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Blog Post

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Department 1

Civil War Institute


When Claude-E’tienne Minié perfected the minié ball in 1849, it is doubtful he knew of the carnage that it would cause in the American Civil War some twelve years later. However, this small and compact bullet can teach us far more than simply the horrific bloodletting it caused on the battlefield itself. A closer analysis of the bullet’s impact on the human body also reveals a deeper glimpse into Civil War hospitals, medicine, and an entirely new scale and scope of death with which Victorian Americans were forced to come to terms as the war’s long casualty lists poured in from both on and off the battlefield. Considered by many to be a significant technological advancement in the 1840s for its supposedly marked increase in range and accuracy, this bullet was initially expected to have a revolutionary impact on battle tactics; however, as recent scholarship has shown, the ball’s impacts were most significantly felt not in the number of men it felled on a battlefield, but in the severity of the wounds it inflicted on its targets. [excerpt]


This blog post originally appeared in The Gettysburg Compiler and was created by students at Gettysburg College.