Some of these wounded soldiers later reported that as they lay on the ground awaiting help, their wounds started to glow in the dark.
At the time, the reason for the glow was a mystery but doctor’s did note that the wounds that glowed healed faster than those that didn’t.
The mystery remained unsolved until 2001, when two teenagers finally uncovered the source of the glow.
After the two teens, Billy Martin and John Curtis from Maryland, conducted a variety of scientific experiments, they discovered that the wounded soldiers became hypothermic as they lay in the mud.
This lower body temperature allowed for the growth of a bioluminescent bacterium called Photorhabadus luminescens, which inhibits pathogens, to develop in the wound.
This bacterium not only caused the wounds to glow but also prevented them from became gangrenous, which saved the lives and limbs of many soldiers.
The glowing wounds of the Battle of Shiloh are mostly due to the wet, cold and muddy conditions of that April battle as well as the fact that this glowing bacterium is known to attach itself to a certain type of flatworm, called planaria, which is commonly found in the Shiloh area.
Since worms only come to the surface when it is wet, there was an abundance of the worms moving throughout the mud during and after the rainy battle.
The discovery won Martin and Curtis the top prize at the Siemens International Science Fair Competition. Curtis later went on to pursue a career in science and Martin pursued a degree in American history, specializing in the American Civil War.
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