As it turns out, the phrase “bite the bullet” had real meaning to soldiers wounded on the battlefield. Doctors in the 18th century treated patients without any form of anesthetics and with no knowledge of the importance of hygiene. Biting on a bullet, as demonstrated by Michael Williams, a colonial surgeon reenactor at Wormsloe Plantation, was what soldiers did to withstand the pain of treatment. Although we may cringe at the sight of the surgeon’s crude instruments, colonial doctors who used them actually saved many lives.
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