Human distal femur shot with a 510-grain lead Minié ball fired from a .58 caliber Springfield Model 1862 rifle.

The minie ball, originally designed by Captain Claude-Etienne Minie of France and improved on by manufacturers in the United States, changed warfare. Since the minie ball was smaller than the diameter of the barrel, it could be loaded quickly by dropping the bullet down the barrel.These bullets could travel a half-mile or more, and the average soldier could hit a target at 300 yards.

Neither side anticipated the impact that the minie ball would have on the battlefield. The minie-ball forced commanders to fight defensive battles rather than traditional frontal assaults. Since the bullet was made from soft lead, when it entered the body and struck a bone, it would flatten out and shatter the bone thus inflicting more damage. There are even reports from Gettysburg of trees dying from lead poisoning from being shot so many times.

Source: Leg bone from the Ragsdale Gunshot Wound Study, 1984. National Museum of Health and Medicine, Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, Washington, D.C. From exhibition “Visible Proofs: Forensic Views of the Body” U.S. National Library of Medicine, 8600 Rockville Pike, Bethesda, MD 20894 Source: