There were many battles during the American Civil War, but none as strange as what took place right after the Battle of Shiloh. It was a campaign filled with violent bloodshed and non-stop fighting. The carnage was horrendous. It was fought in Tennessee near Pittsburg Landing in Harding County. The region was wet and swampy. The fighting would last for two days. Ulysses S. Grant and Don Carlos Buell were the generals in charge of the Union soldiers fighting against Confederates being led by General Albert Sidney Johnston and then later P.G.T. Beauregard. The cost was extremely high; the death count for both armies is somewhere around three thousand with over sixteen thousand men wounded. The medical assistance available to these men was very inadequate and nobody was truly prepared for the level of lives lost during this conflict. This meant that the wounded soldiers had to lie in the mud while it rained; they were injured and unable to make it to safety.

It would take a full two days to get all the wounded off the battlefield. By the time night arrived a very strange phenomenon occurred that nobody at the time could fathom much less explain. The men who lay beaten, bloody, and dying on the ground began to glow. Well… their wounds began to brightly shine a luminous greenish blue color. What was causing such a strange thing to happen? This is the part that gets even stranger, not only did some of the soldiers gaping wounds glow, but it seemed that these glowing men’s injuries healed much faster and cleaner than the wounds that did not glow. It was beyond what anyone could analyze or interpret. It was quite the mystery!


The conundrum was very bizarre and astonishing; however, there is a very easy explanation for the glowing wounds and why they healed better. It would be solved about a hundred and fifty years after it took place. Two high school kids would do an experiment that proved to yield all the answers. Bill Martin and his friend Jon Curtis in 2001 were visiting the grounds where the Battle of Shiloh took place with Martin’s mother. She happens to be a microbiologist who was involved in doing research with a glowing bacterium called Photorhabdus Luminescens. This made Bill wonder if this bacterium was not behind the mystery. He asked his mother about it and she simply said they should find out. The two boys began doing their experiment. They were able to effectively prove that the time of year the battle took place and the wounded soldiers laying in swampy conditions with reduced body temperature made the perfect climate for this kind of bacteria to survive. They also proved that the bacterium killed all the other bad bacteria around it which is why the wounds ended up healing much more effectively than soldiers who were not exposed to Photorhabdus Luminescens. This discovery would win Bill and Jon first place at the 2001 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.



  1. Loved this post. Really interesting piece of historical research and modern science. Unless you are mainly interested in the American Civil War, I think you would like a book I read recently about the medical advsnces made on the battlefilds of Spain, in their more recent Civil War: Richard Rhodes – Hell and Good Company, my post July 2015 – Creativity in Wartime. Thank you for deciding to follow my blog.

  2. In a day of increasingly inattention this jot proves just How good THE curious can be for all. nOW THAT YOU’VE GIVEN THIS HAVE YOU read THE “HISTORY OF THE la JOCKEY”? iT TOO is ON WORDPRESS.COM
    Remember the painting of “Washington Crossing the Deleware” , the dapper brown fellow is a SLAVE/ OFFICER in Washington’s troop… whose SON IS THE YOUNGEST SOLDIER to DIE AT POST in U.S. HISTORY.

  3. There is always something fascinating to find by studying the past. Thank you for sharing this most interesting post.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.