Category Archives: War

Medicine War

Wounds made by Gunshot

Today’s fragments come from a late 16th century book (originally published in French) on the treatment of gunshot wounds. Designed primarily to be used by surgeons on the battlefield, its advice would also be useful to soldiers, physicians, and any victim of a firearm. Imagine being prodded and poked on the battlefield by some of the surgical instruments below (without any form of anaesthetic!)

All wounds made by Gunshot on the body of man, whether they be simple, or compounded with dilaceration, contusion, distemperature, and tumor, are made some in the noble parts, others in the ignoble parts; some in the fleshie parts, and others in the Nervous and bony parts; sometimes with ruption and dilaceration of the great vessels, as of the Veines and Arteries, and sometimes without ruption of them. Such kinde of wounds are also sometimes superficiall, but most commonly profound and deepe, even to the penetrating through the body & members of them that receive them.

Another diversity is taken according to the differences of the Bullets: amongest the which, some are great, some in a meane substance, and some are small as Haile shot: whereof the matter (which is ordinarily but of Lead) is somtimes turned into Steele, Iron, or Tin, rarely into Silver, but never into Gold. According to the which differences, the Chirurgian ought to take divers Indications to operate, and according to them to diuersifie the remedies. I have found those Woundes heeretofore to bee as little rebellious in their curations, and as easie to handle as those which are made by anie Instrument of that kinde; I meane such which make a round and contused wound, or of such a figure which the shot maketh: and therefore it is most necessary that there bee a greater regard had to the symptomes or accidents of the contusion, dilaceration, fracture of the bones and evill quality of the incompassing aire, than to the combustion which is thought to proceed from the Bullet, or venenosity of the powder. This I thought good to publish to the world to aide young and new Practitioners in Chirurgery, in the same manner & Method which I have my selfe experimented in following the warres.

In the beginning of the Curation, you ought first to know whether the wounds was made by Gun-shot or no; which is easie to be seene if the figure of the wound be round and livid in colour, and the naturall colour of the part is changed, that is to say, yellow, azure, livid, or blacke.  Also at the same instant that the patient received the blow, if he say that he felt an aggravating pain, as if he had beene strooke with a great stone, or with a club, or as if a great burthen had falne upon the wounded part. In like manner, if the wound happened not uppon any great vessell, if there have issued but little blood from the wounded partes, which happeneth because they are contused, and greatly crushed, and therefore they tumifie presently after the blowe received;  thereby it cometh to passe, that the flux of blood is suppressed, which otherwise would flow at their Orifices. Also the Patient therein feeleth a great heate, which happeneth because of the impetuositie proceeding both from the violent motion of the Bullet, and the vehement impulsion of the ayre, with the ruption of the flesh and nervous partes.  Also, because of the great contusion the Bullet maketh there followeth Spasme, Faintings, Palsie, Gangrene, Mortification, and finally death.

First, it is convenient that the Chirurgian should amplifie the wound to give ample passage unto all such strange bodies which might have been conveyed in with the shot, and to draw them forth (if any there be) as any portion of the apparrell, wad, paper, peeces of Harnesse, Maile, Bullets, Shot, Splinters of bones, dilacerated flesh, and other things that shall bee found therein; and this to bee done at the first dressing if it be possible. For the accidents of pain and sensibility are not so great in the beginning, as they are afterwards.

Now for the better extraction of the aforesaid things, you ought to place the Patient in the same situation that he was at the time when he was first shot, because that the Muscles and other parts being otherwaies situate, may stop and hinder the way; and for the better finding of the saide Bullets, and other things, it is fitting that search bee made with the finger (if it be possible) rather then with any Instrument, because that the sense of feeling is more certaine then any Probe, or other insensible thing. But if the bullet have pierced farre into the body, there it may be reached with a Probe, round in the end thereof, for feare of causing paine: neverthelesse it happeneth somtimes that the Bullet cannot be found by the Probe. Wherefore it is very convenient to search for the Bullet not onely with the Probe, but (as I saide before) with the fingers, by handling and feeling the part and places about the same where you may conjecture the Bullet to have penetrated

As for the strange bodies which may be infixed in the wound, they may bee extracted by such Instruments heereafter described, which are different both in figure and greatnesse according as neede shall require; whereof some are toothed, & others not. And it is fit the Chirurgian should have of many and diuers fashions: some greater, and some smaller of every kind to accommodate them to the bodies and wounds, and not the bodies and wounds to his Instruments.


This following is called the Cranes bill, because of the similitude it hath thereunto; the which in like manner ought to bee toothed; and it is proper to extract any thing from the bottom of the wound both shot, maile, splinters of fractured bones, & other things. The other Instrument is called the Duckes Bill, having a Cavity in the extreamity or end thereof large and round, & toothed, the better to holde the Bullet; and it is proper principally when the Bullets happeneth in the fleshy parts.

Another Instrument called the Parrats Bill, and it is proper to draw foorth any peeces of Harnesse which may be inserted into the bottome of the Member, or also into the bones.

* A. sheweth the stalke of the Vice.
* B. The Scrue.
* C. The runner, which by the meanes of a Vice, is scrued higher or lower.
* DD The other part which is fixed with a Cavitie in the middest thereof, wherein the Runner is placed.

An Instrument called the Tire-fond, the which is turned by a Scrue within a pipe or hollow Instrument;  it is very convenient to extract forth the aforesaid Bullets when they are penetrated or are infixed in the bones:

The Dilatorie (above right) may be used to open and dilate the wounds
The Instruments which follow are Probes for the Seton, and are very convenient when as you would passe in a Seton to keepe the wound & the way of the Bullet open, untill you haue drawne forth all the strange bodies which might yet remaine therein. You must understand that those Probes which are used to search the bullet ought to be of a mean greatnesse.
 
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Monarchy Parliament War

General Cromwell pursued with horse

These fragments come from an account of the battle of Naseby in 1645; a turning point in the English Civil Wars which effectively thwarted long-term Royalist hopes of victory.

Both Armies were drawne in Battle in a great field neere Knaseby by ten in the morning, each wing of both sides charged [the] other, with that eagernesse, that they had not patience to shoot of one peece of Ordnance. Our Dragoones begun the Battaile Flancking the right wing of the Enemies Horse as they charged our left wing. The Foot charged not each other till they were within twelve paces one of another, and could not charge above twice, but were at push of Pike.  The Enemies Foot gave a little backe, and so did some few of ours, and then the right wing of our Horse (wherein the Generall was in person) charged in the Flancke of the blue regiment of the enemies Foot, who stood to it, till the last man, abundance of them slaine, and all the rest surrounded, wounded, and taken. Being lost, Horse and Foot gave backe, we advanced on after them in order our Horse flancking our Foot, and after one charge more, became Masters of all their Infantry, and tooke about three thousand prisoners. The Enemies Horse ran a pace, but still our Horse, though one would have beaten ten, (such a feare was the Enemy possessed with all) would not pursue in heate but take the Foot to flancke them. The King cryed out, face about once and give one charge and recover the day. Our Men Horse and Foot came on with that courage, that before ever wee gave fire they faced about and ran clear away.

Happy was he that was best mounted, and Liuetenant Generall Cromwell pursued with the Horse after them about twelve or thirteen miles, within two or three miles of Leicester, and having taken eight peeces of Ordnance in the Field, whereof two were Demicannon, one whole Culverine, tooke all the rest of their Ordnance and their Carriages, Bag and Baggage· aboundance of Coaches, and rich Plunder, Carts with Boates and great store of Bisket and Cheese, (a seasonable refreshment for our souldiers that had marched so hard, and the night before had not a bit of Bread to a regiment for their refreshment).  The Foot and the Traine Marched this night to Harborough (foure miles) where our head quarter is. It becomes not me to say any thing of my Generalls, Major Generalls, or Livetenant Generall Cromwells carriage in this battaile, I leave it to all men on the place to relate it, who cannot but admire their valour, and thus hath the Lord gone along with this new moulded Army, so much contemned by many & left as sheepe to the slaughter by others, but from the beginning I was confident, a blessing from heaven did attend this Army, there were in it so many pious men, men of integrity, hating vice, fighting not out of ambitiousnesse or by ends, but ayming at Gods glory and the preservation of Religion, & Liberty, and the destruction of the Enemy which was never in so faire a way as now is, if peoples hearts would yet be moved to redeeme themselves from slavery and all ioyne as one man.

If this advantage be improved (as what a wearied out and tyred Army is able to doe, will be done) with the blessing of God, and an addition of some fresh horse, ours being worne off their legs, the Enemy in all probability will not this Summer get head againe, and I hope in the Lord, never more considerable in the field, some observations I had in the time of Battell in the carriage of things, that one great incouragement to the common Souldier to fall on, was the rich Plunder the enemy had (their purses also being full of Money, the Plunder of poore Leicestershire, God turned to be one meanes of their ruine, and indeed our souldiers got plenty, the Irish women brought on the field (wives of the bloody Rebels in Ireland) our souldiers would grant no quarter too, about 100 slain of them, and most of the rest of the whores that attended that wicked Army are marked in the face or nose, with a slash or cut. I viewed the dead bodies, from the Battell to Harborough, truly I estimate them not to be above 700, together with those slaine in the fields running away, but in pursuit between Harborough and Leicester, and by townes, conceived about 300 more slaine, and an abundance wounded.’

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