Saturday, April 22, 2023

Which Is More Frightening? The Disease Or The Doctor?

    So how skilled were the doctors treating sick soldiers early in the war?  Here is an interesting evaluation by Garret W Moore, a soldier in the 25th IL. Infantry

Rolla, Missouri
January 5, 1862

My old friend Achley,
    I just received your most kind and welcome letter which I read with great pleasure. I was truly glad to hear from you. I wish you could be in camp with me awhile. I think we could have a good time although you seem to think that we have a pretty hard time. Well, it is partly true, but our berth is not as hard as you think it is. We have pretty good winter quarters and we drill two hours a day and the balance of the time we play poker and euchre and put the time in pretty well and we have plenty to eat—such as it is.
    Perhaps you would like to know what we do here to eat. Well, we have plenty of fresh beef and flour and crackers and light bread and beans, rice, coffee, sugar, salt, vinegar, side meat shoulders and sometimes we get hams. We can buy eggs at twenty cents per dozen, butter 25 per pound, chickens 20 cents apiece, rot gut whiskey at one dollar per pint which is good enough for soldiers.
    It is true [that] on a march, it is pretty hard on some of the boys but I have stood it pretty well until the 28th of December when I was taken sick with the intermittent fever and I was most down sick with the fever for five days and I got over that. Then I was taken with the m____ diarrhea and the doctor gave me turpentine.  I took a half pint of turpentine and I got so sick and weak that I could not hardly stand up so the Dr. wanted me to go to the hospital but I told him that I preferred staying in camp. Then I told him that his medicine was not doing me any good and he told me that he could not do me any good but he advised me to take turpentine so I made up my mind that he was a damned fool and I would not take any more of his medicine. Then I told him that the medicine that I had been taking would kill nine out of every ten men that took it so he thought I was a damn fool. He told some of the boys that I would die before one month. He told me I had better go to the hospital. I told him that I would not go to the hospital. Then the doctor left and I have not seen him since but I am not dead nor I am not a going to die for I am getting well as fast as a man can. I have been most down sick for twenty days but if the Lord is willing and no preventing Providence, I will be the best man in camp in one month. Our doctors hain’t worth a damn. There is a great deal of sickness in camp but I think the health in camp is better than it has been for the past two months.
    We are under marching orders but I think that we will spend the winter here. There is four hundred men in this regiment that is fit for duty and that is all that can be got out on drill out of one thousand. no more on this subject now.
    You said that you and Jack tried to get on a spree on New Years and Christmas and could not make it go off. Well, if I had of been there, we would of had some fun or I would of raised hell with the preachers. I would like to be at home awhile to see you and Jack and have some fun but I would not quit the service if I could, If you and Jack were with me, I would rather be here than at home for we have lots of fun. I think you and Jack had better come and go with us. We will have some fun when we get after them damned rebels.
    Well, Jack, I have been looking for a letter from you for a long time but it has all been in vain and in your letter you offer an excuse for not writing to me sooner and oftener. Well, your excuse is a very poor one. You said that you was a poor hand to write. You write very well if you would think so. Now I am a poor hand to write but I can write so you can make it out. So can you, and I would be glad to receive a letter from you every week if I could. Now, Ach, you can spend one hour every week writing to me. It always does a soldier good to hear from his friends—at least it does me.
With these few remarks, I will close hoping to hear from you soon. Give my love and well wishes to all my friends, to Jack [ ] and by the grace of God you must keep a share of my well wishes for yourself. No more at present. Your ever affectionate friend, — G. W. Moore
— to J. A. Smith

[Letter transcription above and biographical information below is from Will Griffing in Billy Yank and Jonny Reb Letters website]
    The letter was written by Pvt. Garret Moore (1838-1865) of Co. C, 25th Illinois Infantry. Garret was the orphaned son of Garret Moore (18xx-1838) and Catherine Bailey (18xx-Bef1850) of Champaign county, Illinois. He had some older siblings but he was raised by others. In the 1850 US Census he was enumerated in the household of the Alexander Argo family. In the 1860 US Census, he was enumerated in the household of the James Swearingen family.
    Garret enlisted on 4 August 1861 at Homer, Illinois, and was with his regiment in Rolla, Missouri, from mid-November 1861 until early February 1862 when they embarked on the campaign that would eventually lead to their first engagement—the Battle of Pea Ridge in northern Arkansas. Garret was seriously wounded at Kennesaw Mountain on 23 June 1864 and died of his wounds a week later at Chattanooga, Tennessee. His muster records indicate he stood 5′ 9″ tall, with brown hair and hazel eyes.

    Was Pvt. Moore justified in questioning the doctor’s medical advice?  Who would not want to drink turpentine?  
    An informative article on the medical use of turpentine is found in Oil of Turpentine: Sheet Anchor of 19th Century Therapeutics by Vincent Cirillo, Medical History Society of New Jersey 2021:
    “Oil of turpentine is an essential oil extracted and distilled from the gum resin of several species of pine trees. It was used by laypeople for relief from blisters, burns, corns, lumbago, sciatica, sore gums, abscessed teeth and insect bites. Physicians, on the other hand, employed oil of turpentine to treat some of the major diseases of the nineteenth century. It was an effective, orally administered therapeutic agent against intestinal disorders such as typhoid fever and worms (esp. tapeworms), and somewhat effective topically against hospital gangrene, and myiasis [infection in the body by maggots].” (p.2)
    “Typhoid fever, endemic in 19th–century America, was a major killer of U.S. soldiers during the Civil War (1861-1865) . . . It is a contagious disease characterized by prolonged fever, diarrhea, abdominal pain, skin rash (rose-colored spots), prostration and, toward the end, delirium.” (p.5)
Unsanitary conditions mixing with contaminated flies easily allowed the spread of typhoid from the latrines to mess halls and hospital wards.
    Cirillo cites Charles Johnson (1843-1928), a hospital steward with the 130th Illinois Volunteer Infantry, in his Civil War memoir Muskets and Medicine (published in 1917): “In that era most medical men regarded turpentine as little short of a sheet-anchor in the treatment of typhoid.... It was a standard remedy in our regimental hospital.”  “Sheet anchor” is an old nautical term for a large spare anchor used only in emergency to save the sailing ship.  The term came to describe something or someone viewed as ‘very dependable and relied upon as a last resort in a dangerous situation.’  So, in this context, turpentine oil was viewed as the last best medical hope to deal with the dangerous disease of typhoid.
    Cirillo’s article has a lot of additional details both positive and negative about the use of turpentine oil during the Civil War by both Northern and Southern medical personal. In a time of limited medical medicinal resources, it was viewed as a “good option” to combat certain deadly diseases.  Turpentine oil was part of the standard medical supplies issued during the Civil War.  Its side effects were not well understood at that time, but in the face of death “use what you have.”

    Clearly Private Moore does not have a high opinion of the medical advice he is getting.  You have to give him credit for following the medical instructions at first.  He drank a half pint of turpentine – that’s 8 ounces (one cup) of it – a lot more than I would want to drink.  Then because of his reaction to the “prescribed drug” he chose to go a different route.  His refusal about going to the hospital is not unusual.  Soldiers often refused to go to the hospital unless in dire need because the treatments there were often not positive in results.  From Moore’s letter we see that he is recovering.  Possibly Moore’s drinking of the turpentine did help him if he had a touch of typhoid even though he only drank it once.  Evidently his body was strong enough to recover from whatever he was dealing with.

    Typhoid fever cuts deep into General Sherman’s heart -- an example of its dangerous speed in cutting short a life.  Peter Cozzens shares this example of a death from typhoid fever in his book The Shipwreck of Their Hopes – The Battles for Chattanooga (1994) pp.113f:
    “Grant’s complete confidence in Sherman was obvious for all to see.  Yet his friend was not himself.  His soul ached from a deep personal tragedy that had shattered his fa├žade of gritty manhood.  In late September [1863], after learning that he was to march his army to Rosecran’s succor, Sherman had hastily packed his family aboard a streamer at Vicksburg bound for Ohio; he would accompany them as far as Memphis.  As the boat prepared to cast off, Sherman noticed that his son, ten-year-old Willie, was missing.  The general had supposed Willie to be with his wife, Ellen; she assumed he was with the general.  An officer of the Thirteenth United States Infantry, which had given Willie a sergeant’s uniform and adopted him as one of its own, disembarked to look for him.  A few minutes later he returned, leading the young boy who, all smiles, was carrying a small double-barreled shotgun with the pride of a soldier about to sail off on a grand adventure.
    As the steamer puffed languidly up the hot, malarial river, Sherman passed the time pointing out to his family old campsites along the bank that his troops had occupied during the Vicksburg campaign.  Glancing at Willie, he noticed that the boy’s face looked strangely pallid.  Ellen hurried the child off to bed and army surgeons were summoned.  Their diagnosis: a life-threatening case of typhoid fever.
Willed died twenty-four hours after the boat docked at Memphis.  It was the most painful emotional blow of Sherman’s life.  His marriage had long been strained, he and Ellen had stayed together largely for the sake of their children.  And of all their children, Willie was the general’s favorite.  He was ‘that child on whose future I based all the ambition I ever had,’ To Halleck, Sherman wired: ‘His loss is more to me than words can express.’”
    This short glimpse into Sherman’s family loss does show why the treatment of the disease was a serious concern for Civil War doctors.  In desperate situations you use whatever you have as a sheet anchor to stop it.  Maybe it stops the shipwreck or maybe you still get swamped and drown, but it’s worth a try.

    Don’t overlook his brief descriptions of camp life and food.  He lists a nice variety of rations, as well as options available for purchase.  This variety is likely because they are in encampment and not on the march.  When looking at the 20 cents per dozen eggs, remember his pay for the month was $13.00.  Camp life seems a bit relaxed, with creativity providing variety, but again this is during winter encampment.

Children’s Projects
1)  Explore the tension between medicines can be helpful yet have negative side effects.  Cirillo makes this observation [p.3]: “Not unlike today’s patients, their nineteenth-century counterparts expected to be prescribed medicine when they presented with an illness. A physician could not simply genuflect before the precept vis medicatrix naturae (the healing power of nature) and do nothing. He had to be a man of action; in short, a therapeutic interventionist.”

2) Explore why turpentine oil became tagged as a “sheet anchor.”  It was helpful in combating certain deadly disease like typhoid, even though its negative effects could do damage.  Then explore the broader concept of “idiom” (words grouped together to convey meaning that the individual words don’t convey).  I grew up hearing and saying “take the whole shebang” (= take it all) but didn’t know its Civil War background was from one soldier taking all for himself the poor quality shelter of a half tent or hut to the detriment of his comrade who also needed shelter in tough circumstances.   You might explore other idioms like “the whole nine yards” which has a WWII background.

Friday, April 7, 2023

Rock of Ages -- A Hymn Treasured by Civil War Soldiers Both North and South

The hymn “Rock of Ages” opened soldiers hearts to Jesus’ mercy and grace during the war. 
    Rev. George Bringhurst of Philadelphia, one of the first Delegates of the U.S Christian Commission serving the soldiers in the spring of 1862, shares how he saw this well-known hymn bring positive change in some who heard it being sung [Incidents of the U.S. Christian Commission by Edward P. Smith 1869. Pages 24-26]:

    In how many instances was the precious Gospel brought to the soldiers, in the strains of music set to Psalms and Hymns.  In camp and hospital, on march and field, the sweet songs of Zion wooed many a prodigal back to the Father’s loving embrace.  None possibly were more effectual than that familiar hymn, “Rock of Ages.”  We heard it sung for the first time in the army, on the beach at Fortress Monroe, by some Delegates of the Christian Commission, just beneath the “Lincoln Gun”.  Its grateful truth, borne by the winds, fell upon the ear of a soldier on the parapet; not only so, but touched his heart, and in time led him to build on the “Rock of Ages.”
    Again, we heard the same hymn at Yorktown, sung by some of the same Delegates.  After its singing, as we were returning to our quarters, one of the Delegates was overtaken by a soldier, who belonged to the “Lost Children” – (the name of a New York Regiment, “Enfans Perdus”).  He asked “Won’t you please tell me how I may build on the ‘Rock’ you sang about?  I was thinking of it while on guard the other day.”  He told his story in brief: he was from New York City, had received his mother’s dying blessing.  Before she breathed her last, she sang this hymn, and said “George, my son, I would not feel so badly about your enlisting, if you were only built upon that ‘Rock.’”
    These sacred memories were revived by the singing of the hymn; and as the Delegate and the soldier knelt on the dusty roadside, beneath the stars, the wanderer lost his weariness and thirst for sin, in the shadow of the “Rock of Ages.”
    Eighteen months after this incident, the same Delegate, going to Fortress Monroe, on a boat which had as part of her passengers a gay and happy company of the Signal Corps, conversed, sang and prayed with them.  He related to them the foregoing incidents, sang “Rock of Ages,” and retired to his state-room.  Soon after, a gentle tap called him to the door, where he found a tall graceful Lieutenant, who, with tears streaming down his face, said “O sir! I could not let you go to bed tonight until I had told you what you have done.  As I sat, with my head leaning against a spar, and listened to your words and to that hymn, you brought back my dead mother with all her prayers and love.  I have been a wanderer until this night, now by God’s grace I want to hide myself in that Rock of Ages.”

“Rock of Ages” was the song JEB Stuart requested to be sung as he was dying.  
    At 7 p.m., everyone in the house gathered around Stuart’s bed. Rev. Joshua Peterkin, an Episcopal minister, led them in prayers and the singing of “Rock of Ages,” Stuart’s favorite hymn. Stuart made a feeble effort to sing along, then turned to Brewer, and said, “I am going fast now. I am resigned; God’s will be done.” He then drifted into unconsciousness.  On May 12th, 1864 at 7:38, James Ewell Brown Stuart passed into the hands of his God.

Exploration of the Hymn “Rock of Ages” 
Written by the Reformed Anglican minister, Rev. Augustus Toplady in 1763 and first published in The Gospel Magazine in 1775.

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy riven side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Cleanse me from its guilt and power.

Not the labor of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law's demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.

Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless, look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die!

While I draw this fleeting breath,
When mine eyes shall close in death,
When I soar to worlds unknown,
See Thee on Thy judgement throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee.

    Though there is some debate about Toplady writing the first verse of the hymn as he took refuge in a rock cleft himself during a strong storm, the Biblical Background for the hymn is likely the incident recorded in Exodus 33:12-34:9 where Moses is hidden in a cleft of the rock so that he is protected as he witnesses the Lord’s glory passing by and hears the Lord’s proclamation.  Psalm 18:2 also declares: “The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower [KJV]” from which Toplady may have also drawn inspiration.
    In the Dictionary of Hymnology, John Julian cites the 1775 article “Life a Journey” (printed in the Gospel Magazine) in which Toplady published the first stanza of his hymn “Rock of Ages.” As introduction to the first stanza’s words Toplady wrote: “Yes, if you fall, be humbled, but do not despair. Pray afresh to God, who is able to raise you up, and set you on your feet again. Look to the blood of the covenant; and say to the Lord from the depths of your heart” the prayer which Toplady lays out in his hymn.
    This gives insight into Toplady’s heart in writing this hymn of praise to Jesus.  Toplady points us to Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross as our only hope in this life of struggle with sin and our only protection when we come before Him on the judgment day.  Toplady correctly points out in verse 2 our own “goodness” cannot protect us on that day of judgement as the Apostle Paul teaches us in Ephesians 2:8-9.  Just as God placed the sinner Moses in a protective place, so in the day of judgment Jesus will be the protective place for those who have put their trust in Him alone for grace and mercy.  Toplady’s song calls on hearts to realize their need for Jesus and depend on Him to “be of sin the double cure, cleanse me from its guilt and power”.
    From the Civil War incidents shared above by Bringhurst, we see that the hymn written 87 years earlier did indeed touch hearts of those who had heard the gospel before but had shrugged off God’s call to them.  Through the hymn’s succinct call to look to Jesus, along with the perilous circumstances of that time, some hearts did respond in faith to the promise that Jesus alone saves us from the condemnation we justly deserve.

The Lincoln Gun
The Rodman Gun, cast in 1860, shipped from Pittsburgh to Fort Monroe in March 1861 to help guard the Hampton Roads and prevent Confederate ships from fighting their way through the channel, was one of the largest smoothbore cannons ever made, weighing 49,000 pounds, 15’10” long and 4 feet in diameter with a 15” bore.  It is said it could fire a 330lb explosive projectile or a 437lb solid shot more than four miles.  It was named the “Lincoln gun” by Secretary of War Edwin Stanton.

The “Lost Children” battalion 
    This unit was formed between Nov.22, 1861 and April 1862 mostly of French & German European immigrant volunteers, who served in the Carolina area during the War.  They did not muster enough men to form a regiment, so it was classed as a battalion and eventually assimilated into the 4th Corps, Army of the Potomac.  “Lost Children” – Enfans Perdus – Enfants Perdus – with its European background means the “forlorn hope” – small groups of soldiers assigned dangerous tasks like the first to charge through the breach, or hold a strategic but dangerous position.  The “Lost Children” name tag was likely taken as a challenge to these volunteers to step up and show courage no matter what they would face in battle.

Children Projects:
    1) God has created us to respond to music.  Studies have shown music can help focus, can change moods, can help memory, can create connection with others listening to it.  Discuss how music can be both good and bad in our lives, depending on what is stirs up within us.  Music can motivate us to do great and good things.  It can also be used to draw us into evil and sinful actions.  While “music” in itself is neutral, how it affects us is what we need to be discerning about.  What words are in the song?  Who is it connecting us with?  What is it motivating us to do?
    2) Help your children explore how Toplady moves verse by verse, developing the theme of the hymn.  He is not simply playing on emotions as is often the case in music today by repetition of the same few phrases over and over and over again.  Instead, he leads the singer/listener through a developing thought process – ballad style writing.  Yes, his song does stir up emotions, but it is through a development of thought.  Maybe explore having your child write their own song/poem where they present an important truth that they want others to better understand.