The Horrors of War: Gunshot Wounds and the 17th-Century Chirurgeon

Skull [19th century] showing ‘keyhole’ gunshot trauma from The National Museum of Health and Medicine, Washington D.C.

 

FROM RICHARD WISEMAN’SĀ TREATISE OF WOUNDS [1672]

At the Siege of Taunton one of Colonell Arundell’s men, in storming the Works, [a soldier] was shot in the Face by Case-shot. He fell down, and in the Retreat was carried off among the dead, and laid into an empty house by the way, untill the next day; when in the morning early, the Colonell marching by that house heard a knocking within against the Door. Some of the Officers desiring to know what it was lookt in, and saw this man standing by the Door without Eye, Face, Nose, or Mouth. The Col. sent to me (my Quarters being nearest) to dresse the man.

I went, but was somewhat troubled where to begin. The Door consisted of two Hatches; the uppermost was open, and the man stookd leaning upon the other part of the Door which was shut. His Face, with his Eyes, Nose, Mouth, and forepart of the Jaws, with the Chin, was shot away, and the remaining parts of them driven in. One part of the Jaw hung down by his Throat, and the other part pasht into it. I saw the Brain working out underneath the lacerated Scapl on both sides between his Ears and Brows. I could not see any advantage he could have by my Dressing. To have cut away the lacerated parts here had been to expose the Brain to the Air. But I helpt him to clear his Throat, where was remaining the Root of his Tongue. He seemed to approve of my Endeavours, and implored my Help by the Signs he made with his Hands.

I askt him if he would drink, making a Sign by the holding up a Finger. He presently did the like, and immediately after held up both his Hands, expressing his Thirst. A Souldier fecht him Milk, and brought a little wooden Dish to pour some of it down his Throat; but part of it running on both sides, he reacht out his Hands to take the Dish. They gave it him full of Milk. He held the Root of his Tongue down with the one Hand, and with the other poured it down his Throat (carrying his Head backward), and so got down more than a quart. After that I bound his Wounds up. The dead were removed from thence to their Graves, and fresh Straw was fetcht for him to lie upon, with an old Blanket to cover him. It was in the Summer. There we left that deplorable creature to lodge; and while we continued there, which was about 6 or 7 days, he was drest by some of the Chirurgeons with a Fomentation….

By | 2010-11-03T14:46:32+00:00 November 3rd, 2010|Casebooks|3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. ivanamirkovic October 10, 2011 at 6:07 am - Reply

    Does the text say anything more about what happened to this man or about how long he managed to survive in this hospital?

  2. Pranab April 10, 2012 at 8:01 pm - Reply

    This sounds inhumanly horrible… just imagining the pain this man would have been in makes me nauseous.

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