Glowing Wounds


The Battle of Shiloh was a devastating American civil war battle in which both the North and the South suffered heavy losses. But it's also known for the mysterious phenomenon known as Angel's Glow. What glowed were the soldiers' wounds which amazingly gave them a better chance at survival.

But this mystery wasn't solved until two thousand one by high school students. As the Battle of Shiloh ended, the wounded lay in the muddy field awaiting help. Then some soldiers noticed their wounds glowing greenish-blue in the dark. Though perplexed, physicians saw that soldiers whose wounds glowed had lower infection rates and healed faster. Thus the soldiers coined the term Angel's Glow.

Fast forward a hundred fifty years, high school student, Bill Martin, got interested after touring the battle site. With his mom's help, who's a microbiologist, Bill and a friend began digging for clues.

They first identified bacteria that are bioluminescent then examined environmental conditions for any that could have been present in Shiloh in eighteen sixty-two. They focused on the bacterium Photorhabdus luminescens which lives inside soil nematodes, microscopic worms.

The two have a symbiotic relationship. When the bacteria emits light, it attracts insects, allowing the worm to infect them. Once inside, the worm regurgitates the bacteria into the insects' blood, killing the insect and other toxic microbes present. This may be what happened with Angel's Glow. Soldiers' wounds became contaminated with the nematodes. The worms likely released their toxins and enzymes, essentially cleaning the wound by killing pathogenic bacteria.

Even though this is not confirmed, it's the best explanation we have thanks to a couple of high school students. You go guys!

More Information

Why Some Wounded Civil War Soldiers Actually Glowed In The Dark ' And Lived Because Of It
"Angel's Glow" was a phenomenon of the Civil War in which soldiers' wounds seemed to glow in the dark. It took 139 years to figure out why...

Photorhabdus luminescens
"Photorhabdus luminescens also known as Xenorhabdus luminescens is a bioluminescent microbe...

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Battle of Shiloh
Also known as the Battle of Pittsburg Landing, the Battle of Shiloh took place from April 6 to April 7, 1862, and was one of the major early engagements of the American Civil War (1861-65)...