Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 41.djvu/172

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matter". "Yes" said another voice sternly, "he is hit, and as good as dead. Take him to the rear." I had so far recovered as to comprehend these remarks, and instantly concluded that I was the subject of a practical joke. In another moment I was seized with the keenest pain I have ever experienced in my life, in the region where it had seemed in my swoon that I was run through with a rod. Now, what had happened was this: I had been in a sitting posture, resting partly on the ground, partly upon my legs doubled beneath me, the left hand holding my weapon, the arm well braced across my chest so that the middle of the upper bone pressed against the heart. On my arm were two shirt sleeves, a jacket sleeve, an overcoat sleeve, and the overcoat cape; and a musket-ball moving in the direction of my heart and spine that is, obliquely to the front of my person had ticked the limb of a bush a few feet away, keeled over, and struck flatwise on the arm, imbedding itself in the flannel and the flesh. The bone, protected by the clothing, had been the resistant, and the shock, carried to the heart and spine, had rendered my body senseless for a time; but the brain, depleted by the sudden stoppage of circulation, had been abnormally active. The man who exclaimed that I was as good as dead had reason to think so. He was on the slope above, and was looking at me at the time. He heard the bullet, and saw me go down under it "like an ox hit on the head with an axe," as he expressed it. He also said that my face changed colors rapidly from ghastly white to deep purple, and that I lay on the ground so still that he believed for the moment that I was dead. It is evident that the fancies of the brain immediately following the wound were closely connected with the previous thoughts, for the burden of them was surprise and disappointment that, after all, I had been hit. It was somewhat singular that in my delirium I located my hurt correctly, and had the physical sensation of being pinned to the earth by a rod running through the very spot where the shock of the blow was keenest.[1]

An experience, similar in many respects, befell one of my companions in arms, Captain W. R. Helms, (Fourteenth New York Heavy Artillery, and Sixteenth New York Volunteers) at the battle of Gaines's Mill. Helms was a lieutenant at the time, and while the regiment was charging to recapture a battery that the Confederates had just taken and were about to open upon its late owners he was hit and went down. He heard his captain give the command, "Take his body to the rear," and saw men leave the ranks

  1. Statistics on this point have not been widely gathered, but numerous instances have been noted where severely wounded men who retained consciousness did not know the location of the hurt until sight or touch revealed it. Physiology accounts for the phenomenon in many ways. In my case an unusual area of skin and bone surface received pressure and the sensations were unusually strong.