Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 41.djvu/181

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169
FIRST ACTIONS OF WOUNDED SOLDIERS.

Possibly his five mortal hurts were received simultaneously, but probably he carried two or three of them while persisting in his fight.

The Georgia major had been selected or had volunteered to lead a forlorn hope upon which the salvation of an enterprise depended, and he was called upon to pass eighty rods under crossfire of cannon and muskets. That feat he essayed, conspicuously mounted upon a white horse.

The attack in which the Massachusetts sergeant engaged was the third day of fierce and progressive onslaughts, and was directed against the last but one of Lee's interior lines around Petersburg. The stubbornness of the Confederate resistance had aroused the spirits of the assailants to the supremest pitch.

General A. S. Johnston at Shiloh was engaged in a campaign for the recovery of territory valuable to the Confederacy; he had been transferred from the East to supersede other generals; his fame was at stake; he had engaged upon one of the most daring and delicate enterprises known in warfare, a surprise of his enemy, to end in a wholesale slaughter or capture of the routed hosts on the banks of a bridgeless river. The movement carried well up to a point; there, a Union division showed what Johnston pronounced stubbornness; his men hesitated, and he went personally with one brigade in a charge; the charge succeeded, and he drew back to bring up another brigade, when a musket-ball severed an artery in his leg. He made no sign, but kept on giving orders and watching events until spectators saw that he was pale. He was asked if he was wounded, and, as if acknowledging it to himself for the first time, said: "Yes! And I fear seriously." He was then on the point of death from hæmorrhage.

Under normal conditions the symptoms in each of the cases in this recapitulation, except that of the headless man, should have been trembling, tottering, pallor, faintness, nausea, with expression of anxiety and distress, the whole frame being instinctively sympathetic with the injured part. But the several nerve-centers were not in a condition to perform normal functions. The mental excitement acting in the nature of a stimulant upon the center of the brain, monopolized the capacity for keen sensation, and centers that should have registered the hurt suspended their functions. So there was no concentrated shock, as ordinarily happens. The shock was distributed and showed itself, when finally potent, in an instantaneous collapse. This is the theory generally accepted by science—the theory of a law that two nerve-centers can not be excited at one and the same time. Is there not confirmation of it in the complicated case of the wounded prisoner reported by Captain Caldwell? The man doubtless suffered laceration in the arm and the cutting of an internal artery, by