Have you ever heard the legend where a ricocheting bullet shot a Union soldier through the testicles and a female bystander through the uterus, uniting the birds and the bees to create new life?
This hallowed military myth is reportedly the origin of the phrase, ‘son of a gun.’ But is it true?
The Big Bang
According to popular legend, a minie ball struck a cavalryman’s tibia and ricocheted off his pelvis during the Battle of Raymond in 1863. It exited his body through the scrotum and then maintained enough momentum to travel 300 yards and hit a second victim–a woman who just happened to be watching the battle, as locals were wont to do in those days.
Somehow, the bullet carried living sperm cells from the soldier’s blood-soaked seedbags to a woman’s fertile womb. They both survived their wounds and–surprise!–became the virgin parents of the most unlikely accident in history.
This story was first told in The American Medical Weekly on November 7, 1874. More than a century later, we’re still telling it and marveling at the improbability of it all.
Too bad it’s utterly false.
Busting (the Bullet Through the) Balls
For starters, the article in The American Medical Weekly was satire. Dr. LeGrand G Capers, a surgeon who served as a battlefield medic, wrote the article because he was tired to seeing embellished personal accounts published in professional journals. Capers submitted the article anonymously with the intent of trolling the medical world with his blatant lie.
Unfortunately for Capers, the editor recognized his handwriting and attached his name to the story anyway, in big letters. The story was reproduced and quoted as fact in scientific journals in both the United States and Europe, allowing it to live on into our modern age.
In addition to being a lie from the very beginning, it’s scientifically impossible to achieve. Mythbusters devoted an entire episode to the story in 2005. While the team found that it was possible for a bullet to ricochet off a pelvis and maintain enough momentum to travel 300 yards and hit another person, no man’s sperm could not survive the trip.