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Thread: Goofy myth perpetuated - again.

  1. #41


    In the other thread, I posted this link, which refers to Indians chewing lead to make or prepare bullets. See the footnote:

    Hank Trent

  2. #42
    Join Date
    Jul 2008


    Human Dentition imprints are quite different than most other mammals, including the great Apes.
    I can not recite specific documentation, but such studies on the "medicine balls" has been done for quite some time.
    George Wunderlich's suggestions, in my opionion, should be explorered.
    But then what do I know?

  3. #43
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    On The Road Again


    Before we become confused, it's not Mr Duffer's quote, but Mr Schaffner's.

    Mr S made clear it was from a 1607 manual as he used it to make a relevant reasoned point to the discussion.
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  4. #44


    I just want to make the Museum's position clear. All period documentation that we have uncovered points to the fact that all surgical sources that have anything to say on the subject are unified; do NOT place anything in the mouth or the life of the patient is endangered. We do not believe that there was any official medical use of bullets for pain management and we believe this for all of the reasons stated clearly here by others.

    We have spent many years joking that we need an ammunition crate marked "100 Rounds .577...medicinal use only!"

    That said, with the recent confirmation of human bite marks in period ammunition by the dental school in MN., we now need to look further into our beliefs and find a possible explanation (many have also been stated here) with proper historical documentation. Once we have exhausted all possible avenues of research we will publish the combined scientific and historical date. We are trying to be both diligent and reasonable in our approach. The help that you have offered is another piece in an ever growing puzzle to help us understand the myth and it's origins.

    George Wunderlich
    Executive Director
    National Museum of Civil War Medicine

  5. #45
    Join Date
    Feb 2006

    Default More Bitten Bullets

    Here are some more citations, three of the period and one a little later referring to earlier practices. Hank Trent already gave us a link to the Murray quote, but I thought it worth typing in full since it's a twofer.

    I have a couple questions for you, Mr. Wunderlich, if you don't mind -- did the analysts look at a number of "medicine bullets" and just found a certain percentage that were chewed by people? It would be interesting to know that percentage. I also wonder if they identified the kinds of bullet. Thanks!

    “Biting the Bullet”

    The Story of Montana by Kate Hammond Fogarty, 1916 pp. 239-240, the author describes an Indian’s custom of biting bullets before battle for luck, or as a form of prayer: “he bit the bullet so that it would not bite him.”

    Harper’s Monthly Magazine, 1869,Vol. 38, Issues 223-228, p. 155. “This was the old style of hunting the buffalo when breech-loaders were unknown, and a short muzzle-loading rifle of large bore was used as the best arm... With such a weapon the hunter dispensed with a ramrod, charging his gun by simply pouring the powder into the barrel, and then dropping a bullet from his mouth into the gun, and sending the charge home by striking the butt of the rifle smartly on the pommel of the saddle.”

    Travels in North America During the Years 1834, 1835, & 1836, Vol. I, pp. 312-313, Sir Charles Augustus Murray (1839): “then he took from his mouth a half-chewed bullet,* and, wrapping it in the same stuff, rammed it down also.” *[fn] “This method of making bullets is very common among the Indians who use guns. They will hunt all day with a piece of lead in their mouth, which they thus chew into form. Another object is hereby attained; if no water can be obtained, a piece of lead in the mouth excites the saliva and relieves the pains of thirst. I have more than once used one of my own rifle-balls for this purpose, and have experienced much relief from so doing.”

    The Rover, Volume 2, (1844) p. 162 “The true secret of this quick loading was, that his gun was old, and, as he turned in the powder at the muzzle, primed herself – a bullet from his mouth followed, and he was ready to fire.”

    The "quick-loading" methods probably wouldn't apply to the civil war because they refer to flintlocks self-primed by expanding the vent so some powder sent down the barrel would end up in the pan.
    M. A. Schaffner
    Midstream Regressive Complainer

  6. #46
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Batavia, Illinois


    Dr. Robert Karczewski from Marquette University Dental School in Milwaukee, WI conducted research on some "human bit", Civil War bullets and reported that research at the 2011 Society of Civil War Surgeon's conference. The bullets were obtained from the Civil War Medical Museum in Frederick, MD and a private collection. Using the university electron microscope, his research concluded that some of the bullets tested had HUMAN TEETH MARKS. It is not often that a 40 year veteran professor of Dental Medicine does this type of research. The fact that he is a Civil War Medical reenactor since 125th Antietam does indicate an interest in the field.

    So... it is a fact that bullets were bit but, the sample was small in the study, so the likelyhood of a large number of cases is still in question.

    You should all attend the Society of CW Surgeons Conference in Columbus, GA on March 23-25, 2012. You might find the lectures interesting since this original research was
    presented at that conference!
    Dr. Trevor Steinbach
    17th Corps Field Hospital, Inc. a 501(c)(3)
    First Federal Division -- Medical Director
    First Illinois Brigade -- Medical Director (Union)
    Board Member - Society of Civil War Surgeons

  7. #47
    Join Date
    Dec 2011


    We may agree that the bullets have human bite marks, but how can we be sure they were bitten by men in pain? I don't doubt that it happened sometimes. I also think that finding them among medical items is a fair sign that they may have been used for that purpose.

    The bigger issue is that the general public thinks there was no pain relief available. That's when we could explain that someone might use a bullet in this way because he had to wait for morphine, because he had had all the surgeon could give him without overdosing and he still had pain, or because, like modern people, he had the idea that it would help somehow. After some of the descriptions of ambulance rides on rutted roads, I would expect wounded men to do darned near anything they thought would even have a chance of helping. It wouldn't mean the surgeons hadn't done their best, or thatnothing was available; even today, there are times when the best we can do is...the best we can do.


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