While the American Civil War only lasted a mere four years resulting in a victory for the North. The death toll was staggering, over 600,000 people died on the battlefield and more perished from disease and illness. To this day historians have argued about what truly sparked this conflict, such as was there more to it than just slavery. During this time, some truly remarkable and shocking events took place, from wounds glowing in the dark to armies collecting urine for the war efforts. These are 10 things you probably didn’t know about the American Civil War.
10: Abraham Lincoln Didn’t Believe in Black Rights
Some people these days believe Abraham Lincoln the 16th president of the United States was a hero for his time because of his anti-slavery stance. This is not entirely true. Lincoln denied being an abolitionist and believed black slaves to be racially inferior. During the Great Debates (The Lincoln – Douglas Debates) of 1858, slavery was discussed. Lincoln said, “I will say them that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races and that the white man is to have the superior position”. It’s possible that he said these things for the sake of political expediency but still not a nasty man.
Read Also: 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Ancient China
9: Both Sides Embarrassingly Killed Their Own Men by Accident in Civil War
The first deaths in the American Civil War were accidents. The Confederates fight over 4000 shells at Fort Sumter, the Union forces decided to surrender and saluted by firing 50 of their cannons. Unfortunately, during the ceremony, to Union soldiers blew themselves up. As for the men in grey, during the battle of Chancellorsville in 1863, the troops decided to fire their weapons into the dead of night. Due to poor visibility, they ended up killing General Jackson, their ally, a bit of caution would have been helpful.
8: Yankee Hospitals Were Nothing More Than Amputations
If you were injured on the battlefield, you were in for a world of hurt. Gunshot wounds were prone to gangrene infections. The only known cure was to cut off any infected limbs as quickly as possible. The top brass could do it in half a minute. Some doctors jabbed their fingers into gunshot wounds and pushed lodged bullets out of any nearby exits then felt for any broken bones. Most had little to no experience or training, anesthetic was not mandatory. Though there were times when patients died via overdose. Strangely enough, roughly 3 in 4 soldiers survived the gruesome and painful amputation procedure. Which was notably higher rates than civilians, only half of them survived.
Read Also: 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Fascist Italy
7: Collected Urine as a Gunpowder Ingredient in Civil War
One of the ingredients for gun powder is nitrate. It was discovered that urine contained this chemical yet collecting large quantities proved difficult. Initially, the Confederates ended up trying to collect lumps of urine-soaked earth from barns and smoke houses. Mining officer John Harrelson of Selma Alabama published an advert in a newspaper requesting the woman of the town to save their chamber pots. So that their tinkle can be collected in a barrel for the war efforts.
Army poets got creative and decided to write poems to the tune of “Maryland, my Maryland,” Confederate poets shunned the idea. An unknown figure wrote a few additional tongue-in-cheek verses dubbed the Yankee view of it. Which protested that there was found in this compound. One serious objection, no soldier boy could sniff it without having an erection. Even during wartime, soldiers still had a sense of humor, a naughty one at that.
6: One of Stonewall Jackson’s Arms was Buried in a Separate Grave
General Thomas Stonewall Jackson was a bit of a celebrity during his time. Before he joined the Confederate army, he was beloved by black slaves for his firm but friendly attitude toward them. He stood his ground like a stone wall as he called in reinforcements during the hectic first battle of Bull Run on July 21, 1861, hence the nickname. In 1863, a large-scale battle took place. Thomas Stonewall was accidentally shot by his allies. He was sent to the hospital. While everyone else’s limbs were tossed into a pile outside. Jackson’s left arm was buried in its own personal grave outside of Elwood Virginia.
Stonewall died of pneumonia a week later but was buried in Lexington about 500 miles away from his amputated limb. A year later union soldiers recovered the arm and reburied it in the location that remains unknown to this day. Still, the grave remains intact and his tombstone is engraved with the simple message, Arm of Stonewall Jackson.
Read Also: 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Soviet Union
5: Stonewall Jackson Always Raised His Finger for the Barmiest of Reasons in Civil War
Stonewall was an odd one. He loved to walk around raising his finger to the sky. Since he thought one of his arms and legs were bigger and heavier than the other. So, by raising his finger, he would balance his blood flow thus alleviating set limbs. Finally, enough during the first battle of Bull Run, it is said that while he was raising his finger on horseback, it was hit by shrapnel. Doctors wanted to amputate the finger but Stonewall turned down the offer. Thankfully it healed without infection. Perhaps the enemies saw Jackson’s finger and thought he was gloating like, “I bet you Yankee’s cult hit my finger from all the way over there.”
4: Union Soldiers Jumped in a Crater and were Slaughtered by the Confederates
The battle of the crater was arguably the most embarrassing event to have taken place during the American Civil War. On paper, the plan sounded devious enough, dig a mine underneath the Confederates, detonate some explosives and blast them to Kingdom come. The blast killed 200 enemies and left a massive crater, but the Union soldiers foolishly climbed inside of it. The Confederates arrived and pick them off like fish in a barrel. Thankfully, the troops of the north had reinforcements that counter-attack the pre-occupied southerners, but the casualties spoke for themselves. Almost 3800 Union soldiers were killed, captured or otherwise, compared to 1500 on the Confederate side. General Ulysses Grant called it one of the most depressing events in the war.” too right.
Read Also: 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Nazi Germany
3: Corporal Galway Single-Handedly Persuaded 50 Confederates to Surrender in Civil War
Sometimes it’s best to put on a brave face when the odd side unanimously against you. Corporal Thomas Galloway of the Federal Army did just that. Not only did he survive the encounter, but he also captured 50 enemy troops. During the battle of Gettysburg, Galloway was bruised and battered and limped his way to the retreating enemy. Despite being a very vulnerable target, he rounded up 50 enemy soldiers. He took them back to base to become prisoners of war. Astonishingly, Galloway was only 15 years old.
2: Wounds Glowed in the Battle of Shiloh
One of the strangest mysteries to have taken place in the American Civil War was during the battle of Shiloh. As the injured lied in the fields unmask, their wounds started to glow in the dark. And later healed considerably faster than everyone else’s. Soldiers call this freaky sight “angels glow”. This phenomenon was debunked in 2002 by William Martin and Jonathan Kurtion. The two teenagers researching ideas for their science school project. They discovered it was caused by a bacterium called Photorhabdus luminescens. Body heat would have normally killed it. But since the battle took place on a cool day, the microorganisms landed on the wounds and ended up devouring the bad bacteria. Those healed by the “angels glow” caught hypothermia instead. It a bit of a double-edged sword but it must have been quite a mesmerizing sight at the time.
Read Also: 10 Things You Didn’t Know About The Greek Empire
1: The Confederate Surrender Was Not as Simple as It Seems in Civil War
Contrary to what you’ve likely been taught in school, the Civil War did not decisively and after the famous battle of Appotomax Courthouse. In actuality, the Confederate surrender was a rather messy and slower affair as Confederate President Jefferson Davis wasn’t captured, until a month after General Lee and the army of Virginia surrendered. Ironically, the Confederates actually won the last battle of the Civil War, which took place near Brownsville, Texas. Even after most of the states and armies loyal to the Confederacy had already surrendered months prior.
In fact, the last major Confederate forced to surrender was an Indian one led by Cherokee Brigadier General Stand Watie. President Johnson actually formally declared the end of the American Civil War on August 20, 1866. Unfortunately, due to his assassination, President Lincoln who has pursued the war against the Confederacy for four grueling years did not live to see the end of hostilities and the restoration of the Union.
Those then are 10 facts you probably didn’t know about the American Civil War. Don’t forget to check out our other lists and thanks for staying with us for a while.