Civil War soldiers didn t get a daily shower. Also, they used the same few pots to cook food and to boil lice-infested clothing. Yummy!

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1 Poor Hygiene 620,000 soldiers died during the Civil War. Two thirds died of disease, not wounds. WHY? Civil War soldiers didn t get a daily shower. Also, they used the same few pots to cook food and to boil lice-infested clothing. Yummy! MEDICAL 1 Garbage in Camp Filth from Camp Sinks Overcrowding Exposure to all types of weather You couldn t put the trash on the curb every week, could you? Latrines were often dug too close to streams, which contaminated the water supply. Imagine drinking from the school toilets every day. Close contact with other people caused diseases to spread rapidly. Extreme hot and cold; rain, sleet, snow; dust and mud. Exposure to the elements lowers your body s ability to resist disease. Improper and inadequate diet, spoiled food Staple foods were hardtack for Union soldiers and cornbread for Confederates. Fresh fruit and vegetables were rare. Soldiers received some meat, but, often, it spoiled or too full of preservatives to eat. More later. Bugs Lack of surgeons Impure water Flies, mosquitoes, ticks, lice, maggots, and fleas were abundant and carried disease. Lack of medical knowledge People didn t know about germs and how they were spread. Doctors didn t wash their hands before operating, or clean tools after each patient. There were too few surgeons to handle the huge numbers of sick and wounded. Lack of immunity to diseases Many rural soldiers became sick because for the first time they were in a large group of people and had no immunity to diseases such as chickenpox, smallpox, scarlet fever, measles, mumps, and whooping cough. These epidemics ran rampant through many regiments. If a stream looked and smelled good, it was assumed that the water was good. Not always true! From National Museum of Civil War Medicine Wood tick illustration from Hardtack and Coffee: The Unwritten Story of Army Life by John D. Billings. Illustrated by Charles W. Reed CIVIL WAR PRESERVATION TRUST 175

2 MEDICAL 2 What diseases did soldiers get? SOME THINGS TO CONSIDER How many of these diseases have YOU had? Have you ever known anyone with any of these diseases? Why or why not? Dysentery Typhoid fever Pediculus Vestimenti. Illustration from Hardtack and Coffee: The Unwritten Story of Army Life by John D. Billings. Illustrated by Charles W. Reed Ague Yellow Fever Malaria Scurvy Pneumonia Tuberculosis Smallpox Other Number one killer during the Civil War. Victims get severe diarrhea with passage of mucous and blood. Camp Fever Number two killer, at ¼ of disease deaths. This disease is caused by any of several bacteria. It is very severe, and causes a high fever, intense headache, intense rash, and delirium. Body lice transmit it. Pronounced AY-gyu. A bad fever with a cycle of chills and sweating. Also, swamp fever. Caused by a virus, this disease is carried by a specific mosquito and can be fatal. Shakes spread by mosquitoes. Disease caused by a lack of vitamin C. The gums get spongy; teeth become loose, and mucous membranes begin to bleed. Disease causing inflammation of the lungs. A very contagious disease that is caused by a bacteria. It mainly affects the lungs. An extremely dangerous, contagious disease caused by a specific virus. It causes a fever and bumps similar to chickenpox. Supposedly, in the 20th century, this disease was wiped out by global vaccinations. However, during the Cold War, both the United States and the former Soviet Union cultivated the smallpox virus for possible use in germ warfare. chicken pox, scarlet fever, measles, mumps, and whooping cough The chart above doesn t even count the infections and gangrene that were common with wounded soldiers! 176 TWO WEEK CURRICULUM FOR TEACHING THE CIVIL WAR

3 Hospitals and Medical Knowledge MEDICAL 3 Imagine you re in gym class. You and your friend are running the 100-meter dash. Suddenly you both trip and skin your knees badly. You roll around in the dirt, and then you don t wash your wounds. Obviously, your knees get really, really infected and they start to ooze. Next day you both go to the school nurse. She determines that your oozing wounds aren t that bad. In fact, she takes a cotton swab and transfers some of the ooze from your knee to your friend s knee so it will get better faster. Wait a minute! Yuck! Why would she do that? During the Civil War, the experience and training of doctors wasn t well regulated. The Union Army only had 98 doctors registered and the Confederacy had only 24 (Tenting Tonight, 79). Therefore, both armies were willing to take anyone who considered himself a physician. Most of these new doctors carried around a copy of a military surgery manual that had been written by Dr. Samuel Gress. Can you imagine being operated on by a man who had just read the directions? Infection was a huge problem. And, to make matters worse, doctors thought pus was a good sign (they called it laudable pus), and they transferred it from patients who had it to those who didn t. So, they infected another patient (Tenting Tonight, 79). Surgeons operating in a Federal hospital tent during the siege of Charleston, Massachusetts Commandery, Military Order of the Loyal Legion and the US army Military History Institute. Doctors didn t understand germs or how they were carried and spread. As a result, they violated nearly every rule of sterile technique that doctors use today. A doctor s assistant wrote, It was common to see a doctor with his sleeves rolled up to his elbows, his bare arms as well as his linen apron smeared with blood and his knife held between his teeth (Sabiston and Lyerly, 6). Infection and disease was so widespread that soldiers didn t have much faith in doctors. Sometimes soldiers felt that limbs were amputated needlessly or they simply didn t want to have their arm or leg cut off (why not?). One such corporal drew his revolver on a doctor, saying, The man that puts a hand on me dies (Hardtack and Coffee, 310)! CIVIL WAR PRESERVATION TRUST 177

4 MEDICAL 5 Beat the Odds: Civil War Wounds Here are three different situations. Using what you know about chances of survival, rank the wounded soldiers from best to worst. How will each soldier be treated for his wounds? 1. Colonel Abner Morgan is a wounded Confederate cavalry officer. He was shot through the left leg, wounding his horse as well. The wounded leg was shot through the calf. He is bleeding very heavily. 2. Private Frank Weaver is from the 129th Pennsylvania. He was wounded with a bullet piercing his abdomen. It entered the left front and shot through to the back. 3. Private Clark Hannah is from the 87th Indiana. He was wounded in the right leg, in the thigh, just below the hip. Wounded soldiers in a crowded hospital. Courtesy of the National Archives, NWDNS-111-B TWO WEEK CURRICULUM FOR TEACHING THE CIVIL WAR

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