.. In prior research on the subject, I was not able to locate any credible period medical reference or account of the practice of using lead bullets for a hapless wounded soldier to bite upon. Besides the fact that such a practice would present the additional risk of being swallowed, choked on, and possibly fracture teeth.
I have personally excavated a number of examples of these "chewed/bitten" bullets. Most of these that I have examined were actually found in static camp areas. At least twice a chewed one was found in an immediate area of other bullets that had been carved on. It was our general synopsis that bored soldiers at times will entertain themselves in various ways, that wasnt automaticly related to anything medical. Strainger habits have been known.
Some of these are human teeth marks. However I have also excavated and located many that on close examination were chew marks from rodents. Squirrels and mice will equally find the soft metal interesting to chew and nibble on, and sometimes found with chunks chewed out, that on first glance of a heavily oxidized bullet might resemble a human tooth mark. I had a number of new cast bullets in a workshop shed that some field mice had gotten into. Several bullets thereof were discovered chewed on in like manner to many of those previously found.
It was our collective option that this was predominately the case of a generic period metaphor being mis-interpreted literally, that really doesnt have much documented evidence found existing to conclusively prove itself otherwise.
Lieut Frederick Sineath
14th Virginia Infantry Regt Co.I
- 106th Penna Vol Co.F