categories of Wounded

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categories of Wounded

Postby Fathertime » 13 Oct 2017 21:24

I am researching an officer wounded in the 1st Sikh war, 1846 at the Battle of Aliwal. I can see wounded described as:

slightly wounded
wounded
badly wounded
severely wounded
mortally wounded

I would like to know, what sort of condition or wound might be described as "wounded" as opposed to badly wounded. I am sure slightly wounded might mean a grazing wound, or cut that might require dressing, but not surgery.

regards
Bob
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Re: categories of Wounded

Postby jf42 » 14 Oct 2017 07:52

'Wounded' presumably means being injured badly enough to be out of the battle- hors de combat - and require time to heal and recuperate.
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Re: categories of Wounded

Postby mike snook » 14 Oct 2017 11:54

Bob

It's a good question. Having read a lot of period despatches, across most of the major campaigns of the era, it strikes me as at least unusual, if not indeed rare, that both 'badly' and 'severely' would appear in the same list, as they seem to me to be synonymous. Your interpretation of 'slightly' is pretty much spot on I would say, save in the regard that slight wounds might require stitches, rather than merely dressing alone. Another classification one sometimes encounters is 'dangerously', meaning pretty self-evidently that the surgeons doubt very much that the poor chap in question is going to pull through.

I am inclined to think that the surgeons must have operated a formal classification system, but I have never seen it formally laid out and defined, and would struggle to think where one might begin looking for such a thing. A surgeon with a particularly busy pen was Munro, who served with the 91st Argyllshire Regt in the 7th Cape Frontier War and the 93rd Sutherland Highlanders in both the Crimea and the Mutiny, but I have read all his stuff and cannot recall that he ever gets stuck into the distinction between one type of wound and another, except perhaps that one might accrue a series of indirect references across his writing as a whole. Don't interpret that a recommendation to pick up his memoirs, (he wrote at least two books), as my sense of it is that they are unlikely to provide the certainty that you will be seeking.

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Mike
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Re: categories of Wounded

Postby RobD » 14 Oct 2017 14:15

Mike writes of wounds which "might require stitches"; may I make a comment about wound care now vs. then?

Whilst wound closure by stitching is sometimes done nowadays, when wounds may be small, sterile or can be carefully debrided/disinfected in theatre and antibiotics used, in the Victorian era wounds were always considered to be contaminated [non-sterile]. Thus the skin was, wisely, not closed over the wound by stitching. A stitch could have been tied around a bleeding vessel in the depths of the wound. A widely gaping wound could occasionally be reduced in size by bringing the wound edges closer with a loose suture, but this would be an unusual situation, and even then the skin would not be stitched closed. Wounds were allowed to heal by "secondary intention", by which the wound slowly and naturally becomes shallower and the skin edges eventually grow together. The principle of this approach is that infection is thus not trapped in the depths of the wound, but pus which forms is allowed to discharge through the skin, the discharge taking with it fibres of clothing etc which may have been carried into the wound.
This is one reason why convalescence took so very long.

A surgical incision, e.g. during an amputation, by contrast was done under sterile or clean conditions and the skin could then be closed over, often with a rubber drain left leading from the skin between the sutures into the depths of the surgical wound to allow liquids to escape.
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Re: categories of Wounded

Postby mike snook » 14 Oct 2017 19:30

V interesting Rob. Thank you. I had sword cuts (or, rather, more nicks than full on cuts!) in mind, as an example of a so called slight wound. I assumed they stitched such things. Good job I wasn't doing the doctoring or I'd have killed everybody! Mind you that's pretty much what happened to anybody who went to hospital in Lucknow, which is what I've been reading about lately. Very poor survival rate for the wounded.

As ever,

M
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Re: categories of Wounded

Postby RobD » 15 Oct 2017 09:41

A great deal has been written about factors which affect the killed-to-wounded ratio at various times and places. The siege of Lucknow 1857 was at a time of extreme scientific ignorance when antisepsis and the germ theory of infection were not yet accepted. They stll believed in miasmas, used cholera belts, spine pads, etc. Thus one wound infected with a streptococcus or a staphylococcus meant the whole ward could soon have been cross-infected - nobody washed their hands unless they were squeamish, and orderlies, doctors, nurses all went from patient to patient dressing wounds with hands and sleeve/cuffs full of these bacteria. In addition, there was no means of giving fluids to support dehydration, neither rectally nor intravenously. No blood transfusion. No anaesthesia for surgery. No tetanus vaccine. And so on, it was pretty much like the stone age.
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Re: categories of Wounded

Postby jf42 » 16 Oct 2017 00:22

Except the stone age was possibly a lot more peaceable....
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