Posted by David Griffiths on January 25, 2011 at 13:55
It was my understanding that the phrase "bite the bullet" originated from the Indian Rebellion of 1857.
The problem arose with the introduction of the Pattern 1853 Enfield Rifle; because the sepoy (Indian soldiers controlled by the English), were composed of a mixture of Hindu and Muslim soldiers.
To load the new rifle, the sepoys had to bite the cartridge open. It was believed that the paper cartridges that were standard issue with the rifle were greased with lard (pork fat) which was regarded as unclean by Muslims, or tallow (beef fat), regarded as anathema to Hindus.
When the ammunition was reordered, the sepoy received a number of ammunition crates, but were unsure as to the nature of the grease coating the cartridge.
Therefore, they were forced to "bite the bullet" to find out.