Confederate Cures in the Civil War

In the Civil War, the death rate from contagious diseases and illnesses were very high. “In the Federal armies, sickness and disease accounted for 7 of every 10 deaths. One authority has estimated that among the Confederates three men perished from disease for every man killed in battle. Small wonder that a Civil War soldier once wrote his family from camp: “It scares a man to death to get sick down here.” – The Civil War

In the Summer of 1862 the Berrien Minute Men, 29th GA Regiment, stationed at Causton’s Bluff and Battery Lawton would suffer with malaria, fever, measles,  mumps,  dysentery, tonsillitis,  wounds, typhus,  pneumonia, tuberculosis, syphilis, hepatitis, and rheumatism. The heat, mosquitoes, fleas and sandflies just made the men all the more uncomfortable. All of the stations of the Berrien Minute Men on the Georgia coast were disease ridden. After visiting Battery Lawton on June 22, 1862, Captain George A. Mercer wrote, “Fort Jackson, and the adjacent batteries, are located in low swampy fields, where the insects are terrible the air close and fetid and full of miasma and death.” The “miasma” was actually mosquito-born transmission of diseases like yellow fever or malaria, but the conventional wisdom at the time was that all diseases were carried by vapors, which were believed to be especially prevalent in coastal marshy areas.  Given the state of medical knowledge in the 1860s, Regimental Surgeon, William P. Clower, had little if any effective treatments for such contagious diseases. (Surgeon Clower’s brother, John T. Clower, would later practice medicine in Ray’s Mill, now Ray City, GA).  Wiregrass Georgians had always depended more on home remedies, patent medicines and faith than doctors.

On June 12, 1862, a concerned citizen advised Confederate soldiers via a newspaper article to treat camp illnesses themselves and not to trust their health to physicians. Some of the “cures” seem worse than the disease.  In discussing the recipes for tinctures and enemas, the advise is, “If the pepper is too exciting for delicate patients, leave it out…   

On the treatment snake bite, the reference to Hog Artichoke has a trivial connection to the Berrien Minute Men; Colonel William Spencer Rockwell, who enlisted the Berrien Minute Men in the C.S.A., was perhaps the leading horticultural authority on Hog Artichoke in the State of Georgia.

 

Savannah Morning News
June 12, 1862

“[From the Columbus Enquirer.]
Every Soldier his own Physician.
Editor Enquirer:—Horrified at the rapidity with which our soldiers die in camp, we are tempted to give them the following recipes, the result of some experience, in hopes that some may be saved by using remedies simple, safe, and generally sure cures:
TO PREVENT SICKNESS.—Have a Jug of salted vinegar, seasoned with pepper, and take a mouthful just before going to bed. The salt and vinegar make a near approach to the digestive gastric Juice of the stomach, and are besides antidotes to many of the vegetable and miasmatic poisons.
FOR PNEUMONIA, COLDS AND COUGHS.—Take half a cup or less of the salted pepper vinegar, fill the cup nearly full of warm water, and then stir in a raw well-beaten egg slowly. Taken mouthful every 15 or 20 minutes; in the intervals slowly suck on a piece of alum. If the attack is violent, dip a cloth in hot salted pepper vinegar and apply it round the throat, cover with dry clothes to get up a steam, and do the name to the chest.
FOR CHILLS.—Put a tablespoonful of salted pepper vinegar in a cup of warm water, go to bed and drink ; In two hours drink a cup of strong water-willow bark tea; in two hours more another tablespoonful of the vinegar and warm water, and so on, alternating, until the fever is broken up. After sweating, and before going into the out door air, the body ought always to be wiped off with a cloth dipped in cold water. Dogwood will do if water-willow cannot be obtained
FOR MEASLES.—Put a small piece of yeast in a tumbler of warm sweetened water, let it draw, and drink a mouthful every 15 or 30 minutes, and drink plentifully of cold or hot catnip, balsam, horehound, or alder tea”, and use In place of oil or salts, one table spoonful molasses, one teaspoonful lard, and one teaspoonful salted pepper vinegar, melted together and taken warm. Take once a day, if necessary— keep out of the wet and out-door air.
FOR DIARRHOEA.— A teaspoonful of the salted pepper vinegar every one or two hours. Take a teaspoonful of the yellow puffs that grow round oak twigs, powdered fine; take twice a day in one tablespoonful of brandy, wine or cordial If these yellow puffs can not be found, suck frequently on a piece of alum. The quantity of alum depends upon the severity of the attack; take slowly and little at a time.
FOR CAMP FEVERS.—One tablespoonful of salted pepper vinegar, slightly seasoned, and put into a cup of warm water—drink freely and often, from 4 to 8 cupfuls a day, with fever or without fever. Pour a cupful more or less of the salted pepper vinegar into cold water, and keep the body, particularly the stomach and head, well bathed with a cloth dipped in it. Give enemas of cold water, and for oil use a tablespoonful molasses, a teaspoonful lard, and a teaspoonful pepper vinegar, melted together and taken warm. If the pepper is too exciting for delicate patients, leave it out of the drinks and bathings, and use simply the salt and vinegar in water, and very little salt.
ANTIDOTE FOR DRUNKENESS: FOR THE BENEFIT OF OFFICERS —One cup of strong black Coffee, with out milk or sugar, and twenty drops of Laudanum. Repent the dose if necessary. Or take one teaspoonful of Tincture Lobelia In a tumbler of milk; if taken every ten or fifteen minutes it will act us an emetic: taken in longer intervals, say thirty minutes, it will act as an antidote. The Yankees declared that poisoned liquor was put on the counters in Newbern to poison their soldiers. Nobody doubts the liquor being poisoned, but it was made of poison to sell to our own Southern boys; and it is horrifying to think of the liquors now being made down in cellars, of “sulfuric acid, strychnine, buckeye, tobacco leaves, coloring matter and rain water.” For this poisoned liquor, the best antidote is an emetic, say lobelia and warm salt and water, and then drink freely of sugared vinegar water.
FOR SNAKE BITES —The best thing is one teaspoonful of Lobelia and ten drops of Ammonia, taken every few minutes, and a bottle filled with Lobelia and Ammonia, stopped with the palm of the hand and warmed in a panful of hot water; then apply the bottle to the bite, and it will draw out and antidote the poison. Either of these, Lobelia or Ammonia, will answer without the other. Tobacco, or Nightshade, or Kurtle Burr, or Deer Tongue, (a rough-leafed herb, in flower and appearance like to hog artichoke) stowed in milk; drink the milk, using the rest as a poultice. The last is an Indian remedy, and will cure in the agonies of death.
FOR CHICKEN CHOLERA, NOW DEVASTATING FOWLDOM.—Put one or two Jimpston or Jamestown weed leaves, properly called Stramonium, into the water trough every day—fresh leaves and fresh water. This is one of the triumphs of Homeopathy, for we were just from a perusal of one of their works, and finding that the chickens died and made no signs of sickness, except holding the head down, we concluded the head must be the seat of the plague, and reading that stramonium affected the brain with mania and stupor, we tried it, and have not lost a chicken since the using.
If other papers will copy these recipes, they will save many lives, now sacrificed to the negligence of salaried physicians The Eastern monarch’s plan ought to be adopted, to strike off a certain percent of a Doctor’s salary every time he loses a patient— that would soon stop the feast of Death! X.

Confederate medicine: cures for soldiers in the regimental camps.

Confederate medicine: cures for soldiers in the regimental camps.

 

 

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Berrien Minute Men on Sapelo Island: Part 6

Berrien County in the Civil War
29th Georgia Regiment on Sapelo Island
Part 6: In Regular Service

Berrien Minute Men on Sapelo Island

  1. Arrival On Sapelo
  2. Place of Encampment
  3. Camp Spalding
  4. Election of Officers
  5. Tidewater Time
  6. In Regular Service

During the Civil War,  two companies of men that went forth from Berrien County, GA were known as the Berrien Minute Men.  From October, 1861 to January, 1862, the campfires of the Berrien Minute Men  were made at Sapelo and Blackbeard islands protecting the approaches to Darien, GA on Doboy Sound and the Altamaha River.  The Berrien Minute Men arrived in early October and were stationed on Sapelo Island along with the Thomas County Guards, Thomas County Volunteers and Ochlocknee Light Infantry.  Regimental officers were elected by the first of November. Through the fall, the men bided their time on the tidewater, fighting boredom and disease…

According to Regulations for the Army of the Confederate States “An officer may draw subsistence stores, paying cash for them at contract or cost prices, without including cost of transportation, on his certificate that they are for his own use and the use of his family.” The officers of the 29th GA Regiment were authorized to purchase provisions at Darien GA. Records of the Subsistence Department show Major Levi J. Knight signed for  59 pounds pork, 195 lbs flour, 112 lbs meal, 299 lbs rice, 46 lbs coffee, 162 lbs sugar, 2 lbs candles, 12 1/4 lbs soap, 16 quarts salt for his officers and their families during the month of January, 1862.

 

Finally, the 29th Regiment was reported ready for service.

On January 14, 1862, Brigadier General Alexander Robert Lawton informed Adjutant Inspector General Samuel Cooper that the regiment had been properly mustered in as the 29th GA Volunteer Infantry.

Head Quarters, Dept of Geo

Savannah Jany 14th 1862

General S. Cooper
Adjt Inspector General
             Richmond
                               General
                                             I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of a letter of the 10th inst from the Ajt General’s Office, inquiring if Col R Spalding’s 29th Geo Regiment has been properly mustered in or not.
                                            In reply I beg leave to say that it is a full regiment and has been for some months regularly in service
                                           I have the honor to be, very Respy
                                                                         Your Obdt Servt
                                                                          A R Lawton
                                                                         Brig Genl Comg

Brigadier General A. R. Lawton letter of January 14, 1862 confirming readiness of the 29th GA Infantry

Brigadier General A. R. Lawton letter of January 14, 1862 to Adjutant Inspector General Samuel Cooper confirming readiness of the 29th GA Infantry.  (In 1864, General Cooper stayed the execution of Confederate deserter Burrell Douglass. Cooper is credited for the preservation of Confederate service records after the war).

A Regimental Surgeon, William P. Clower, was finally appointed on January 18, 1862. Surgeon Clower’s brother, John T. Clower, would later serve as the doctor in Ray’s Mill (now Ray City, GA). The surgeon was a welcome addition, but the health conditions of the Regiment did not immediately improve.  James Madison Harrell was sent home sick.  Alfred B. Finley, who joined the Berrien Minute Men at Darien, contracted measles and lost an eye to complications; despite that disability he would continue to serve with the 29th Regiment.  Hiram F. Harrell contracted measles and died at Darien, GA.  Edward Morris contracted measles and “camp fever” and never recovered; he died a few weeks later at Savannah, GA.

The 29th Regiment’s tenure on Sapelo would soon be over.  Before the end of January, the 29th GA regiment would be called up to the coastal defenses at Savannah.  When the regiment finally left Darien, John Lindsey, William Hall, and James Newman and John R. Langdale were left behind, sick. William Anderson, who had been on sick leave in October, had a relapse and was also left in Darien.  Thomas J. Lindsey, David D. Mahon and Robert H. Goodman were detailed to Darien as  nurses. John W. McClellan was also detailed to remain at Darien. Malcolm McCranie died of measles at Darien on February 2, 1862 and Ellis H. Hogan  died February 25, 1862. In the Ochlocknee Light Infantry, George Harlan was disabled and discharged at Darien on February 17, 1862 and Francis M. Dixon died of typhoid pneumonia at Darien the following day.

A Civil War letter from Camp Security dated February 12, 1862 describes the prevalence of tonsillitis and measles among the men. This letter, signed Gussie, was probably written by Augustus H. Harrell, of the Thomasville Guards.  Of the 350 or so men at the camp, less than half were fit for duty.  There weren’t enough guns to arm all of the soldiers; some of the men carried a pike as their primary weapon.

The defense of Georgia’s sea islands quickly proved untenable against the strength of the Union Navy. By early December 1861 U.S. forces had occupied Tybee Island off the coast of Savannah, and were landing ordnance and constructing batteries there.  By the end of January, 1862 U.S. Navy vessels  were maneuvering to enter the Savannah River, and threatened to cut off Fort Pulaski from Savannah. On the South Carolina side, U.S. troops occupied Daufuskie Island and constructed batteries on Bird Island and at Venus Point on Jones Island.
General Lee was desperate to shore up Confederate artillery defending Savannah, Georgia’s chief seaport. To strengthen the Savannah defenses, General Lee instructed General Mercer at Brunswick to remove the  batteries on St. Simon’s and Jekyll islands if the defense of those positions became untenable, and to forward the artillery to Savannah.  By this time the sea island planters had moved their property inland, and the residents of Brunswick had abandoned the city. By February 16, 1862 General Mercer reported the guns had been removed from Jekyll and St. Simons and shipped to Savannah and Fernandina. At the retreat of the 4th Georgia Battalion and Colonel Cary W. Styles 26th Georgia Regiment from Brunswick, General Mercer wanted to burn the city as a show of determination not to be occupied by U.S. forces.
With the withdrawal of the 29th Georgia Regiment from Sapelo Island, the Confederates abandoned the defense of Darien altogether. Indeed, the Savannah Republican newspaper of June 27, 1862 reported “two Yankee gunboats had passed Darien some four or five miles up the river, seemingly to destroy the railroad bridges across the Altamaha… A gunboat had been up the river as far as Champion’s Island – Nightingale’s Plantation…she was seen lying at Barrett’s Island, about three miles from the town, having in charge a two mast schooner that had been hid up the river.”  The schooner was believed to have been loaded with rice. The coast around St. Simon’s, Doboy, Sapelo and St. Catherines was said to be infested with Yankee steamers. The coastal inhabitants feared that crops in fields bordering the rivers would be destroyed by the Union forces;  “They have already stolen a goodly number of our slaves, thus curtailing our provisions crops…” 
Current navigational chart showing Sapelo Island, Blackbeard Island, Doboy Island, Queens Island, Wolf Island, GA. The Berrien Minute Men, Company G & K, 29th Georgia Regiment, were stationed at Sapelo Island and Blackbeard Island during 1861, defending the Altamaha River delta from Union forces.

Current navigational chart showing Sapelo Island, Blackbeard Island, Doboy Island, Queens Island, Wolf Island, GA. The Berrien Minute Men, Companies G & K, 29th Georgia Regiment, were stationed at Sapelo Island and Blackbeard Island during 1861, defending the Altamaha River delta from Union forces.

 

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