Angel’s Glow: The Mysterious Civil War Phenomenon Where Wounds Glowed Green

Written By Wise Healthy n Wealthy

Did you know that soldiers’ wounds glowed in the dark after one of the Civil War’s bloodiest battles?

Stranger still, they ended up healing much quicker than they should have.

At the time, Doctors called the phenomenon “Angel’s Glow.”

Nobody had an answer for what had happened until almost 140 years later when a high school student called Bill Martin decided to investigate.

His discoveries solved one of the Civil War’s most enduring mysteries.

Here’s what happened…

It Began With the Battle of Shiloh

On April 6, 1862, in Hardin County, Tennessee, almost 44,000 Confederate soldiers launched a surprise attack on General Ulysses Grant’s Union troops.

Fierce fighting ensued. Yet, despite initial Confederate success, staunch defence from Grant’s forces enabled them to hold their position until nightfall, when fighting ceased.

Overnight, unknown to their enemy, thousands of Union reinforcements led by General Don Carlos Buell arrived. As dawn struck, the combined 54,500-strong army attacked the already depleted Confederate ranks.

Ultimately, the Union army prevailed – but not without suffering enormous losses.

By the end of what became known as the Battle of Shiloh (or the Battle of Pittsburgh Landing) almost 24,000 men were either dead, missing, or wounded.

The Glowing Began Afterward

It’s nighttime on April 7. The fighting is over, and the battlefield is strewn with wounded men. They’re exhausted, damp, and cold—something that may end up saving their lives (but more on that later…).

As they wait to be rescued, though, they notice something strange.

The open wounds they’ve suffered during the battle are emanating a strange greenish-blue light. They’re glowing in the dark.

In the days that follow, doctors notice two things about these soldiers.

First, their survival rate is much higher than the soldiers who haven’t reported the glow. Second, their wounds aren’t getting infected as much. Ultimately, they’re healing quicker.

For all these reasons, the soldiers called it the “Angel’s Glow.”

It Remained a Mystery For Almost 140 Years

In 2001, while visiting the Shiloh battlefield, 17-year-old high school student Bill Martin heard about the so-called Angel’s Glow for the first time.

Intrigued, he chose to research it for his school science project.

With help from his mom, a microbiologist, he started looking into types of bacteria known to glow. Next, they investigated if any of these bacteria could have been present on the battle site.

As it happened, the ground was full of tiny parasitic worm-like critters called nematodes. Inside nematodes is a type of bacteria called Photorhabdus luminescens, which they vomit up inside the larvae they infect.

And guess what? It glows.

So, it turns out those soldiers who experienced Angel Glow actually had wounds covered in dirt and nematode spew. They healed quicker and were more likely to survive because the bacteria fought off their infections and destroyed other potentially lethal pathogens.


Interestingly, this bacteria wouldn’t ordinarily be able to live on humans. However, the soldiers’ damp and freezing condition on the battlefield helped it survive.

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