The Mystery of the Glowing Wounds During the Civil War Battle of Shiloh
April 6, 1862
The Battle of Shiloh Begins. It was the bloodiest battle in U.S. history up to that time. During the two-day battle, 23,746 men were killed, wounded, captured, or missing. This is more than the American casualties of the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and the Mexican War combined. The Battle of Gettysburg the following year would rank as the bloodiest battle of the war.
After the battle, as the wounded lay in the wet cold mud for several days waiting to be rescued, some of their wounds began giving off a faint greenish blue glow. Adding to the mystery was the fact that those whose wounds glowed were more likely to survive, leading to the name “Angel’s Glow” for the phenomenon. It is believed that tiny parasitic worms called nematodes infested the insects that were attracted to the wounds. The nematodes ejected a bacteria that glowed in the dark. This bacteria also killed off other bad bacteria that might have caused gangrene and other dangerous infections, thus improving the soldier’s odds of survival. Normally, this glowing bacteria would not survive at body temperature, but because of the cold weather the soldiers were experiencing hypothermia, allowing the bacteria to survive. When the soldiers were finally rescued from the battlefield and warmed up, the glowing bacteria died. Loreta Janeta Velázquez, a woman who disguised herself as a man to fight and spy for the Confederacy also fought in this battle.