Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 41.djvu/170

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other than the shriek of a corpse. The dead horseman rode on till he passed through the interval of the Twelfth Light Dragoons. Then at last he dropped out of the saddle".

The line between Nolan living and Nolan dead was very narrow, yet the uplifted arm[1] and the battle-shout ending in an unearthly yell would indicate that the soul of the warrior dominated every element of activity so long as any activity remained. Had Nolan been trotting along in the ranks of the six hundred with no other thought than that of keeping in line and getting ahead, he would doubtless have gone to the ground like a bolt under that blow.

An experience of the same nature, but at the other extreme, was that of General Joseph Hooker at Antietam. On the morning of the 17th of September, being in the presence of the enemy with his corps, he began a movement to seize high ground on his front, and was compelled to pass lengthwise of the Confederate line within range of hostile batteries. Soon a strong body of the enemy showed itself in his pathway, and in the excitement of making new dispositions, and routing and pursuing the Confederates, the general, to use his own language, "was lifted to the skies." "The whole morning has been one of unusual animation with me," he wrote also. Yet at the end of the successful attack he was removed from his saddle just as he was in the act of falling from it, weakened by the loss of blood from a wound of which he had not been conscious at all. A musket-ball had passed directly through the foot between the arch and the muscles of the sole, the seat, as every one knows, of very sensitive nerves. Had the general been in a state of moderate repose, as, for instance, quietly watching the execution of some movement, the blow would have unmanned him, for the moment at least. Intensely preoccupied as he was—and he had good reason to be, at that stage of the battle—he did not notice the blow or the sensations that accompanied and followed it. He may have carried the wound an hour or more before succumbing to the faintness.

My attention was first drawn to this subject by a strange personal experience—suspended animation in the body combined with partial mental clearness. The facts were of a kind that could be recorded with accuracy, and I am able to state them in detail. We were in front of the enemy at Fredericksburg Heights, May 3, 1863, and were lying under the shelter of a low ridge, expecting to charge or to repel a charge. The term of service of our regiment would expire the day following, and the troops

  1. External pressure—the weight of the sword and the pulling of the horse at the bit—would cause relaxation of grip in both sword and bridle hand, and collapse of the chestwalls the strange expiratory cry.