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(1863) Battle of Gettysburg
Larry Purtell
Little Meadows
Posts: 832

Ewell is struck by a bullet
Posted on: 8/12/2019 9:05:37 PM

"My goal is to live forever. So far, so good.
Michigan Dave
Muskegon, Michigan
Posts: 5342

Ewell is struck by a bullet
Posted on: 8/14/2019 9:42:50 AM

Hi Larry,

Speaking of Officers wounded, Did major Officers have their own or a better surgeon than the regular soldiers! Remember in the movie, Dances with Wolves, a commander calls for his surgeon to help Dunbar!? Any thing to this?

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"The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract."
morris crumley
Posts: 2255

Ewell is struck by a bullet
Posted on: 8/14/2019 10:05:08 AM

Dave, the short answer is yes.

Remember, it was Albert Sidney Johnson who died of his wound at Shiloh because he had sent his surgeon off to attend to wounded Federal soldiers-prisoners.

A Dr who is a member of my SCV camp gave a very good presentment one evening of the medical situations and circumstances of that war. While most high ranking officers had access to better doctors-surgeons than was made available to enlisted men, he said that in some instances the better care did not always equate to better results. The understanding of bacterial infections was so absent, many wounded officers would die of their wounds while enlisted men, suffering the same wound would survive. The difference, the better care resulted in more frequent bandage changing and constant cleaning of the wound under less than ideal sanitary conditions...while enlisted men, who did not get such 'excellent care" would sometimes develop the presence of maggots in the wound......that "cleaned the dead and decaying tissue" and rendered the wound more clean, ( hard concept to grasp I know..and kinda disgusting, but....)

On the opposite side of the argument, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain survived because the best available physician was called to try and save "the hero of Little Roundtop," who knew a technique of repairing his damaged urethra with a glass tube.

So, officers of higher rank had better physicians, but this did not always guarantee better results.

Respects, Morris
"You are a $70, red-wool, pure quill military genius, or the biggest damn fool in northern Mexico."
Phil Andrade
Posts: 3998

Ewell is struck by a bullet
Posted on: 8/14/2019 11:27:45 AM

Hood’s desperately dangerous leg wound at Chickamauga comes to mind.

An amputation close to the has to wonder how many soldiers of lower rank would have survived that. At the risk of sounding callous about the more dispensable soldiers, a high ranking officer was, of necessity, bound to receive special care.

I know that in the Napoleonic wars - and I allude to the Peninsula War here - the British officers who were wounded stood a fifty per cent better chance of survival than their counterparts in the other ranks. I wonder how the American soldiers fifty years later fared in that respect.

One has to be circumspect about the mortality statistics : they can be interpreted in different ways. For example, a very badly wounded soldier might be left to die on the field ; his officer, although clearly in extremis, might be brought in and tended before he dies. This might inflate the death rate among the wounded officers : their fate was recorded differently....the soldier is killed in action, the officer dies from wounds.

I’ll check the Busey study of Confederate casualties at Gettysburg and see if it throws any light on this.

Yes, my suggestion is borne out. At Gettysburg, 305 rebel officers were killed in action, and 1,580 were wounded. Of those wounded, 232 ( 14.7% ) died. The enlisted men suffered 3,141 killed in action, and 14,068 wounded, of whom 1,763 ( 12.5% ) died. The implication - as I interpret it here - is that a badly wounded officer was more quickly brought to medical care ; the enlisted man was more likely to be left to die on the field. Hence the higher ratio of mortal wounds recorded for the officers . They were more meticulously evacuated from the field. It’s also significant that the proportion of wounded to killed outright was higher for the officers : 5.2 to one ; for the enlisted men it was 4.48 to one. In my imagination I hear the refrain He’s an officer, let’s try and save him. Bring him in ! , compared with This poor soldier’s got no chance, he’s so badly hurt, let’s leave him ! .

Remember that depiction of the Battle of Corinth in the movie The Free State of Jones ? Officers first !

Editing now : Reflecting on the differentials between officers and men in two conflicts separated by half a century, it’s very clear that the American armies of 1863 saw the gulf between officers and men close up significantly . The old regular British armies of the Napoleonic wars were, of course, much more defined by social hierarchy than their American counterparts in 1863. The British redcoat officers had received much more preferential - or should that be deferential ? - treatment than the officers in the AoNV when it came to fast admission to medical care. I think, though, that the officers of Wellington’s army were more conspicuous in battle. I base this on the recorded casualty figures. At Gettysburg , about 27.5% of Confederate officers were hit in battle, compared with 23.5% of their men....a significant disparity, no doubt, but not so big as it had been in the earlier warfare. More pertinent here is the fact that the officers who were hit at Gettysburg were fatally stricken in 28.5% of the cases ; and the proportion for the enlisted men was pretty well exactly the same. The difference being that the officer was more likely to die after reaching the hospital, as I described above. A more modern era, a more democratic army.

Regards, Phil
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

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