Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/212

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Zouave with, one leg half over a fence, body crawling forward, one hand clinched and raised to level of forehead, with palmar surface outward, as if to ward off evil. Williamsburg was fought during a rain, but the men wore overcoats, the ground was low and heavily wooded, the troops new to war—like those at Belmont—and the mental strain and excitement would be favorable to bodily heat. That field also brought forth a bit of the kind of historical description termed fanciful. It is from the pen of Warren Lee Goss, who has published several narratives of the civil war. He was a soldier in the Union ranks at Williamsburg, and states that after the engagement he visited the scene of a charge in front of the Confederate fort. "Advancing through the tangled mass of logs and stumps, I saw one of our men aiming over the branch of a fallen tree which lay among the tangled abatis. I called to him, but he did not turn nor move. Advancing nearer, I put my hand on his shoulder, looked in his face, and started back. He was dead—shot through the brain—and so suddenly had the end come that his rigid right hand grasped his musket, and he still preserved the attitude of watchfulness, literally occupying his post after death."

A case reported to Dr. Brinton from Goldsboro, N. C., is one of the most striking on record, and it is to be regretted that particulars as to atmospheric and other conditions are wanting. Otherwise the details are most complete. A party of Union cavalry met some dismounted Confederates, and the latter, taking alarm, sprang to their saddles. The Union men fired a volley, and all of the Confederates rode off save one. He was in position preparing to mount, his face turned toward the advancing enemy, who were about to fire again when their leader restrained them, and told them to capture him. Riding up, they found a corpse with one foot in the stirrup, left hand grasping the bridle and mane of the horse, right hand clasping carbine near muzzle, stock resting on ground. Every muscle was rigid in death, and it was difficult to detach the fingers from the carbine, bridle, and mane. The body was laid down, and the same positions and inflexibility were retained by all the members. There were two wounds, one at the right of the spine, emerging near the heart, the other in the right temple.

Another case reported at second hand to Dr. Brinton, but vouched for to him, was that of a cavalryman of the Fourth Wisconsin, who in a skirmish in Louisiana was shot through the heart. His comrades placed him alone in a buggy, which was dragged for an hour by a rope attached to a saddle, the man dying meanwhile, and his body sitting bolt upright and rigid.

The cases examined by Dr. Brinton were sufficient to fully establish all that he claims—namely, the existence of a rigor pecul-