As Robert E. Lee wisely stated, “The education of a man is never completed until he dies.” We find this to be especially true, even for history buffs, when visitors ride along on a guided bus tour with one of our licensed Battlefield Guides and pick up a few things they never knew before.
The great thing about Gettysburg is that there are so many interesting tidbits of information that you can’t possibly get or retain them all with just one visit. We ourselves are still learning since starting the business back in the 1950’s!
We wanted to gather some of the more intriguing facts about the Civil War that readers of our blog may not be familiar with, so we put together this quick list of seven that we hope you’ll enjoy. If you have any facts of your own that you’d like to share, please include them in the comments section below.
- Of all American wars, the Civil War was by far the deadliest. Estimates of total death counts range from 620,000 to nearly 850,000, which to put into perspective were more deaths than both World Wars, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War combined! Gunshot wounds were not the primary culprit for death, but it was actually disease that claimed the most lives.
- One of the more creative ways to avoid the draft was removal of a soldiers own front teeth. Since soldiers needed to open gunpowder pouches quickly to reload a rifle, one of the requirements for service was at least four opposing front teeth. By removing those front teeth draftees could avoid service since they’d put their fellow soldiers and their own lives at risk.
- Have you ever seen a wound that glowed? Some of the soldiers who were injured during the Civil War noticed that their wounds would glow in the dark, and actually healed better than other soldier’s injuries. The fact was that these men became hypothermic and this allowed a bioluminescent Gammaproteobacteria (known as P. luminescens or “Angel’s Glow”) to exist and inhibit other harmful pathogens. This aided in the healing of those wounds.
- A Virginia farmer once gave Robert E. Lee several chickens. All of these chickens were eaten by another Confederate General’s men, except a little black hen who was hiding in a tree. “Nellie” became Lee’s pet and he grew quite fond of her until she was mistakenly served for dinner by Lee’s cook.
- Due to Robert E. Lee’s aggressive attacking nature in critical battles like Fredericksburg, his troops suffered many casualties. He decimated the Army of Northern Virginia and was the Civil War’s bloodiest general.
- William Tecumseh Sherman quickly rose to brigadier general and was given command of Union troops in Tennessee and Kentucky. Unfortunately these promotion’s responsibilities weighed heavily on Sherman, who didn’t want the role, and it played a part in development of what some believe to be a nervous exhaustion or depression. Newspapers at the time began to label Sherman as insane and he was relieved of his duties. It wasn’t until he was reassigned to a role under the command of Ulysses S. Grant that he developed into the great Union general we know him as today.
- The Smithsonian Institution recorded the battle cry known as the “rebel yell,” by Civil War veterans in the 1930’s. This clip from the Library of Congress is available on the Smithsonian website and you can listen to what the Confederate battle cry sounded like.
We hope you learned something new from this blog, and encourage you to plan your next Gettysburg visit to learn other fascinating facts about the Civil War. As we mentioned above, if you have any of your own interesting facts be sure to share them with us in the comments section!