History : Nov-Dec 2018
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC HISTORY 5 an Enfield rifle bullet lodged in a femur, dated the pit to the second battle. Confederate forces used Enfield rifles only at the second battle, a clue that suggests that the deceased men were most likely Union soldiers. Isotope analysis con- firmed the two skeletons were young white men both from the Northeast. The bones granted insight into 19th-century combat hospitals. If a man was too badly injured, as the two skel- etons appeared to be, doctors might decide to let him die. If they decided to amputate, an agonizing and traumatic pro- cedure, evidence on the bones suggests it was performed with great precision. In June 2018 the National Park Service transferred the remains to the U.S. Army for a September interment in Ar- lington National Cemetery. The two fallen soldiers were buried in coffins using 19th-century designs and fashioned from a 90-year-old tree that fell on the Manassas battlefield in a 2018 windstorm. THE KINDEST CUT Artifacts of Battle Fought 25 miles southwest of Washington, D.C ., the Battle of First Manassas (also known as the First Battle of Bull Run, named for a nearby creek) was fought in July 1861. In August 1862 a second, larger battle occurred in the same location. Artifacts, including but- tons from a Union jacket and SAW MARKS REVEAL THE FATE OF AN AMPUTATED LEG BONE FOUND AT THE MANASSAS SITE. KATED.SHERWOOD/SMITHSONIANINSTITUTION AGONIZING PROCEDURE A surgeon performs an amputation in a rare image taken in a field hospital in Fort Monroe, Virginia, during the Civil War. MANASSAS NATIONAL BATTLEFIELD PARK THECOUNTRYDOCTORMUSEUM SURGEON’S TOOLS from the 1860s, used during the U.S. Civil War SPL/AGEFOTOSTOCKZ.FRANK/ALAMY/ACI IN THE 1860s a stom- ach wound could be a death sentence. Most injuries, how- ever, affected soldiers’ limbs, which surgeons almost always opted to amputate—a process often undergone without anesthesia. Given the trauma of such a procedure, speed was crucial. The severed limbs found in the Manassas pit reveal signs of considerable skill and accuracy in the marks left behind by the surgi- cal saw. It is believed that the field surgeon would first use a scalpel to cut the tendons and flesh around the circumference of the limb until reaching the bone. Peeling back the tissue, he then cut through the bone. The whole process perhaps took less than 10 minutes—a short time from a surgical perspective, but an interminable ordeal for the patient.