Isbin T. Giddens Dies of Brain Fever at Guyton Hospital, Georgia

Isbin T. Giddens and Matthew O. Giddens were the two youngest sons of Isbin Giddens, a pioneer settler of the Ray City, GA area.  The Giddens brothers served together in the Civil War.  They joined Levi J. Knight’s company of Berrien Minute Men, Company G, 29th Georgia Infantry at Milltown (nka Lakeland), GA.  Neither would survive the war.

Gravemarker of Matthew O. Giddens, Camp Chase, Ohio

Mathew O. Giddens, a subject of previous posts (Matthew O. Giddens ~ Confederate POW), fought with the Berrien Minute Men for more than three years before he was taken prisoner on December 16, 1864 near Nashville, TN. He was imprisoned at Camp Chase, Ohio where he died three months later. Federal records of deaths of Confederate prisoners of war show that M. O. Giddens, 29th GA Infantry, died of pneumonia on February 7, 1865 at Camp Chase. He was buried in  one of 2260 confederate graves at Camp Chase Cemetery.

Isbin T. Giddens became a corporal in Company G, 29th Georgia Infantry Regiment, the Berrien Minute Men.  He was enlisted at Savannah, GA on August 1, 1861. From August 1, 1861 to Feb, 1862 confederate military records show he was present with his unit.

Whether in the P.O.W. camps or in regimental camps, Confederate soldiers like Mathew and Isbin Giddens were under constant risk for disease.  In early December of 1861, soldiers of the Berrien Minute Men wrote home that there was an outbreak of measles in the camp of the 29th Regiment. In late December,  the measles outbreak was even worse. By July of 1862 letters home from the Berrien Minute Men told of diseases spreading throughout the confederate camps: chills and fever, mumps, diarrhea and typhoid fever.

That summer, Isbin T. Giddens had made the rank 2nd Sergeant, Company G, but by July he was himself gravely ill.  He was sent to the Confederate general hospital at Guyton, GA about twenty miles south of Savannah. (Note: This community was also known as Whitesville, Georgia. See Guyton History.)

Soldiers of Berrien County  helped in the construction of the hospital at Guyton.  In a letter dated May 18, 1862, Sergeant Ezekiel Parrish wrote to his father James Parrish (1816-1867) that a construction recruiter had visited him in Savannah, GA:

“Father I think now that I shall go up to Whiteville at No three on the C R R to help build a government hospital.   There was a man here this morning that has the management of that work after hands and for the improvement of my health which is growing bad I think I shall go and work there a few weeks.  The water here is very bad and brackish and a continual use of it is enough to make anybody sick.   I  do not go up to No 3 I shall write to you soon…”

Ezekiel Parrish  made it to Guyton hospital at Whiteville. His Confederate service records show he was among the Berrien County men he was detached in May 1862 for carpentry work at the hospital. Another was Matthew A. Parrish,  of Company I, 50th GA Regiment.

But within three weeks time Ezekiel Parrish’s health took a turn for the worse.  He was himself admitted to the hospital and died of measles pneumonia, June 5, 1862 at Whitesville, GA.  Matthew A. Parrish would not long survive him; he died October 21, 1862 in Berrien County, GA.

The historical marker at Guyton bears the inscription:

In May 1862 the Confederate Government established a General Hospital in Guyton, Georgia. This hospital was located on a nine acre tract of land between Central Railroad, a determining factor in locating hospitals, and current Georgia Highway 119, Lynn Bonds Avenue and Pine Street. The end of May saw five people on the medical staff at this hospital. Five months later the number had reached 46 people including surgeons, assistant surgeons, contract physicians, hospital stewards, ward masters, matrons, ward matrons, assistant matrons, nurses, cooks, and laundry workers. By May 1863, this hospital had a medical staff of 67 people. Confederate documents reveal that this hospital had 270 beds and 46 fireplaces. When the hospital was filled to capacity the Guyton Methodist Church was used to take in patients who could not be placed in the hospital. Surgeon William H. Whitehead was the Surgeon-in-Charge from May 1862 until February 1863, when Surgeon William S. Lawton took charge and served in this capacity until the hospital was abandoned in December 1864, when the 17th Army Corps of General Sherman`s Federal Army approached. From May 1862 to December 1864, this hospital provided medical care, food, clothing, and lodging for thousands of sick and wounded Confederate soldiers.

The assignment to Guyton hospital perhaps gave Isbin Giddens  a better than average chance of surviving his illness.  In Surgical Memoirs of the War of the Rebellion, Volume 2, issued 1871, Guyton Hospital was described as one of the most effective of the general hospitals in Confederate Georgia.  Patients at Guyton were far more likely to survive gunshot wounds or disease than soldiers sent to other Georgia hospitals.

The excess of mortality in the general hospitals of Savannah and Macon, Georgia, over that of Guyton, was clearly referable in great measure to the hygienic conditions and relative locations of the various hospitals…In the crowded hospitals, the simplest diseases assumed malignant characters; the typhoid poison altered the course of mumps and measles, and pneumonia, and was the cause of thousands of deaths; and the foul exhalations of the sick poisoned the wounds of healthy men, and induced erysipelas, pyaemia, and gangrene.  Who can estimate the suffering inflicted, as in the celebrated case of the Augusta hospitals, by the development and spread of hospital gangrene in overcrowded hospitals situated in the heart of towns and cities?
     As a rule in military practice, the wounded should never be placed in wards with patients suffering from any one of the contagious or infectious diseases, as small-pox, measles, scarlet fever, typhus fever, typhoid fever, erysipelas, pyaemia, or hospital gangrene; and these various diseases should not be indiscriminately mingled together. The voice of the profession is unanimous as to the exclusion and isolation of small-pox, but we know from extended experience that sufficient care was not exercised in the isolation of other diseases.

Despite the hospital’s better record with disease, Isbin T. Giddens died of “Brain Fever”  on July 17, 1862 at Guyton Hospital. The term Brain fever, no longer in use, described a medical condition where a part of the brain becomes inflamed and causes symptoms that present as fever.   In modern terminology, conditions that may have been described as brain fever include Encephalitis, an acute inflammation of the brain, commonly caused by a viral infection, or Meningitis, the inflammation of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord.  Giddens died with no money in his possession.  His effects, “sundries”, where left in the charge of W.S. Lawton, Surgeon and later,Surgeon-in-Chief. His place of burial was not documented.

Isbin T. Giddens, register of deaths by disease, Confederate Archives

Isbin T. Giddens, register of deaths by disease, Confederate Archives

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1 Comment

  1. August 11, 2011 at 12:25 am

    […] Isbin T. Giddens Dies of Brain Fever at Guyton Hospital, Georgia (raycityhistory.wordpress.com) […]


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