Wednesday, April 18, 2012

He Bayoneted Me - With Science! or, Bill and Jon's Excellent Experiment

As a history buff I know a fair bit about the US Civil War, but I was unaware of the phenomenon of glowing wounds after the Battle of Shiloh, whose anniversary was just a couple of weeks ago last week (damn backlog). As this story relates, the cause of this was unknown until 2001, when two enterprising youths took up the case. It turns out that some of the soldiers subject to the appalling neglect inherent in 19th-century battlefield medicine (think of it as Extreme Triage) acquired a colony of bioluminescent bacteria via being left in the mud for a couple of days. These bacteria created more hospitable consitions for themselves by killing off other bacteria, thus lowering the infection rate of these soldiers and improving their chances of survival. (Manufacturers of anti-bacterial-in-everything products, take note.)

JJV, who brought this to my attention, is probably wondering, as I am, why the whackaloon reenactor who plagued us during our last Civil War B & B weekend in 1998 didn't mention glowing wounds as part of his spiel. On the other hand, we were touring the Wilderness/Spotsylvania battlefield so I guess we should count ourselves lucky he didn't gut-shoot us then set the surrounding brush on fire.

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