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Old 04-02-2004, 07:27 AM
Desdichado Desdichado is offline
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Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 285

I think there is some historical misperception about Chamberlain's famous wound - or perhaps he had more than one and people confuse them.* (See bottom)

As it happens, I was just reading Chamberlain this morning and he doesn't mention the ball piercing him at all. He describes it passing through his horse's neck, a leather case of field orders, a brass mounted mirror in his breast pocket, and striking him just below the heart, rendering him senseless. He describes how the bullet then traced his ribs to the rear and demolished the pistol of his aide Lt. Vogel, knocking that officer off his horse.

In his own words:

The bullet had riddled my sleeve to the elbow and bruised and battered my bridle arm so that it was useless, and the obstructions it met had slightly deflected it so that, instead of striking the point of my heart, it had followed around two ribs so as to come out at the back seam of my coat.
Now, he doesn't actually say whether the bullet followed the inside or outside of his ribs, but based on his actions later the same day, I presumed the latter.

After regaining consciousness after a few moments, he went on to lead a successful counterattack, and at one point found himself alone and surrounded by Confederates demanding his surrender. His appearance could not have been the officerly one of the portraits, for he was able to pass himself off as a rebel officer.

To their exhortation I replied: "Surrender? What's the matter with you? Don't you see these Yanks right onto us? Come along with me and let's break 'em." I still had my right arm and my light sword, and I gave a slight flourish indicating my wish and their direction. They did follow me like brave fellows - most of them too far; for they were a long time getting back [meaning after the war].
Apart from its humor value, I include that last bit as indicative of someone with viscera intact. I seriously doubt he could have done those things with bleeding bowels.

He describes later how his death had been reported to the newspapers and he was brevetted to Major General for this action.

*Well, the confusion was mine. He was indeed wounded more than once; six times in fact. The shot through the hips was during the assault on Petersburg in June of '64. The wound I described above was on the Quaker Road in March of '65.
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