I just watched the Mythbusters pirate special, and I'm looking for historical evidence to argue with the cannonball/splinter conclusion.
(don't click through if you don't want spoilers)
The myth in question concerns the deadliness of splinters thrown out by a shot penetrating the ship's hull; after testing with air cannons and a replica six-pounder, they weren't able to produce significant splinter-related injuries to the pig carcasses in use as human analogues.
Much as I'd love to argue with the methodology, it was probably the best that could have been done; finding a heavier ship's gun (say, in the 18-pound to 36-pound range seen on warships of the 18th and 19th centuries) and being able to test fire it doesn't seem likely. So I'll leave the methodology alone; instead I'm hunting for historical records which would support the threat posed by splinters and similar debris.
I've done some initial poking around in Google and found a couple promising items (for example, this description of a Revolutionary War battle
lists two splinter wounds, one of which apparently proved fatal), but what I'd really like is to get my hands on some real historical accounts -- the more primary the source, the better. A really good example is this Wikipedia article
, which (while being horrifically badly formatted) reproduces a British captain's official letter detailing a battle from the War of 1812, including mention of two splinter wounds. Unfortunately, if there's a web-accessible repository of these sorts of captains' reports, I haven't been able to find it.
Anyone know of such a thing, or of similar records which would contain relevant information? I know the evidence is out there, I just need to find it!