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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 41.djvu/167

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FIRST ACTIONS OF WOUNDED SOLDIERS.

FIRST ACTIONS OF WOUNDED SOLDIERS.
By GEORGE L. KILMER.

AFTER observing for thirty years the questions of the curious on the subject of battle-field experiences, I should say that nine times out of ten the one first asked by a layman, old or young, relates to the sensations of a soldier when wounded. Even though the questioner has been maimed in a railway smash-up, or torn or fractured or bruised in some peaceful and therefore safe (?) occupation, the interest is the same, on the supposition, doubtless, that to be hurt by one of the engines of destruction in war is productive of unique sensations.

First of all, generalizations will not cover this intricate and expansive subject. An infantry soldier at Gaines's Mill, who was hit in the knee by a bullet and ultimately died of the wound, said that he thought he had run against a standing thistle; and the fact that he marched on, until his comrades drew his attention to blood flowing down his leg, indicates that he did not make too light of the first sensation. An officer, whose ankle was shattered by a bullet as he stood upon a pile of fence-rails to reconnoitre, thought that a rail had turned under his weight and sprained the joint. He felt only a slight burning sensation, although the wound proved a mortal one in the end. On the other hand, a strapping, coarse-grained fellow, whom I knew well, and often remarked making light of the very idea of pain and suffering, quickly collapsed under a wound that he survived. And well he might. He was hit by a section of mortar-shell weighing three or four pounds that cut edgewise through his thigh, bone and all. He happened to be resting with his thighs across a small log that served as a block to the jagged cleaver. I was looking into his face, about to speak to him, at the very moment the missile struck, and, despite his callous fiber and almost brutal stoicism, he winced as though he felt—exactly as a human being might be supposed to feel under such a blow all "broken up" by the calamity.

Wounds that almost kill on the spot seem to be the least felt at the outset. Slight ones often produce enough disturbance to suggest the work of a dozen death-hurts. A spent missile that only raises a lump will make the victim feel as though an arsenal full of balls had struck him; and often soldiers with ghastly mor-

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