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Thread: Bitten bullets

  1. #1

    Default Bitten bullets

    The National Museum of Civil War Medicine has been working with several researchers to determine the facts behind the bitten bullet phenomenon. We have already exhausted our data base and research library and are asking for outside assistance.

    If you have ever seen, have or know a PERIOD source that describes biting a bullet we are very interested in getting a copy. The biting incident may be medical, recreational or any other reference.

    A scientific test has proven that human teeth marks are indeed found on some bullets, we are now trying to round out that study with research into why they are there.

    Any assistance is greatly appreciated.

  2. #2

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    http://www.cwreenactors.com/forum/sh...petuated-again.

    Did you see the thread above? A few pre-period sources there.

    Also, see the footnote here for something unusual, chewing to make bullets, as well as sucking to relieve thirst:
    http://books.google.com/books?id=K4hBAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA312&output=html&cd=1

    Hank Trent
    hanktrent@gmail.com

  3. #3

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    I just saw it and will jump over there. Thanks.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    Central Va
    Posts
    250

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    George
    .. 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 Sineth
    14th Virginia Infantry Regt Co.I
    - 106th Penna Vol Co.F

    - Pegrams Va Artillery
    - 150th Sailors Creek

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Va.
    Posts
    745

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    Quote Originally Posted by Frederick14Va View Post
    George
    .. 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.
    I'll have to second the above post. Having also dug a fair number of chewed bullets most came from camp sites or static trench lines. I have none that came from hospital sites. Hogs used to roam the woods at will in some places in Va. I attribute many of the chewed bullets to them.
    Jim Mayo
    Member of the old vets mess.

    http://www.angelfire.com/ma4/j_mayo/index.html

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Virginia Beach, VA
    Posts
    316

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    I have to agree with Fred and Jim too. I searched at many regular camp site at the Shiloh area here and came up with the same conclusion.
    Now I have found chewed bullets at a VERY large hospital site however the site was used as a regular camp too. So at best due to the bullet not being really all that flat it, was chewed because the soldier was bored and in camp OR maybe there was some pain after surgery and it like a stress relief.

    I have heard from people who have done it and from old Roman accounts, that lead is sweet to some degree.
    Sean "Chuck-a-Luck" Marcum

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