Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 41.djvu/179

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167
FIRST ACTIONS OF WOUNDED SOLDIERS.

new order of things, individual temperament resumes entire control. The phenomena of severely wounded soldiers continuing in action is correctly ascribed to abnormal mental excitement. Analogies are seen in every-day life. Contusions, incisions, and even fractures are sustained during excitement and no immediate impression is carried to the intellect. Yet how keen the suffering experienced under slighter hurts made by the surgeon's scalpel, forceps, or drill, when all is known beforehand! A soldier's life predisposes to intensity in either direction. He will stoically ignore or morbidly welcome injury. His mind, first of all, is made up not to notice danger or to be unmanned by wounds. So long as he can keep in action—that is, so long as he may personally direct some expenditure of muscular energy—his stoical purpose will hold out. As a matter of course, when he changes from a personality to a mere machine, manipulated by higher minds, fighting when told to, and again standing or lying still to receive blows and injuries with no chance to retaliate, he changes from a Stoic to a morbidly sensitive being. Familiar with deep and distressing injuries to others, in hugging the hope that he will be spared the worst, he invites fears for the worst at the moment he receives a blow, and fears strike the mind as soon as the bullet hits the body. This may account for frequent aberrations of conduct that follow ordinary wounds. The bravest may be unmanned by them, and doubtless death-fright actually takes place with gallant souls; or, if neither death nor delirium follow, then extravagant notions of pain, and violent wailing over trifles.

Numberless cases might be cited showing that excellent soldiers are thrown into sudden mental and physical panic by war wounds, just as civilians are by injuries and surgical operations. Exaggerated sensations of suffering and often quick delirium are reported from the battle-field, such as can not be the direct and necessary sequence of the actual injury, but take rise in the emotions.

As a rule, reported war cases are confined almost wholly to injuries not necessarily fatal. Fatal ones rarely get on record, because the cool and observant surgeon does not study the symptoms of the actual field of fighting.[1] Of those who are struck insensible and subsequently revive and survive, there are known to be many; but of the number rendered insensible who revive and resume action and then die, there can only be conjecture. In this class must be placed many whose attitudes in death are abnormal. But taking into account the symptoms of the wounded who have lived to report them, and of the dead whose cases have


  1. In the civil war the proportion of deaths to the surviving injured was a trifle more than one to three.