Georgia Fever Bark

Fever in the Wiregrass

In the days when pioneers of Ray City, Georgia  fought with Indians, panthers and wolves  they also fought with fever.  Whether it was malaria, typhoid fever, or “intermittent” fever, the real causes were little known and the effective treatments were few.

One pioneer fever remedy was Georgia Fever Bark.

“In bottom lands the soil is richer and colored almost black by decayed leaves and other vegetation, and the growth is poplar, cypress, and titi, with some pine and “fever tree” or “Georgia fever bark.” It was valued in the South throughout the Civil War.

 

A Confederate States Army want ad for Georgia Fever bark ran in the Savannah Daily Morning News, July 19, 1862

A Confederate States Army want ad for Georgia Fever bark ran in the Savannah Daily Morning News, July 19, 1862

Savannah Daily Morning News
July 19, 1862

Notice.
Confederate States of America
Medical Purveyor’s Office
Savannah, Ga., July 12, 1862

The following barks are wanted for issue to the troops, as preventative of Country Fever:

Bark of the Dogwood
Bark of the Willow
Bark of the Poplar
Bark of the Pinckneya pubens

Forty cents per pound will be paid for these Barks if delivered, properly dried, at either of my officers in Savannah or Macon.

W. H. Prioleau,
Asst. Surgeon C.S.A., and Med Purveyor, Fourth District

After the war fever bark remained in the pharmacopoeia of local doctors.  Later, in the Spanish-American War, Georgia men were recruited into special units, called the Immunes, to fight in Cuba because they were thought to be immune to malaria.

Pinckneya pubens

Pinckneya pubens

In 1833 in The dispensatory of the United States of America , Dr. George B. Wood and Dr. Franklin Bache of Philadelphia wrote about the use of the Georgia Fever Bark, Pinckneya Pubens, to treat intermittent fever.

PINCKNEYA PUBENS. Michaux. A large shrub or small tree, growing in South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, in low and moist places along the sea coast. It is closely allied, in botanical characters, to the Cinchone, with which it was formerly ranked by some botanists. The bark is bitter, and has been used with advantage in intermittent fever. Dr. Law, of Georgia, cured six out of seven cases in which he administered it. The dose and mode of preparation are the same with those of cinchona. The chemical composition and medical properties of this bark deserve a fuller investigation than they have yet received.

John C. Gifford related a story on the use of Georgia Bark, also known as Florida Quinine, during the Civil War.

“Intermittent fevers were common throughout the South, and  among many bitter barks the Florida-quinine, or Georgia-fever-bark, was a common household remedy. The bark was soaked in rum, and at regular intervals the family and slaves lined up for their proper doses. Down on the Keys prince-wood bark was used. Both belong to the quinine family and have been almost exhausted. Dr. Perrine introduced the first powdered quinine into this country from France. Without this quinine exploration of the tropics would have been much delayed. It is still necessary in many places. During the Civil War the supply of quinine and other drugs was short in the South, and my friend, Dr. Charles Mohr of Mobile,  now dead, was delegated to find substitutes in our own fields and woods. In this line he was very successful, and we have many things  now  not used, quite as good as articles imported from foreign parts. We need to study what the Indians and early settlers knew before it is too late.

Five Plants Essential to the Indians
and Early Settlers of Florida
 by JOHN C. GIFFORD

Florida-quinine.
Bitter barks have been used for many years in all parts of the tropics for the control of intermittent fevers. For this purpose the plants belonging to the madder family have long been famous. Various forms of malaria constitute our worst tropical diseases, and according to recent reports are actually on the increase. There is general agreement as to the efficiency of quinine, but we must bear in mind that manufacturers will insist that there is no substitute for it, although in time past it was criminally adulterated by many dealers. Some doctors in self-defense used the crude powdered Peruvian bark. The first powdered quinine was introduced into this country from France about a century ago by Dr. Henry Perrine of Florida fame. In fact, it was poor quinine that had much to do with the passage of the Pure Drugs Law. Quinine has always been scarce in wartime. This same feeling existed during the Civil War in this country when importations from foreign parts were seriously curtailed. My old friend Dr. Charles Mohr, a druggist in Mobile, worked for a long time for suitable native substitutes for imported drugs during the Civil War and for quinine he used the bark of the Georgia-fever-tree. The tree long famous for this purpose was Pinckneya pubens, Georgia-bark, fever-bark, maiden’s-blushes, or Florida-quinine. The tree was named for Charles C. Pinckney, the revolutionary patriot of South Carolina. Pubens means hairy and it is sometimes referred to as the pubescent Pinckneya. It has showy flowers, white, tinted with red. It is a little tree growing in the swamps, but now very scarce. Professors Coker and Totten in their excellent book on the trees of the Southeastern United States say that “Pinckneya is a close relative of the cinchona tree of South America that furnishes the quinine of commerce and probably contains the same curative element, as its effectiveness in curing malaria has been repeatedly proved.”

Years ago at regular intervals the slaves on the plantation were lined up and required to take their dose of fever-bark soaked in rum.

The writer is certain from experience that not only quinine but several other bitter barks are excellent preventatives of malarias of various kinds.  The amoebae that cause them do not flourish in the body of a person saturated with these bitter drugs.

 

According to David H. Rembert, author of The Botanical Explorations of William Bartram in the Southeast, it was during the spring and summer of 1773 when William Bartram was travelling through Georgia making observations and collecting plant specimens that   Bartram made a painting, now lost, of the plant Pinckneya pubens

Also at the same time William Bartram identified Franklinia in the Altamaha River Valley of Georgia, he discovered a plant that he placed in the genus Bignonia. This plant today is known as the Georgia Fever Tree or the Feverbark tree and was correctly identified by Andre Michaux in his publication in 1803. Michaux named the plant Pinckneya for Charles Coatsworth Pinckney of Charleston. This plant was a very important species during the Civil War and it was used as a substitute for quinine, being very closely related to the Chinchona tree of Peru. It is from this Peruvian species that we get the extract quinine for the treatment of malaria.”

Related References

Green Bullard Fought Sickness in the Civil War

Green Bullard  was a pioneer settler of Berrien county. He came to the area of present day Ray City, GA with his parents some time before 1850.  They settled on 490 acres of land acquired by his father, Amos Bullard, in the 10th Land District, then in Lowndes county, GA (cut into Berrien County in 1856).

confederate-camp

Following the commencement of the Civil War Green Bullard, and his nephew, Alfred Anderson, went to Nashville, GA and signed up on March 4, 1862 with the Berrien Light Infantry, which was being formed at that time.   The company traveled to Camp Davis, a temporary training camp that had been established two miles north of present day Guyton, GA (then known as Whitesville, GA). There they received medical examinations and were mustered in as Company I, 50th Georgia Regiment on March 30, 1862.

For many of the men in the 50th Regiment, this was the farthest they had ever been from home and the largest congregation of people they had ever seen.  Coming from the relative isolation of their rural farms and small south Georgia communities, many received their first exposure to communicable diseases such as Dysentery, Chicken Pox, Mumps,  Measles, or Typhoid fever. The first cases of Measles were reported within days of the men’s arrival and at times nearly two-thirds of the regiment were unfit for duty due to illness. On April 7, 1862 Bullard’s nephew, Alfred Anderson, reported sick with “Brain Fever” [probably either encephalitis or meningitis] while at Camp Davis, with no further records of his service.  With so many down sick, the Regiment could barely drill or even put on guard duty.  As the summer wore on, those that were fit participated in the barricading of the Savannah River and in coastal defenses.

 “In May 1862 the Confederate Government established a General Hospital in Guyton, GA,”  near Camp Davis. “This hospital was located on a nine acre tract of land adjacent to the Central Railroad… From May 1862 to December 1864, this hospital provided medical care, food, clothing, and lodging for thousands of sick and wounded Confederate soldiers.”  – Historical Marker, Guyton Confederate General Hospital.

Finally, in mid-July the 50th Regiment moved out via train to Richmond, VA where they joined Drayton’s Brigade in the CSA Army of Northern Virginia. The Regiment bivouacked first at Camp Lee.  Camp Lee was a Confederate training camp that had been converted from the Hermitage Fair Grounds near Richmond, with the exhibit halls converted into barracks and hospitals. The grounds were filled with the tents of infantry and artillery companies. The men bathed in a shallow creek, “but it is doubtful if their ablutions in that stream are productive of cleanliness,” opined the Richmond Whig in August of 1862.

Camp Lee, near Richmond, VA

Camp Lee, near Richmond, VA. Text from Confederate Military Hospitals in Richmond, by Robert W. Waitt, Jr., 1964.

On August 20, 1863  the 50th Georgia Regiment moved out to see their first real action.  but by that time company muster rolls  show that  Green Bullard was absent from the unit, with the note “Left at Lee’s Camp, Va. sick Aug 21st.”  On September 7, 1862  Bullard was admitted to the Confederate hospital at Huguenot Springs, VA.  Company  mate Pvt William W. Fulford was also attached to the convalescent hospital at that time.  The hospital muster roll of October 31, 1862 marks him “present: Bounty Paid”.  He remained “absent, sick”  from Company I at least through February, 1863.

In 1862, the Huguenot Springs Hotel was converted to a Confederate hospital.

In 1862, the Huguenot Springs Hotel was converted to a Confederate hospital. On September 7, 1862 Private Green Bullard, Company I, 50th Georgia Infantry, was one of the patients convalescing at the hospital.

On June 19, 1863 Bullard was admitted to Chimborazo Hospital Division No. 2, Richmond, VA  this time with typhoid pneumonia. Typhoid fever was a major killer during the war. At that same time, James A. Fogle was a Steward at Chimborazo Division No. 3. Fogle was later promoted to Assistant Surgeon, and after the war came to Berrien County to open a medical practice at Alapaha, GA.

Chimborazo Hospital, the "hospital on the hill." Considered the "one of the largest, best-organized, and most sophisticated hospitals in the Confederacy."

Chimborazo Hospital, the “hospital on the hill.” Considered the “one of the largest, best-organized, and most sophisticated hospitals in the Confederacy.”
Library of Congress

Sometime before February of 1864 Green Bullard returned to his unit. Records show he drew pay on February 29, 1864 and again on August 31 of that year. By October, 1864 he was again sick, but remained with his company. He continued fighting through his illness through November and December,1864. It was during this period (1864) that the 50th Georgia Regiment was engaged in battles at The Wilderness (May 5–6, 1864), Spotsylvania Court House (May 8–21, 1864), North Anna (May 23–26, 1864), Cold Harbor (June 1–3, 1864, Petersburg Siege (June 1864-April 1865, and Cedar Creek (October 19, 1864.)

At Cedar Creek, it is estimated that the Georgia 50th Regiment suffered more than 50% casualties. Among those captured was Jesse Bostick of Company G, the Clinch Volunteers. Bostick was sent to Point Lookout, Maryland, one of the largest Union POW camps. (see Jesse Bostick and the Battle of Cedar Creek.)

Receiving and Wayside Hospital, Richmond, VA.  was an old tobacco warehouse converted to a receiving hospital because of its nearness to Virginia Central Railroad depot.

Receiving and Wayside Hospital, Richmond, VA. was an old tobacco warehouse converted to a receiving hospital because of its nearness to Virginia Central Railroad depot.

By January, 1865 Bullard was too weak to continue fighting. He was sent to Receiving and Wayside Hospital (General Hospital No. 9), Richmond, VA.  From there he was transferred to Jackson Hospital, Richmond, VA where he was admitted with dysentery,  which was perhaps the leading cause of death during the Civil War.  Two months later, March 14, 1865 Bullard was furloughed from Jackson Hospital. No further service records were found.  Following less than one month, on April 9, 1865, Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox, VA ending the War.

Twice  as many Civil War soldiers died from disease as from battle wounds, the result  in considerable measure of poor sanitation in an era that created mass armies that  did not yet understand the transmission of infectious diseases like typhoid,  typhus, and dysentery… Confederate men died at a rate three times  that of their Yankee counterparts; one in five white southern men of military  age did not survive the Civil War.  http://www.nps.gov/history/nr/travel/national_cemeteries/death.html

Despite the odds and repeated  bouts of serious illness, Green Bullard survived the war and returned to home and farm in Berrien County, GA.

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