Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/213

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201
THE PHENOMENA OF DEATH IN BATTLE.

iar to the battlefield which is as instantaneous as the death with which it is synchronous. He states that he frequently passed without examination corpses holding muskets in grasp, pointing forward as if in a charge; bodies prone, face to earth; trunks bent, limbs apparently rigid. From other sources come reports of similar phenomena in more or less details. In a compilation of surgical reports by J. G. Chenu (Rapport au Conseil de Santé des Armées, 1865), Surgeon Perir, from the field of Alma, Boudin from Inkerman, and Armand from Magenta, named many general and special appearances of the phenomena. At Magenta many bodies held to their weapons, even those lying face downward. The conclusion of M. Armand, appended to his report, was that death came so suddenly that the hands had not time to let go. These were head shots. The fighting at Magenta was again terrific, and it was warm June weather. The struggle on the part of the French side was for possession of the town, the key to the position, and it was carried house by house. On the scene of one hand-to-hand combat a corpse was found with the arms raised in front, one bent, one extended, with fists clutched; also a dead hussar on a fallen horse, almost intact in saddle, but leaning on the right side, holding his saber at a thrust. The Magenta cases were seen by the surgeons when forty-eight hours old.

At Inkerman, fought in November, during a dull, foggy rain, M. Boudin saw numberless cases where the bodies rested on the knees, with guns in firm clasp, cartridges in the mouth, and in some instances arms upraised, as though parrying blows. "Long files of the dead seemed to need but the impulse of vital breath to recommence the action of battle." An eye-witness's off-hand description of scenes on that field is found in W. H. Russell's correspondence to the London Times. He said: "The battle of Inkerman admits of no description. It was a series of dreadful deeds of daring, of sanguinary hand-to-hand fights, of despairing rallies, of desperate assaults, in glens and valleys, in brushwood glades and remote dells. . . .

"The British and French, many of whom had been murdered by the Russians as they lay wounded, wore terrible frowns on their faces, with which the agonies of death had clad them. Some in their last throes had torn up the earth in their hands, and held the grass between their fingers up toward heaven."

At Alma, M. Perir saw a great number of cases. One in particular he reported where the body lay upon the side, legs bent, hands lifted at joints, and head thrown back as if in prayer. Alma was fought in September (in the Crimea). Russell termed it one of the most bloody and determined struggles in the annals of war. The allies charged through the waters of the Alma up the steeps to the Russian batteries on the crest.