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Salle d'Armes du Lion
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Sword wounds and the circulatory system
Maestro Frank Lurz
The enemy before you
consistently carries his guard a bit high. Is it carelessness, or is
he baiting you? You effect a small step backward and, just as you had
hoped, your opponent attempts to close the measure. His leading foot
begins to lift from the ground when, with the speed of a lightning
bolt, you suddenly straighten your sword arm and direct a feint
toward the man's flank, just under his hand. Seized with panic he
parries wildly, but the hostile blade finds only thin air. With
perfect timing you've eluded his parry and, disengaging to the high
line you drive a killing thrust, with a vigorous lunge, deep into
your antagonist's chest. To your surprise you feel almost no
resistance to your blade as it disappears beneath the fabric of his
blouse. Stunned, the hapless swordsman freezes in his tracks as he
realizes in that instant that his life on this earth is over. "La!"
You deftly pull your weapon out of the man's body and, triumphant,
you are about to turn and leave the ground when, to your amazement,
your foe recovers himself and returns to the guard! Eyes wide and
mouth agape, you stand motionless in disbelief and, in that brief
interval of inaction, the dying man desperately lunges forward, in
one last heroic effort, and runs you through. You stagger briefly and
then begin to fall; seconds rush in to arrest your fall and terminate
the combat. They cradle you in their arms and, although your vision
begins to blur, you look up to see the expressions of anguish and
desperation on their faces. As consciousness ebbs away a last thought
runs through you mind: "This isn't how it was in the
The foregoing scenario, while in itself a fiction, broadly
describes the outcomes of numerous duels, and almost certainly more
than many of us interested in such things might expect. For those of
us who have taken up the courtly weapon with more interest in fencing
than just its practice as a sport, such outcomes might well seem
disquieting; after all, we've been taught that fencing tempo lies at
the heart of every attack, defense and counterattack. If we deliver
our thrust one or more tempi ahead of our adversary, we're doing just
as our maestri told us--aren't we?
How do we reconcile fencing theory with the anecdotes passed down
through history? Can we trust what was reported by seconds and the
principals who survived? How credible is the "evidence?" Take for
example the case of the duel fought in 1613 between the Earl of
Dorset and Lord Edward Bruce.1 According
to the Earl's account, he received a rapier-thrust in the right
nipple which passed "level through my body, and almost to my back."
Seemingly unaffected, the Earl remained engaged in the combat for
some time. The duel continued with Dorset going on to lose a finger
while attempting to disarm his adversary manually. Locked in close
quarters, the two struggling combatants ultimately ran out of breath.
According to Dorset's account, they paused briefly to recover, and
while catching their wind, considered proposals to release each
other's blades. Failing to reach an agreement on exactly how this
might be done, the seriously wounded Dorset finally managed to free
his blade from his opponent's grasp and ultimately ran Lord Bruce
through with two separate thrusts. Although Dorset had received what
appears to have been a grievous wound that, in those days, ought to
have been mortal, he not only remained active long enough to dispatch
his adversary, but without the aid of antibiotics and emergency
surgery, also managed to live another thirty-nine years.
Never happen in a thousand years? Maybe. After all, Dorset himself
told the story. If fishermen tend to exaggerate, surely duelists
will. However, consider the duel between Lagarde and Bazanez. After
the later received a rapier blow which bounced off his head, Bazanez
is said to have received an unspecified number of thrusts which,
according to the account, "entered" the body.2
Despite having lost a good deal of blood, he nevertheless managed to
wrestle Lagarde to the ground, whereupon he proceeded to inflict some
fourteen stab wounds with his dagger to an area extending from his
opponent's neck to his navel. Lagarde meanwhile, entertained himself
by biting off a portion of Bazanez's chin and, using the pommel
of his weapon, ended the affair by fracturing Bazanez's skull.
History concludes, saying that neither combatant managed to inflict
any "serious" injury, and that both recovered from the ordeal. One
could hardly be criticized for believing this story to be anything
more than a fiction.
While the previous tale seems amazing enough, hardly anyone can
tell a story more incredible than that witnessed by R.
Deerhurst.3 Two duelists, identified only
as "His Grace, the Duke of B " and "Lord B ", after an exchange of
exceptionally cordial letters of challenge met in the early morning
to conduct their affair with pistols and swords. The combat began
with a pistol ball inflicting a slight wound to the Duke's thumb. A
second firing was exchanged in which Lord B was then wounded
slightly. Each then immediately drew his sword and rushed upon the
other with reckless ferocity. After an exchange of only one or two
thrusts, the two became locked corps a corps. Struggling to free
themselves by "repeated wrenches," they finally separated enough to
allow the Duke to deliver a thrust which entered the inside of Lord B
's sword arm and exited the outside of the arm at the elbow.
Incredible as it may seem, his Lordship was still able to manage his
sword and eventually drove home a thrust just above Duke B 's right
nipple. Transfixed on his Lordship's blade, the Duke nevertheless
continued, attempting repeatedly to direct a thrust at his Lordship's
throat. With his weapon fixed in His Grace's chest, Lord B now had no
means of defense other than his free arm and hand. Attempting to
grasp the hostile blade, he lost two fingers and mutilated the
remainder. Finally, the mortally wounded Duke penetrated the bloody
parries of Lord B's hand with a thrust just below Lord B 's
In the Hollywood swashbucklers this scene might well have have
ended at this point, if not long before, but real life often seems to
have a more incredible, and certainly in this case, more romantic
outcome. Locked together at close quarters and unable to withdraw
their weapons from each other's bodies for another thrust, the two
stood embracing each other in a death grip. At this point the
seconds, attempting to intercede, begged the pair to stop. Neither
combatant would agree, however, and there they both remained, each
transfixed upon the blade of the other until, due to extensive blood
loss, his Lordship finally collapsed. In doing so, he withdrew his
sword from the Duke's body and, staggering briefly, fell upon his
weapon, breaking the blade in two. A moment later, the "victorious"
Duke deliberately snapped his own blade and, with a sigh, fell dead
upon the corpse of his adversary.
Numerous similar accounts begin to make a case the prudent
swordsman cannot afford to ignore. It would appear that delivering a
thrust or cut to an opponent, without falling prey to his own blade
in turn, may not be so very simple and easy a thing. If one is
skillful (or fortunate) enough to accomplish this feat, how long
after inflicting a wound with a rapier, sabre, or smallsword can
one's adversary continue to pose a threat? Does the type of wound
have any meaningful effect on the length of time during which a
stricken foe may continue to deliver a killing cut or thrust? To
prevent the opponent from executing a counterattack, delivering a
riposte or renewing an attack, where and how might one strike to take
the adversary immediately out of the combat?
Dynamics of Stabbing and Incising Wounds
Death from stabbing and incising ("cutting" or "slashing") wounds
is mainly brought about through five mechanisms: massive hemorrhage
(exsanguination), air in the bloodstream (air embolism), suffocation
(asphyxia), air in the chest cavity (pneumothorax), and infection. Of
these, exsanguination is the most common, with hemorrhaging confined
principally to the body cavity because stabbing wounds tend to close
after the weapon is withdrawn.4 The
amount of blood loss necessary to disable totally an individual
varies widely and may range from as little as one-half to as much as
To reach a vital area it is first necessary to pass the blade
through the body's external covering and whatever else lies between,
and with regard to techniques in swordsmanship, an important
consideration is the degree of force required to pass through
intervening structures in order to reach vital structures with a
sword-thrust or cut. In France, in 1892, this issue was raised during
a trial conducted as a consequence of a duel fought between the
Marquis de Mores and a Captain Meyer.6
The question arose on account of an accusation that the weapons used
in the duel were "too heavy."7 While two
physicians, Drs. Faure and Paquelin, testified that it did not
require great strength to inflict a wound similar to that which took
Captain Meyer's life, there was some difference of opinion expressed
by a number of fencing masters called to testify on the matter of
acceptable weights of weapons, and the force required to employ them
in the delivery of a fatal thrust.
Even today, prosecutors trying homicide cases involving death by
stabbing will sometimes attempt to convince juries that a deeply
penetrating stab wound serves as an indicator of murderous intent by
virtue of the great force required to inflict such wounds. It is
generally accepted today among experts of forensic medicine, however,
that the force requisite to inflict even a deeply penetrating stab
wound is minimal.8 This opinion would
seem to be supported by the experience of a stage actor who
inadvertently stabbed a colleague to death during a stage performance
of Shakespeare's play, Romeo and Juliet. The unlucky young man
delivered a thrust at the very moment his vision was inadvertently
obscured by a member of the cast. Although he claimed to have felt no
resistance, a post mortem examination revealed that he had penetrated
the chest of the victim to a depth of eighteen centimeters.9
Except for bone or cartilage which has become ossified, it is the
skin that offers the greatest resistance to the point of a blade. In
fact, once the skin is penetrated, a blade may pass, even through
costal cartilage, with disquieting ease.10
Generally, of the factors governing the ease of entry, the two most
important are the sharpness of the tip of the blade and the velocity
with which it contacts the skin. While the mass of the weapon is a
factor in penetration, the velocity of the blade at the moment of
contact is of greater importance, since the force at impact is
directly proportional to the square of the velocity of the
Unlike injuries inflicted with pointed weapons, the depth of
cutting wounds, produced by the edges of weapons like the sabre or
rapier, is governed by a somewhat different set of dynamics which
include the radial velocity of the blade at impact, its mass, the
proficiency with which the blade is drawn across the body upon
contact, and the distance over which the force of the cut is
distributed. The greatest depth of penetration in many of these
wounds is found at the site where, with maximum force, the blade
first makes contact. As the edge is pushed or drawn, the force of the
cut dissipates and the blade tends to rise out of the wound as it
traverses the body.12 In the case of
cutting wounds directed to the chest, the total force required to
reach the interior of the chest is greater than that for a point
thrust, not only because the force of the stroke is distributed
across the length of the cut, but also because of the likelihood that
the blade will encounter greater resistance afforded by the
underlying ribs and the breastbone (sternum).13
Wounds to the Heart
Because exsanguination is the leading and most frequent cause of
death in stabbing and incising wounds, it is not unreasonable to
direct our attention initially to wounds to the cardiovascular system
and further, to consider the evidence provided by the medical records
and coroners reports of the current era. Let us first begin with a
brief review of human anatomy. In an adult, the heart is approximately
twelve centimeters long, eight to nine centimeters wide at its widest
point, and some six centimeters thick. It is encased in a membranous
sack, the pericardium, and rests on the upper surface of the
diaphragm, between the lower portions of the lungs and behind the
sternum. The organ is divided into four chambers: the left and right
atria and the left and right ventricles. It is comprised almost
entirely of muscle, and serves a vital function as a pumping
mechanism to distribute blood throughout the body. It is unattached
to the adjacent organs, but is held in place in the chest cavity,
suspended by the pericardium and by continuity with the major blood
vessels. The muscular walls of the heart are supplied with blood by
the the right and the left coronary arteries, each of which
bifurcates into a series of subdivisions.14
Because the heart is a vital organ, it is generally thought that a
serious injury to the heart will result in instant death.
Consequently, it is not unreasonable to suppose that the duelist
expected a thrust to his adversary's heart to disable him
immediately. While swordplay done in earnest is now a thing of the
past, a wealth of information regarding stab wounds to the heart has
been accumulated in recent times by the practitioners of modern
forensic medicine. Many of these wounds have been inflicted with
instruments very much like the blades of rapiers, sabres, and
smallswords and the means by which such wounds have been treated,
combined with assessments of the injuries through the sophisticated
discipline of forensic medicine, reveal some surprising truths with
which many duelists most certainly had to deal.
While a stab wound to the heart is a grave matter, numerous
instances of penetrating wounds to this organ have been documented in
which victims have demonstrated a surprising ability to remain
physically active. In 1896 a case was reported in which a twenty-four
year old man was stabbed in the heart. Despite a wound to the left
ventricle which severed a coronary artery, the victim not only
remained conscious, but was also able to walk home.15
Much later, in 1936, a paper was presented to the American
Association of Thoracic Surgery in which thirteen cases of stab
wounds to the heart were cited. Of these, four victims were said to
have collapsed immediately. Four others, although incapacitated,
remained conscious and alert for from thirty minutes to several
hours. The remaining five victims, thirty-eight per cent of the
total, remained active: one walking approximately twenty-three meters
and another running three blocks. Yet another victim remained active
for approximately ten minutes after having been stabbed in the heart
with an ice pick, and two managed to walk to a medical facility for
help.16 In another instance a report
cites an impressive case of a man stabbed in the left ventricle.
Despite a wound 1.3 centimeters in length, the victim was able to
continue routine activity for some time and lived a total of four
days before expiring.17 In 1961, a
survey conducted by Spitz, Petty and Russell included seven victims
stabbed in various regions of the heart. While none of these people
expired immediately, some were quickly incapacitated. Five were not,
however, and one victim, despite a 2 centimeter slit-like
"laceration" located in the left ventricle, managed to walk a full
city block. After arming himself with a broken beer bottle, the
victim finally collapsed while in the act of attempting to re-engage
the individual who stabbed him.18
The amount of time elapsing between a stab wound to the heart and
total incapacitation of the victim is dependent upon the nature of
the wound and which structures of the heart are compromised. In the
light of the cases cited in the preceding paragraphs, one may expect
that a penetrating wound to the left ventricle, such as that which
would be inflicted by a smallsword, may not necessarily bring a
combat to a sudden conclusion. Blood in this chamber of the heart, at
the end of ventricular contraction (end-systole), may reach pressures
as high as one hundred twenty millimeters of mercury or
more,19 especially during combat, and
one might reasonably expect blood under such pressure to escape
readily through a breach in the ventricular wall. The walls of this
chamber are comprised almost entirely of muscle tissue, however, and
are exceptionally thick. As a consequence, the left ventricular wall
has the potential to seal itself partially through the contraction of
the muscle tissue immediately surrounding the site of the wound.
While the end-systolic pressure in the right ventricle normally
amounts to only eighteen percent that of the left, wounds to the
right ventricle are far more likely to be quickly fatal because the
thickness of this ventricular wall is only a third that of the left
ventricle and is, consequently, less able to close a wound.20
With respect to penetrating (stabbing) wounds to the heart the
location, depth of penetration, blade width, and the presence or
absence of cutting edges are important factors influencing a wounded
duelist's ability to continue a combat. Large cuts that transect the
heart may be expected to result in swift incapacitation due to rapid
exsanguination,21 and immediate loss of
pressure, but stab wounds, similar to those that might be inflicted
by a thrust with a sword with a narrow, pointed blade may leave a
mortally wounded victim capable of surprisingly athletic endeavors.
Knight cites a case of one individual who, stabbed "through" the
heart, was still able to run over 400 meters before he collapsed. Yet
two more striking cases are also reported of victims who survived
wounds to the heart, one of which is described as, "a
through-and-through stab wound of the left ventricle that transfixed
the heart from front to back."22
Wounds to the Major Thoracic Blood Vessels
The vital area located in the center of the chest is not occupied
by the heart alone. The large thoracic blood vessels converge with
the heart in such a way as to present an area nearly equal in size to
that presented by the heart. Consequently, a sword-thrust that
penetrates the chest but fails to find the heart may nevertheless
pierce or incise one or more of these large vessels.
Normally, blood pressure in the major arteries located in the
chest (thorax) averages approximately one hundred millimeters of
mercury, with a maximum pressure of some one hundred twenty
millimeters at end-systole. Subdivisions of the aorta greater than
three millimeters in diameter offer little vascular resistance.
Consequently, the average blood pressure in these vessels is nearly
the same.23 Since the thoracic arteries
confine blood under considerable pressure, and because the walls of
these vessels are relatively thin, compared to the walls of the
ventricles, punctures or cuts in these vessels may allow blood to
escape quite rapidly, depending on the size of the opening. The major
thoracic arteries then, are more vulnerable to stabbing wounds than
are the ventricles of the heart.24 While
a good deal smaller in diameter, a puncture or severing of the
coronary arteries, because they supply blood to the walls of the
heart's ventricles, may also result in rapid incapacitation of a
duelist. Forensic pathologists Dominick and Vincent Di Maio point out
that especially vulnerable is the left anterior descending coronary
artery which supplies the anterior wall of the left ventricle.
Stabbing wounds which transect this small vessel may be expected to
result in sudden death.25
Nevertheless, cases have been reported in which stabbing victims,
whose thoracic arteries were penetrated, remained physically active
for a surprisingly long period of time. An example may be found in
the case of a twenty-three year old man who was stabbed in the chest
with a kitchen knife.26 At autopsy a
wound tract was disclosed that penetrated both the aorta and the left
ventricle. Blood issuing from these wounds into the chest cavity
amounted to a volume of two liters. Despite the serious nature of his
wounds, the victim nevertheless managed to walk more than 100 meters
before collapsing and remained alive until shortly after he had been
taken to the hospital. Another example is that of a twenty-five year
old man whose subclavian artery and vein were severed by a thrust
delivered by a kitchen knife. Losing a total of three liters of
blood, he was able to run a distance of four city blocks before
Wounds to the Major Blood Vessels of the
The aortic arch branches into arteries that service the upper
body, including the head. Of these, the left and right common carotid
arteries are of significant interest with regard to dueling practice
because these vessels supply the larger share of blood to the brain
and because they extend unprotected, in the neck, on either side of
the windpipe(trachea).28 While these
arteries are not externally visible, one can understand why a stroke
delivered to the neck with an edged weapon such as a sabre, or thrust
with an edged smallsword or rapier, would seem to be an effective
means of incapacitating an adversary. Certainly, the severing of a
common carotid artery will immediately terminate a large portion of
the blood supply to the brain. Nevertheless, the victim of such a
wound may remain conscious for from fifteen to as many as thirty
seconds;29 a more than ample amount of
time for a dying swordsman to execute a number of cuts, thrusts and
In addition to the carotid arteries, the neck also encompasses the
jugular veins, which return blood from the brain, face, and neck to
the heart.30 While the escape of blood
under high pressure is a concern for wounds to the vessels of the
arterial system, wounds to the jugular veins pose a different
problem. By the time blood reaches these vessels, its pressure is
nearly zero.31 In fact, during the
inspiratory phase of the respiratory cycle, when contraction of the
diaphragm and intercostal muscles creates a negative pressure within
the thorax, pressure in the jugular veins also falls below zero. As a
consequence, an opening in the jugular vein which communicates with
the external environment may allow small bubbles of air to be
entrained into the vessel. As the air enters, a bloody froth can be
produced which, when drawn into the heart, may render the pumping
action inoperative (valve lock). Whereas a severed vein is not
usually considered to be as serious an injury as a severed artery,
air embolism due to a cut jugular vein may cause a victim, after one
or two gasps, to collapse immediately.32
As the neck encompasses the cervical spine, carotid arteries,
trachea, and jugular veins in a relatively small space, a
sword-thrust to this area would seem very likely to sever or impale a
vital structure and disable an adversary almost immediately. And so
it was, during the reign of Louis XIII, for one Bussy D'Ambrose who
was run through the throat while acting as a second for the Marquis
de Beuvron.33 The chance of combat,
however, is a fickle companion to the duelist, as Sir Hatton Cheek
discovered in 1609 in his duel with Sir Thomas Dutton.34
Each, armed with rapier and dagger, met the other on the sands of
Calais. On the first pass Cheek directed a dagger thrust to Dutton's
throat, close to the trachea, and ran him through. One may imagine
with what surprise Cheek found that the wound proved to be entirely
ineffective. In fact, despite the seemingly serious nature of his
injury, it was Dutton who concluded the combat by running Cheek
through the body with his rapier, and then stabbing him in the back
with his dagger. If we are surprised at Dutton's ability to continue
the combat, it is with horror that we find that Cheek, after having
been so grievously wounded, not only failed to drop to the ground,
but continued on with the combat, gathering enough strength to rush
yet again upon his adversary. The conflict continued until Dutton,
noticing that Cheek began to droop on account of massive blood loss,
wisely adopted a defensive strategy, keeping his distance until Cheek
finally collapsed from loss of blood.
Wounds to the Major Abdominal Blood Vessels
Within the abdominal cavity are found the abdominal aorta and its
two major branches, the common iliac arteries; and their venous
counterparts, the inferior vena cava and the common iliac veins.
These vessels are large, relatively speaking, and they confine blood
under end-systolic pressures similar to those found in the major
thoracic arteries. All of these vessels are located in close
proximity to the spinal column and lie behind the bulk of the
In the present-day United States, wounds delivered by thrusts or
cuts from a sword are almost entirely unheard of; knives are by far
the most common weapon involved in stabbings.36
Obviously, the depth to which a knife may penetrate the abdominal
cavity is less that that for the blade of a sword. It is important to
bear this point in mind with respect to a finding that less than half
of all stab wounds do any serious injury to the abdominal viscera.
Longer blades might well increase the morbidity and mortality of such
Wounds to the abdomen which do prove fatal usually involve the
large blood vessels and/or the liver, which is a highly vascular
organ itself.37 The rate of blood loss
from even a grievously wounded liver is not likely to be sufficient
to cause sudden cardiac collapse, however, since the vascular
resistance within this organ is very high. Complete transection of
the abdominal aorta could be expected to incapacitate a duelist
relatively quickly, but some degree of good fortune would be required
to introduce the blade in such a way as to impale this relatively
narrow structure within the bulk of the abdomen, or draw the blade's
edge along the artery's wall to transect it.
A sabre stroke would certainly be an effective means of severing
the major abdominal arteries and veins, but because they are located
against the vertebral column, the stroke would have to be made with
considerable violence in order to pass the blade through the skin,
the underlying abdominal muscles, and the viscera situated in front
of the vessels. Were such a stroke delivered, violating the integrity
of the large vessels would be a moot point in any case since the
sudden loss of intra-abdominal pressure and the attendant cardiac
return would induce immediate cardiac collapse.38
For a cutting action to do so much damage the type of sabre would be
an important consideration. While a heavy cavalry sabre with a curved
blade would have sufficient mass and dynamics to yield the necessary
force, a cut delivered to the abdominal wall by the lighter and
shorter dueling sabre with a straight rather than a curved edge would
likely prove inadequate to the task and could leave the adversary
still capable of posing a serious threat.
Wounds to the Blood Vessels of the Upper
Although relatively far removed from the heart, the arteries of
the arms are still of sufficiently low vascular resistance to carry
blood under pressures similar to those found in the greater thoracic
arteries. Of the major arteries of the arm, the brachial artery is
the largest and lies along the medial surface of the bone of the
upper arm (humerus). As it descends, it progressively courses
anteriorly to the crook of the arm, where it is well exposed to a
sword-thrust or cut. From the crook of the elbow it divides into the
ulnar and radial arteries.39 Wounds to
any of these vessels can be extremely life-threatening, especially if
the vessel is only partly severed, since the muscular walls of a
completely transected artery will naturally retract and impair the
rate of hemorrhage.40 Incisions in the
radial artery are a well-recognized cause of death in suicide
victims. Nevertheless, because of their relatively smaller diameters,
immediate incapacitation due to blood loss from the severing of these
arteries cannot be expected.
The veins of the arm are far more numerous than the major
arteries. They are significantly more narrow and intravenous
pressures are normally less than ten millimeters of mercury.41
As a consequence, incisions or even complete transections of these
vessels can be expected to result in no immediately serious
Wounds to the Blood Vessels of the Lower
Much like the arms, the legs each are serviced by one large artery
which divides into two major branches. The femoral artery lies in
front of the hip joint and descends along the medial surface of the
thigh bone, (femur). Unlike the brachial artery, however, the mid and
distal portion of the femoral artery is not altogether vulnerable to
the blade of the duelist. As it approximates the knee joint it
spirals around the femur and passes directly behind the knee in the
form of the popliteal artery, which subsequently bifurcates to become
the anterior and posterior tibial arteries.42
Like the arm, the leg is laced with a complex network of veins.
Most of these are relatively narrow and deep and the pressure of
blood confined within these vessels is low. The rate of blood flow
through these vessels is relatively slow and wounds severing one or
more of them cannot be expected to result in consequences of any
interest to the duelist.
Cuts or thrusts to the major arteries of the legs can be serious
enough to cause death. Nevertheless, an adversary seriously wounded
in a femoral artery ought still to be considered an extremely
dangerous adversary because blood loss is unlikely to be so rapid as
to result in immediate collapse. In the last of the judicial duels
fought in France in 1547 between Francois de Vivonne, Lord of
Chastaigneraye and Guy de Chabot, the oldest son of the Lord of
Jarnac, Chastaigneraye was wounded by cuts to the back of the knee of
both legs.43 Hamstrung, Chastaigneraye
lay helpless on the ground while a lengthy exchange of words followed
between him and his adversary. Jarnac offered to spare Chastaigneraye
if he would admit that his accusations, over which the trial took
place, were in error, but Chastaigneraye refused to recant and
Jarnac, loth to take his opponents life, pleaded with the attending
monarch, Henry II, to intervene and save Chastaigneraye's life.
Initially, the king refused to interfere, however. Hemorrhaging
uncontrollably from at least one artery, Chastaigneraye remained upon
the ground while Jarnac continued to plead back and forth with both
Chastaigneraye and the king to end the combat. After Jarnac's third
appeal, the king finally interceded, but Chastaigneraye's pride had
been mortally wounded. Refusing to allow his wounds to be treated, he
finally succumbed after "a little time" from loss of blood.44
It is important to note that Chastaigneraye was considered to have
been a swordsman of extraordinary skill as well as an excellent
wrestler. Following the cutting stroke to his leg, the extended
period during which he lay hemorrhaging to death was certainly of
sufficient length to have afforded him a number of thrusts, strokes
and parries. Had the slash to the backside of his right leg not
crippled him, Chastaigneraye might well have been the victor in this
combat, severed artery notwithstanding.
In conclusion, fencing tempo is a vital element of swordsmanship,
but clearly for the duelist hitting before being hit is not at all
the same thing as hitting without being hit. Exsanguination is the
principal mechanism of death caused by stabbing and incising wounds
and death by this means is seldom instantaneous. Although stab wounds
to the heart are generally imagined to be instantly incapacitating,
numerous modern medical case histories indicate that while victims of
such wounds may immediately collapse upon being wounded, rapid
disability from this type of wound is by no means certain. Many
present-day victims of penetrating wounds involving the lungs and the
great vessels of the thorax have also demonstrated a remarkable
ability to remain physically active minutes to hours after their
wounds were inflicted. These cases are consistent with reports of
duelists who, subsequent to having been grievously or even mortally
wounded through the chest, neck, or abdomen, nevertheless remained
actively engaged upon the terrain and fully able to continue long
enough to dispatch those who had wounded them.
- 1 L. Sabine, Notes on Duels and Dueling (Boston:
- 2 Baldick, The Duel (New York: 1965) 52-53.
- 3 J. Millingen, The History of Dueling, 2 vols.
(London: 1841) II 18-21.
- 4 W. Spitz and R. Fisher, Medicolegal
Investigation of Death (Springfield: 1980) 99.
- 5 W. Spitz, C. Petty and R. Fisher, "Physical
Activity Until Collapse Following Fatal Injury by Firearms and
Sharp Pointed Weapons," Journal of Forensic Science 6, no. 3
- 6 C. Thimm, A Complete Bibliography of
Fencing and Duelling (New York: 1992) 487.
- 7 Supra, 497-498.
- 8 B. Knight, Forensic Pathology (New York: 1991)
- 9 Thimm (Supra n. 6), 463.
- 10 C. Polson, D. Gee and B. Knight, The
Essentials of Forensic Medicine (Oxford: 1985)125.
- 11 Knight (Supra n. 8), 147.
- 12 Supra, 133.
- 13 Supra, 140.
- 14 H. Gray, Anatomy of the Human Body
(Philadelphia: 1967) 543.
- 15 Spitz (Supra n. 4) 291.
- 16 D. Elkin, "Wounds of the Heart Report of 13
Cases," Journal of Thoracic Surgery 5 (1936): 1936.
- 17 Spitz (Supra n 4) 292.
- 18 Supra, 297.
- 19 A. Guyton, Textbook of Medical Physiology
(Philadelphia:1971) 220.; A. Vander, J. Sherman and D. Luciano,
Human Physiology: The Mechanisms of Body Function (New York: 1970)
- 20 Knight (Supra n. 8) 154.
- 21 D. Di Maio and V. Di Maio, Forensic
Pathology (New York: 1989) 185.
- 22 Knight (Supra n. 8) 154.
- 23 Guyton (Supra n. 19) 219.
- 24 Knight (Supra n. 8) 154.
- 25 DiMaio (Supra n. 21) 184.
- 26 Spitz (Supra n. 4) 297.
- 27 Guyton (Supra n. 19) 219.
- 28 Gray (Supra n. 14) 581-583.
- 29 Mitchel Morey and Lindsey Thomas, personal
communication of 4/9/96.
- 30 Gray (Supra n. 14) 698, 700
- 31 Guyton (Supra n. 19)
- 32 Knight (Supra n. 8), 154, and also Spitz
(Supra n. 4), 199.
- 33 L. Sabine, Notes on Duels and Dueling
(Boston: 1855) 70-71, and also Millingen (Supra n. 3), I:
- 34 Millingen (Supra n. 3), II: 12.
- 35 Gray (Supra n. 14), 631-632, 645-646,
- 36 Di Maio (Supra n. 21), 187, and also Knight
(Supra n. 8), 141.
- 37 Di Maio (Supra n. 21), 185.
- 38 Supra, 187.
- 39 Gray (Supra n. 14), 618-621.
- 40 Supra n. 63.
- 41 Gray (Supra n. 14), 704, and also Guyton
(Supra n. 19), 219.
- 42 Gray (Supra n. 19), 657-665.
- 43 A. Hutton, The Sword and the Centuries (New
York: 1995), 46-52; Baldick (Supra n. 2), 29-31; and also
Millingen (Supra n. 3), I: 50-54.
- 44 Millingen (Supra n. 3), I: 53.
- Adam, J.C. "Stab Wound of the Brain," British Medical Journal,
2 (1925): 546.
- Albuquerque Journal. May 6, 1993. cited in Stockel, H. The
Lightning Stick (Reno: University of Nevada Press, 1995)
- Alfieri, Francesco. La Scherma (Padova: 1640).
- Amberger, J. "The Coup de Jarnac in 150 A.D.!," Hammerterz
Forum, 2, no.1 (1995): 12-14.
- Aylward,J.D. The English Master of Arms (London: Routledge and
K. Paul, 1956).
- Baldick, Robert. The Duel (New York: Clarkson N. Potter,
- Capo Ferro, Ridolfo. Gran simulacro dell' arte e dell' uso
della scherma (Siena:1610).
- Di Maio, Dominick and Vincent Di Maio. Forensic Pathology (New
York: Elsevier, 989).
- Evangelista, Nick. The Encyclopedia of the Sword (Greenwood:
Greenwood Press 1995).
- Elkin, D.C. "Wounds of the Heart Report of 13 Cases," Journal
of Thoracic Surgery 5: 1936: 590.
- Gaugler, W. M. Fencing Everyone (Winston-Salem: Hunter
- Gibbon, Edward. The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire ,
vol. 1, ed. J. B. Bury (New York: The Modern Library, 1995).
- Gray, Henry. Anatomy of the Human Body, 28th ed.(Philadelphia:
Lea and Febiger, 1967) 543.
- Guyton, Arthur. Textbook of Medical Physiology, 4th ed.,
(Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders Company, 1971).
- Harding, David, ed., Weapons: an international encyclopedia
from 5000 B.C. to 2000 A.D. (New York: St. Martin's Press
- Hutton, Alfred. The Sword and the Centuries (New York: Barnes
and Noble, 1995).
- Kiernan, V. G. The Duel in European History (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 1986; Oxford, Oxford University Press,
- Knight, Bernard. Forensic Pathology (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1991).
- Marcelli, Francesco. Regole della scherma insegnate de Lelio e
Titta Marcelli (Roma: 1686).
- Millingen, J. G. The History of Dueling, 2 vols. (London:
Richard Bentley, 1841).
- Morey, Mitchel K., M.D. and Lindsey Thomas, M.D., Assistant
Medical Examiner, Hennepen County Minnesota. personal
communication of 4/9/96.
- Morton, E. D. Martini A-Z of Fencing London: Queen Anne Press,
- North, Anthony. An Introduction to European Swords (London:
Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1982).
- Polson, Cyril., D. J. Gee, and Bernard Knight. The Essentials
of Forensic Medicine (Oxford: Pergamon Press, 1985).
- Sabine, Lorenzo. Notes on Duels and Dueling (Boston: Crosby,
Nichols, and Company, 1855).
- Saviolo, Vincentio. His Practise, in two bookes; the first
entreating of the Use of the Rapier and Dagger, the second of
Honour and Honourable Quarrels (London: 1595), cited in Turner,
Craig and Tony Soper. Methods and Practice of Elizabethan
Swordplay (Carbondale, Ill: 1990).
- Silver, G. Paradoxe of Defence (London: 1599), cited in C.
Turner and Soper, Methods and Practice of Elizabethan Swordplay
(Carbondale: 1990) 79.
- Spartacus. Lawrence Olivier, Kirk Douglas, Jean Simmons.
(Columbia Pictures, 1960). Spitz, Werner and Russel Fisher.
Medicolegal Investigation of Death (Springfield, Ill.: 1980).
- Spitz, Werner, Charles Petty and Russell Fisher. "Physical
Activity Until Collapse Following Fatal Injury by Firearms and
Sharp Pointed Weapons," Journal of Forensic Science 6, no. 3
- Stone, George C. A Glossary of the Construction, Decoration
and Use of Arms and Armor (by the Southworth Press: 1934; New
York: Jack Brussel, 1961).
- The Adventures of Don Juan . Eroll Flynn, Robert Douglas,
Viveca Lindfors (Warner Brothers, 1949).
- Thimm, Carl. A Complete Bibliography of Fencing and Duelling
(New York: 1992).
- Turner, Craig and Tony Soper . Methods and Practice of
Elizabethan Swordplay (Carbondale, Ill: 1990).
- Vander, Arthur, James Sherman, and Dorothy Luciano. Human
Physiology: The Mechanisms of Body Function (New York: McGraw-Hill
Book Company, 1970).
[ Return to Top ]
Saddle, Lance and Stirrup: The Irish/Roman Connection
The Naked Truth |
If I Had a Hammer
The Sabre's Edge |
Swordfight at the OK Corral
How to Defend a Monopoly |
A Propos d'un Accident
The Dubious Quick Kill part 1 |
The Dubious Quick Kill part 2
Review and Commentary |
Duels with the Sword |
Starting with Foil
Liancour's Tercentenary |
The Manuel d'escrime of 1877 | The Military Masters Fencing Program
Analysis of the Patton Fencing Manual |
The Red Court
Fencing's Royal Connection
| The Practical Saviolo part 1 | Saddle, Lance and Stirrup
Demystification of the Spanish School 1 |
Demystification of the Spanish School 2
Demystification of the Spanish School 3
A Brief Look at Joseph Swetnam
| Ithacan Retains Title | Third Time's a Charm
Cross-Training Not Cross-Purposes | Riposte Direct | Use of the Word "Sparring"
Chivalry Makes a Come-back | Teachings of Marozzo |
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