Mysterious Angel’s Glow: What Really Happened In The Battle Of Shiloh In 1862?

The term “Angel’s Glow” refers to a unique phenomena that occurred during the American Civil War. Thousands of witnesses saw a glow radiating from their wounds, aiding in their healing. Despite the oddity of the situation, there could be an explanation.

The bloodiest battle of the American Civil War, the Battle of Shiloh (1862), consisted of a surprise attack by the Confederates against the Union in order to push them back and away from the Tennessee River. The disorganization of the troops, however, turned that area into a carnage that concluded with the Union forces’ victory and a grotesque death toll: more than 3,000 soldiers dead and more than 16,000 injured. Doctors on both sides were unable to treat everyone, and the worst thing was that assistance would take two days to arrive.

And there, in the dirt, in the middle of the cold, gloomy night, and even in the rain at times, some soldiers saw that their wounds were generating a faint blue-green glow, which they had never seen before. Those who had seen their injuries sparkle had a greater survival rate, healed faster, and their wounds left fewer scars when they were finally evacuated. For what they referred to as the “Angel’s Glow.”

The mystery remained unsolved until 2001, when a 17-year-old high school student named Bill Martin and his 18-year-old friend Jon Curtis conducted research for their science project and claimed that the Angel’s Glow phenomenon could be caused by a bacteria called Photorhabdus luminescens.

These bacteria glow in the dark and can only survive in cold, damp settings. The combat took place in early April, when temperatures were low and the terrain was moist from rain. The injured soldiers were exposed to the elements and succumbed to hypothermia. This would create an ideal environment for P. luminescens to overpower and kill dangerous bacteria, hence avoiding infections. These bacteria died later in the hospital, in warmer temperatures, leaving the wound clean.

A bacterial infection in an open wound would frequently result in death. However, in this case, the appropriate microbe at the right time was critical in saving lives. So the warriors at Shiloh should have been grateful to their microbial companions. But who knew angels came in miniscule sizes back then? Martin and Curtis, on the other hand, went on to take first place in the team category at the 2001 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.

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