Ned Holmes and Civil War Epidemics

Edward “Ned” HOLMES, was a soldier of the 25th Georgia Regiment, which shared garrison duties with the Berrien Minute Men and the 29th Georgia Regiment several camps around Savannah, GA in the spring and summer of 1862. In June, the colonel of the 25th Regiment, Claudius C. Wilson, would assume command of Causton’s Bluff, where the Berrien Minute Men were stationed.

Ned Holmes was born about 1834 in DeKalb County, Georgia, the younger of two sons of James and Martha Thurman Holmes.

Ned’s father, James Holmes, according to family tradition left the family in Atlanta to go west to look for land to homestead. He was never heard from again…  Ned’s brother Mike Holmes, as oldest son, was sole support of his family and supposedly worked as an overseer to support them. Once again family legend says Mike rode a winning horse in a race in Atlanta the purse for which was enough for him to move his mother, five sisters and Ned  to Alabama. About 1845, the family moved to Henry County, AL, settling near Wesley, about 7 miles northeast of Abbeville. – Gordon W. Holmes, Jr

In Henry County, Mike Holmes first worked as a farmer then in 1858 was elected Sheriff of Henry County as a Democrat.  By 1860, Ned Holmes was employed as an overseer and moved out of his brother’s household to a place of his own in Franklin, AL.

When the Civil War broke out Mike Holmes enlisted at Abbeville, AL on May 11, 1861, in Company A (became Company B), 6th Regiment, Alabama Infantry, CSA. 

Edward “Ned” Holmes was enlisted on April 12, 1862, in Henry County, Alabama, by Capt. George W. Holmes (no relation) for 3 years, in Company E, 25th Regiment, Georgia Infantry, CSA. Ned remained at home on furlough through the end of April, 1862. In May, he  joined his unit at Camp Smith near Savannah, Georgia. After joining the 25th Regiment, Ned Holmes would suffer a battery of contagious diseases.

Colonel Claudius C. Wilson gathered a petition from the 29th Georgia Regiment requesting that Elbert J. Chapman's life be spared.

Colonel Claudius C. Wilson gathered a petition from the 29th Georgia Regiment requesting that Elbert J. Chapman’s life be spared.

The Twenty-fifth regiment Georgia volunteers had been organized during the summer of 1861.  Claudius C. Wilson, a member of the Georgia Bar and former solicitor-general for the eastern circuit of Georgia, was elected colonel and commissioned the unit’s first commanding officer. The unit was mustered into Confederate service at Savannah, Georgia, early September 1861.  The Twenty-fifth, after being equipped and drilled, was assigned to the department of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida, and throughout the latter part of 1861 and during 1862 served on the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina. By September, 1862 the 25th Georgia Regiment would  serve alongside the 29th Regiment at Causton’s Bluff, east of Savannah, GA.   The initial officers of the regiment were: William Percy Morford Ashley, lieutenant-colonel; William John Winn, major; Rufus Ezekiel Lester, adjutant, and William DeLegal Bacon, quartermaster. The captains were Alexander W. Smith, Company A; Martin L. Bryan, Company B; Jefferson Roberts, Company C; Andrew J. Williams, Company D;  William Sanford Norman, Company E; George T. Dunham, Company F;  William D. Hamilton, Company G;  W. Henry Wylly, Company H; Alexander Hamilton “Hamp” Smith , Company I, [post-war resident of Valdosta, GA];  Mark Jackson McMullen, Company K, Robert James McClary, Company L.

By the time Ned Holmes joined the Regiment in May 1862, the 25th Georgia had already served eight months at posts around Savannah: at Camp Wilson with the 27th, 31st and 29th Georgia Regiments;  at Camp Young; Thunderbolt Battery;  Camp Mercer on Tybee Island; and Camp Smith.

Most of the 25th Regiment had already suffered through a host of communicable diseases. “The fact that a majority of the soldiers were from rural communities made them very susceptible to such “city sicknesses” as measles, chicken pox, and small pox. The death rate from these diseases 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

Isaac Gordon Bradwell, a soldier of the 31st Georgia Regiment at Camp Wilson wrote,”“We had not been in these camps many days before we were invaded by measles the dread enemy of all new soldiers, and many of our men died or were rendered unfit for further service. Other diseases thinned our ranks, and for a while few recruits came to take their places.”  When new recruits like Ned Holmes did come, measles might be contracted within days of the men’s arrival.   Measles had hit The 29th Georgia Regiment and the Berrien Minute Men hard at Camp Security, GA in December 1861. Augustus H. Harrell,, of the Thomasville Guards, took the measles home from Camp Security.   William Washington Knight wrote from Camp Security, “Nearly all of our company have the measles. Capt [John C.] Lamb has it,” along with 60 others of the Regiment.  William A. Jones went home to Berrien County, GA with the measles and died there in January, 1862; a son born after his death suffered from apparent Congenital Rubella Syndrome.

Ned Holmes wrote home from Camp Smith on June 7, 1862, telling his family that he had a very bad cold and cough, and that there was a lot of sickness in the the 25th regiment.  By June 11, 1862 he wrote he was sick with measles.

“Measles [Rubeola] infection occurs in sequential stages over a period of two to three weeks. For the first 10 to 14 days after infection, the measles virus incubates. There are  no signs or symptoms of measles during this time. Measles symptoms typically begin with a mild to moderate fever, often accompanied by a persistent cough, runny nose, inflamed eyes (conjunctivitis) and sore throat. This relatively mild illness may last two or three days. Tiny white spots with bluish-white centers on a red background form inside the mouth on the inner lining of the cheek — also called Koplik’s spots. A skin rash develops made up of large, flat blotches that often flow into one another. Over the next few days, the rash spreads down the arms and trunk, then over the thighs, lower legs and feet. At the same time, the fever rises sharply, often as high as 104 to 105.8 F (40 to 41 C). The measles rash gradually recedes, fading first from the face and last from the thighs and feet. A person with measles can spread the virus to others for about eight days, starting four days before the rash appears and ending when the rash has been present for four days.”- Mayo Clinic

 

In June, 1862  the 25th Regiment’s Colonel, Claudius C. Wilson, was assigned special duty as commander of the post at Causton’s Bluff.  The bluff, about three miles east of Savannah, overlooked St. Augustine Creek and Whitemarsh Island (pronounced Whitmarsh Island). “This twenty to thirty foot bluff strategically commanded the rear approach to Fort Jackson, on the Savannah River, and the approach to the part of the eastern lines of the city.”  Causton’s Bluff had been garrisoned since December 1861 by   the 13th Georgia Infantry, also known as the Bartow Light Infantry, under the command of Colonel Marcellus Douglass .  After the U.S. Army captured Fort Pulaski on April 11, 1862, the Berrien Minute Men and the 29th Georgia Regiment were brought up to strengthen the garrison.  Soon the 25th regiment moved up from Camp Smith to join the garrison at Causton’s Bluff.  At Causton’s Bluff, the men would suffer with fever, malaria, measles, tonsillitis, mumps,  wounds, typhus, dysentery, pneumonia, tuberculosis, syphilis, hepatitis, and rheumatism as well as mosquitoes, fleas, and sandflies.

In a letter to his brother, Ned Holmes wrote that he had his gear “hauled from the old camp,” and that he was sick with the mumps.

Early in the morning, 20th of June 1862

Mike,
As I did not get off my letter yesterday I write you a few lines this morning. I feel very well this morning. I am swole up powerful with mumps this morning but they give me but little pain. I am taking good care of myself. Perhaps you think I cant do that in camp but my tent is as dry as any — house. Last night we had 2 pretty hard storms & heavy raining and I never felt a drop of water or a breeze of wind. I managed to get my bed stead hauled from the old camp yesterday. It is as good a bed as I would want at home. I think I will improve all the time now. I want you to write me. I have not heard from you since you were on your way to Richmond. I don’t know how I will like the move we made. I have not been out any since I came to this place. All I know is it’s very level where we are camped.
Tell Sim’s folks he is well. Dick [Knight] is in good health. Be sure to write soon. Dick got letters from home saying that Reuben Fleming has been carried home. I want to hear about it.

Ned

According to the CDC, “Mumps is a contagious disease that is caused by a virus. Symptoms typically appear 16-18 days after infection, but this period can range from 12–25 days after infection.It typically starts with a few days of fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, and loss of appetite. Then most people will have swelling of their salivary glands. This is what causes the puffy cheeks and a tender, swollen jaw. Some people who get mumps have very mild symptoms (like a cold), or no symptoms at all and may not know they have the disease. Mumps can occasionally cause complications, especially in adults. In men, complications can include: inflammation of the testicles (orchitis) in males who have reached puberty; this may lead to a decrease in testicular size (testicular atrophy); inflammation in the pancreas (pancreatitis); inflammation of the brain (encephalitis); inflammation of the tissue covering the brain and spinal cord (meningitis); deafness. Inflammation of the testicles caused by mumps has not been shown to lead to infertility.” – CDC
Mumps generally last about ten days.

About the time Ned Holmes recovered from the mumps, he wrote that he was sick with diarrhea.

June 30, 1862

Dear Mike
I recvd your letter dated 26. I was glad to hear you was all well. I am not as well as I was when I saw you. 2 days ago my bowels was a little out of order tho not bad but just enough to keep week and not able to do anything. I am up all the time but dont have the strength to do anything. You need not be uneasy about me, if I git bad sick I will let you know. I think I will be able for duty in one or 2 days. Tell Mary she need not be uneasy about me that I can come home if I git sick much and I am going to do it. A sick man — tese very depressing and can get a furlough here. I dont want one now, no use of going home. I would not go now if I had a furlough. I will write you all the particleurs that I can gather in a few days. I am writing every other day. I will until I get plum well. Morris and Simm Schick and Zuch is all well. I have no more to write at present.

Write me often.

E. [Ned] Holmes

In July, Ned Holmes wrote that he had suffered a relapse of the measles. In  Civil War times little distinction was made between measles (Rubeola) and Rubella, sometimes called “German measles.”  Both diseases were contagious and both were rampant in the regimental camps. It appears that Ned’s “relapse” may have been Rubella.  Ned’s letters from July 1862 indicate that he had returned to Camp Smith to recuperate.  Soldiers who got sick preferred care in a camp hospital or sick ward over being sent to a hospital in Savannah.

The hospitals in Savannah were feared by the soldiers as death houses. In order to address this fear Lt. Col. Anderson, [commander of the Savannah River Batteries,] set up a separate hospital at Deptford. The less critically ill could be sent there, watched by their comrades and not have all their personal belongings stolen – which would happen when they were sent into Savannah. – Fort Jackson Interpretive Materials

But even while in recovery at Camp Smith,   Ned Holmes found his personal items being pilfered.

Camp Smith, Savannah, Ga., July 1862

(To Mat and the Family)
I thought I was surely well of the measles till yesterdasy, it was a cloudy wet day and the measles made their appearance on me as plain as ever. It’s cleared off this morning & looks like Sept. It’s cool & pleasant, the air stirring brief and is a very pleasant time. I will finish this in the morning and tell you how I am getting along. Dick has got the mumps. He took them yesterday. I hope he will get well soon. Tell Mama somebody has stolen one of my socks and I have an old one and if she sees any chance to send me one, to do it. I shall get out of socks before long anyway.

“Rubella, also called German measles or three-day measles, is a contagious viral infection best known by its distinctive red rash. Rubella is not the same as measles (rubeola), though the two illnesses do share some characteristics, including the red rash. However, rubella is caused by a different virus than measles, and is neither as infectious nor usually as severe as measles. The signs and symptoms of rubella are often so mild they’re difficult to notice, especially in children. If signs and symptoms do occur, they generally appear between two and three weeks after exposure to the virus. They typically last about one to five days and may include: Mild fever of 102 F (38.9 C) or lower; Headache; Stuffy or runny nose; Inflamed, red eyes; Enlarged, tender lymph nodes at the base of the skull, the back of the neck and behind the ears; A fine, pink rash that begins on the face and quickly spreads to the trunk and then the arms and legs, before disappearing in the same sequence.” – Mayo Clinic.

 

July the 6th [Camp Smith]

My health is improving now again finally. If I can keep mending 2 or 3 days more as I have for 2 days I will be well. I have quit discharging blood, have not discharged any in 30 hours & my bowels feel like they are getting well & they are not moving more than 4 times a day. I think today I will be much better than usual. We have most pleasant weather here now I ever saw at this season. It’s clear and cool and the wind stirring like fall of the year. I had almost concluded there was no Yankees about here till I heard them shooting on the 4th. There is plenty of cannon whether there are any Yankees with it or not. I suppose they fired some 2 hundred big guns at 1 o’clock at 2 or 3 different points. I have nothing else to write. Thomas Doswell has just this minute come into camp. I want to see him right soon. get my watch home.

I remain,

Ned

By August Ned’s health was improved. He returned to his unit at Causton’s Bluff and on August 26, 1862 was elected Junior 2nd Lieutenant.   On August 10, 1862, Ned Holmes wrote a letter home to his family.

Camp Costons Bluff,[Near Savannah] Aug. 10, 1862

Dear Mat and Viney,
I write you a few lines that leaves me about well except my mouth. I never was in such a fix with fever blisters before. I received a letter from you, Santanna just a few minutes ago. Alex Gamble is going to start home tonight. I will send this by him. I think my fever is broken entirely up. I have not had any since Friday morning so I feel as well as I did before I was taken. There is a deal good of sickness around —– but they are also not dying as fast as they were ten or fifteen days ago. There is a heap of heavy shooting going on today in the direction of Fort Pulaski. I don’t know what it means.

They are fixing up a volunteer company right now to go to Wilmington Island, a place we have never scouted.
It’s beyond Whitemarsh and from where we are camped and on the way to Fort Pulaski. I don’t know what information they expect to obtain by going to Wilmington. It’s all under the General of the Fort [Pulaski, captured by U.S. Army forces from Tybee Island on April 11, 1862,] and they never expect to hold it unless the fort is retaken which will never be done for there is nothing here to take it with. Morris is well. Miles is getting well. John Nobles is right sick. Washer Nobles came into our company this morning to stay. I may get off home when Sim gets back. I don’t know. Everbody has been here longer than I have. I will be there by the first of September anyway if I keep well. And I am not afraid of being sick anymore this summer.

Love, Ned

P.S. Tell Mike if there are any of Cook’s pills there to send me some. And I can manage my own cases.

In September 1862 Ned Holmes was on detached duty.  He was later reported as “wholly incompetent & probably physically unfit to hold office.

In 1863, Ned Holmes and the 25th Georgia Regiment would be sent to north Mississippi, forming part of the army assembled for the relief of Vicksburg. The The Berrien Minute Men and the 29th Georgia Regiment were also sent to join that effort.

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