; but between the wound and the sequence, whether death or the hospital and the scalpel,

  1. Experts affirm that a cannon-ball having velocity to keep it in the air will make a clean cut of flesh, bones, and ligaments, and not simply tear them, or push them aside as with a punch; and that a ball slowing up and rolling along the ground at the rate at which a man moves in rapid walking will crush the bones of a foot or leg that resists it. In the civil war spherical and elongated shells usually served the stead of solid cannonballs.