Friday, November 05, 2021

Author Interview: Meade The Price of Command by John G. Shelby

Meade: The Price of Command, 1863–1865, John G. Shelby, Kent State University Press, [2018]   Interview Conducted by H-Net, Niels Eichorn

NE: John, to start, how did you become interested in writing a biographical account of George Gordon Meade that focused on his time as commander of the Army of the Potomac? 

JGS: It began with a questioning of much of the literature I had read over the years on fighting in the East. A central premise seemed to be that the commanders of the Army of the Potomac could never have defeated Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia without the firm and relentless leadership of Ulysses S. Grant. I felt that did a disservice to the foot soldiers and the officers of the Army of the Potomac. As I dug deeper, I found that the themes of the criticism of the leadership of the Army of the Potomac remained fairly constant from McClellan to Meade. But didn’t Meade win the Battle of Gettysburg? Push Lee’s army back from northern Virginia to Richmond-Petersburg? And defeat Lee’s army in 1865? Given that Meade was the longest serving commander of the Army of the Potomac, and had a record of success, he seemed to be the ideal lenses through which I could call into question some of the long-standing views and criticisms of command leadership in the Army of the Potomac. 

NE: What do you argue in your book? 

 JGS: Meade needs to be given his due as one of the top three Union commanders of the war. Not only did he perform well as a division and corps commander, but as the longest-serving commander of the largest army of the war, he won the largest battle of the war, and through two years of horrendous fighting finally forced the Army of Northern Virginia to surrender in 1865. Furthermore, my ranking of Meade is not novel or an academic exercise in the 21st century; it was Grant himself who recommended Sherman and Meade for the rank of major general in the regular army in 1864 because they were the “fittest officers for large commands.” Though Grant never pursued this recommendation with the vigor he gave to Sherman’s promotion, he never wavered from it either. NE: Before we get into the book, one aspect that caught my eye was sources. You did a critical rereading of available source material, how did you approach compilations like the O.R. and archival material? Also, it seems there were days with dozens of messages, how do you make sense of a battle day with so much correspondence? JGS: Not only days with dozens of messages, but one must make very detailed timelines of when messages were sent, and to whom, to understand why a decision say at 1:00 pm might be based on information received that morning, but already rendered problematic by another message sent by a general at 12:45 pm that had yet to reach headquarters. That said, I strongly argue that historians must carefully read and time the messages to get a minute sense of the ebb and flow of the battle and the decision making. Also, I would be the first to say that I wish we had some way of knowing all that was said, as opposed to what was strictly written down. We must rely on the letters, diaries, and memoirs of individuals for those bits of information, which by their very nature are fragmentary and shaped to convey a certain narrative. For example, how often did Meade and his chief of staff at Gettysburg, Daniel Butterfield, discuss information that was flowing in from all directions on the days of the battle? Critical information was noted and sent out, but the decisions affecting that information, which sometimes might have been in shorthand conversations, was not recorded. So, as the old saying goes, we don’t know what we don’t know. Still, you have to work with the information that is available. Not only were the rich records of the OR (and other collections) indispensable to my research, but the signal fact that Mrs. Margaretta (“Margaret”) Meade saved all (or at least we think all) of her husband’s wartime letters, is a godsend to historians. Meade wrote to his wife nearly every day in the war, and if a historian can read the unedited letters found in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, an unvarnished view of a complicated man emerges. What we do not have are her daily letters to him, which would have opened up brand new insights into their lives. Just by reading Meade’s responses to his wife’s questions you can tell that she is a shrewd observer of people and politics. 

NE: Meade is a very different commander from his predecessors at the Army of the Potomac, what do you see as his most important characteristics that allowed him to stay in command longer than anybody else commanding the Army of the Potomac?  

JSG: Meade was a team player. He got along with most of his fellow generals in the Army of the Potomac, and his competency and executive abilities were noted by his superiors and peers. Furthermore, though he enjoyed hearing Army gossip as much as the next officer, he was not constantly politicking, nor publicly proclaiming his views on the war. Some of his predecessors did both. In fact, one of his pluses, according to Lincoln and Stanton, was that he was largely apolitical (which I argue was simultaneously one of his great weaknesses). As commander of the Army of the Potomac he got dragged into politics several times, but when that happened, he was quickly admonished by Halleck, and then he retreated back to his apolitical shell. Meade was an Army man, through and through. By that I mean he believed in the chain of command, and acted within it. He never challenged his superiors in a public manner, nor did he work political channels behinds their back. He also gave great loyalty to the generals who served under him, especially those he had promoted. His executive skills were widely acknowledged, and no one would ever accuse him of lack of preparation and planning. By and large he was not a risk taker, which pleased some, and disappointed others. He also had considerable “people skills” and a good sense of survival. Who else would have been able to swallow his ego enough to work side-by-side with his boss for 13 months during some of the most horrific months of the war, never losing command of his army though many in Grant’s circle wanted him gone? Even though he was unhappy during most of those months, feeling stifled and unappreciated, he knew that the alternative—exile to a non-command in his home state—would be an even worse fate. So he kept his mouth shut (except in letters to his wife and friends), and did his job. 

The Interview continues at H-Net

Friday, August 06, 2021

Confederate Medicine: Interview with Guy S. Hasegawa, by Nils Eichorn, H-Net

 H-Net: Interview Text {Part One}

NE: Guy, to start our conversation, you have already written a few books on Civil War era medical topics, how did you decide to do this one on the Confederate Army Medical Department?

GRH: Although I’m interested in many aspects of Civil War medicine, I had become especially intrigued by the Confederate Army Medical Department and how it managed to keep itself going throughout the war. The central figure in that organization was Surgeon General Samuel Preston Moore, but there is little written about him other than mentions of his stern character and organizational skill. Since Moore apparently left no diary or cache of personal papers, my initial hope—primarily to satisfy my personal curiosity—was to learn more about him by studying the operations of his office in Richmond. I found some information about office personnel, but it said little about how or why things were done. I then concluded that the best course was to study the decisions emanating from the Surgeon General’s Office.

The decisions themselves, and the records pertaining to them, are difficult to appreciate without context. How, for example, can communications about hospitals be understood without knowing those facilities’ role and the influences upon them? As I educated myself about various aspects of the department’s operations, I came to realize that the information and insights I was accumulating might be useful to others. The potential audience would include readers looking not only into Confederate medicine but also into other aspects of the Southern war effort. After all, an army’s effectiveness is strongly linked to its health, and the Medical Department did not exist in a vacuum. It interacted with the Quartermaster and Subsistence Departments, for example, and had to deal with the interests of politicians and military commanders. 

Part of deciding to write a book is examining what has already been published. The only book-length work of relevance is H. H. Cunningham’s Doctors in Gray, first published in 1958. Cunningham’s work is excellent but wide-ranging, extending from government offices in Richmond to the ailments of soldiers in the field. It would not overlap much with what I had in mind, which was focused on departmental operations. Doctors in Gray is based on Cunningham’s Ph.D. dissertation, whose source material is nicely documented. The book itself, though, does not link statements with specific reference sources and is thus of limited helpfulness to researchers. Although Cunningham assembled an impressive bibliography, he omitted many sources that I had found to be vital.

As a longtime researcher of Confederate medicine, I saw a place for Matchless Organization. It goes beyond Doctors in Gray in detail, describes how the Medical Department reacted to circumstances and interacted with other divisions of the War Department, and serves as a solid reference source and foundation for further research.

NE: What is your argument in Matchless Organization?

GRH: Let me first say that, in general terms, my research mission was to learn how the Medical Department functioned rather than to prove a point or answer a specific question. Confederate archival material is far from complete, and my experience had taught me to go where the information led me. What emerged was a view of the Medical Department that can be expressed in the following argument:

The Confederate Medical Department, under the leadership of Surgeon General Moore, did a creditable job of providing medical care in spite of substantial challenges. Those challenges included personnel and materiel shortages, worsening conditions in the South, interference from various parties, a physician workforce primarily composed of men without previous military service, and an overall lack of experience in conflicts as large and intense as the American Civil War.

I believe that the department’s accomplishments can be accounted for by its robust organization and its ability to adjust to the changing conditions.

NE: I want to get back to the resilience and accomplishments in a moment, but first I want to chat a little about your sources. When reading, you very quickly run into a passage where you make a mention about a lack of sources and records. How difficult was it to find source and thus tell this story?

GRH: Well, first, the research was done and the manuscript submitted before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, so that wasn’t an issue.

Many records of the Surgeon General’s Office were destroyed in the Richmond fire of April 1865. Thus, there are no complete sets of incoming or outgoing correspondence, circulars, or orders. Also missing, I imagine, are some reports that Surgeon General Moore wrote to the president or secretary of war that might have gone a long way toward clarifying various matters. Moore was especially sorry about the loss of compiled statistics about illness, wounds, survival rates, and so forth. There were, however, medical facilities in Richmond that didn’t burn, and medical officers throughout the South usually kept their own copies of official correspondence. Much of this material now resides at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) facility in Washington, DC.

There was plenty of archival material to examine, but some of it was scattered in unfamiliar or unexpected files. A big problem was that the records’ spottiness made them difficult to interpret. That meant doing more background reading and consulting multiple sources when a single, but nonexistent, explanatory report might have clarified things upfront. My investigations often ended in blind alleys and left questions unanswered.

I was, luckily, able to retrieve tons of information without leaving my computer. The army Official Records and the Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion are available online or on DVD. The subscription service Fold3 has Confederate compiled service records, some correspondence of the Adjutant and Inspector General’s Office (AIGO), the Confederate citizens file, and Confederate amnesty applications. The online NARA catalog allows access to various AIGO records, including special orders. Old newspapers can be examined via subscription services and though a free Library of Congress site. Numerous books and articles that touch on Confederate medicine are available online. First-hand accounts were generally the most useful, but more recent works with complete bibliographies often provided leads that warranted follow-up. A couple of caveats about online sources: First, searching in printed material can be frustrating because poor print quality, which is common in old newspapers, can make optical character recognition inaccurate or impossible. Second, the indexing of handwritten documents, when it occurs, depends on staffers or volunteers reading names, which is sometimes done incorrectly.

Much NARA material is not online and must be examined in person. This involves knowing (or guessing) where to look and then scrolling through microfilm or requesting, waiting for, and finally leafing through paper records. The process is tiring but gratifying when it yields a gem. Archival repositories other than NARA were usually quite accommodating in sending copies of requested materials.

It’s hard to say whether the research was more difficult for Matchless Organization than for my previous projects. It certainly took more time because of the range of topics covered and the need for additional background reading and sleuthing. However, my general strategy of looking in many places and following leads was the same. In some ways, researching Matchless Organization may actually have been easier. First, I’ve been looking into Confederate medicine on and off for more than 20 years, so I already had some source material that ended up in the book. Second, that long involvement has given me insights into the topic, so I was a bit better at interpreting what I was finding and deciding how to follow up. Third, I’ve gained some efficiencies over the years as a researcher, especially with NARA’s Confederate collection. Fourth, it’s easier nowadays to access published and archival materials online. None of this is to say that the research was a piece of cake, because it wasn’t. Frankly, if the research were easy, someone else probably would already have done it. For me, the challenge of research is what makes it rewarding.

NE: I also wondered about medicine and medical education at the time. How did you become an M.D. and then a surgeon in the military? Were these well-educated and qualified individuals?

GRH: At the time of the Civil War, there was essentially no regulation of medical practice. Educational requirements for becoming a physician, licensure, and accreditation of medical schools did not exist, so anyone could claim to have medical expertise and treat any patients willing to take their chances with that practitioner. Most new physicians had probably served an apprenticeship under a seasoned physician.

Medical schools offered a single course of lectures per year. A course—we’d probably call it a semester now—typically lasted several months and consisted of lectures in several subjects, such as anatomy, surgery, and pharmacy. Admission often required no more than the ability to pay lecture fees. To receive an M.D. degree, a student had to attend two courses of lectures, which did not have to be at the same school or in consecutive years. If both courses were at the same school, then the first and second courses were likely to be identical. Schools varied in the amount of dissection or laboratory work and in the time devoted to examining patients. There might be an exam to pass and a thesis to write, but almost anyone with adequate funds who wanted an M.D. degree could find a school to award it.

Many practitioners who attended medical school took only a single course and never received a degree, and many evidently did not consider medicine to be an all-consuming career. It’s common to encounter physicians, with or without a degree, who had other occupations or entered the army as common soldiers. To be fair, some physicians devoted themselves to medicine and went well beyond the minimum in attaining knowledge by, for instance, traveling to Europe for additional training. Articles in the Confederate States Medical and Surgical Journal and other periodicals by active or former Confederate surgeons reveal those men to have been intellectual, keenly observant, and much more well-informed than would be expected from completing just the typical medical-school curriculum.

Early in the war, many physicians were elected as surgeons by their regiment or appointed by their governor. They then entered Confederate service as medical officers when their state units were absorbed into the Confederate Army. After it became clear that many such men were unqualified, they—and all men applying to become medical officers—became subject to examination by a medical board. Surgeons who failed the exam were asked to resign, and those who did not were dropped from the ranks. The exams were modeled after the fairly rigorous ones used by the U.S. Army but were probably made easier to pass so as to fill open positions. It appears that new applicants were required to have an M.D. degree from a respectable school during the latter part of the war, but that prerequisite may not have existed earlier. In any event, the exams were credited with weeding out many incompetent surgeons and keeping unqualified applicants from entering the medical corps.

The physicians most competent to treat the Confederate sick and wounded were probably those who had resigned from the U.S. Army, but there were only about 25 of those among the thousands of men who served as Confederate surgeons. Other very able physicians might include those who had accumulated education and experience through years of practice. I don’t think that age limitations were enforced rigidly by medical boards, but many seasoned practitioners would probably have been judged to be physically unsuited for the rigors of army life, although they could serve as civilian contract surgeons. Physicians who had practiced medicine for the past five years were exempt from conscription and felt no need to join the medical corps to avoid being drafted as soldiers.

Thus, most Civil War surgeons were fairly young and had been in civilian practice or recently attended medical school. They had probably never treated a gunshot wound, amputated a limb, or advised a commander (who himself had recently been a civilian) about proper camp sanitation. One young man reported passing the medical board examination and being appointed assistant surgeon without ever having treated a sick person or even lanced a boil.

Many soldiers were frightened at the prospect of being treated by a Civil War surgeon, especially a young one with whom they were unacquainted. However, given the state of medical knowledge and education at the time, the need to provide care to a huge army, and the available pool of civilian physicians, the Confederate Medical Department probably did as well as could be expected in selecting its medical officers.

To Be Continued in Part Two

Text Source: H-Net



New and Noteworthy: The Matchless Organization The Confederate Army Medical Department

Matchless Organization

Matchless Organization: The Confederate Army Medical Department, Guy R. Hasegawa, Southern Illinois University Press, paperback, $26.50 2021

The essental reference about a surprisingly well organized medical department
Despite the many obstacles it had to overcome—including a naval blockade, lack of a strong industrial base, and personnel unaccustomed to military life—the Richmond-based Confederate Army Medical Department developed into a robust organization that nimbly adapted to changing circumstances. In the first book to address the topic, Guy R. Hasegawa describes the organization and management of the Confederate army’s medical department. At its head was Surgeon General Samuel Preston Moore, a talented multi-tasker with the organizational know-how to put in place qualified medical personnel to care for sick and wounded Confederate soldiers.
Hasegawa investigates how political considerations, personalities, and, as the war progressed, the diminishing availability of human and material resources influenced decision-making in the medical department. Amazingly, the surgeon general’s office managed not only to provide care but also to offer educational opportunities to its personnel and collect medical and surgical data for future use, regardless of constant and growing difficulties.
During and after the war, the medical department of the Confederate army was consistently praised as being admirably organized and efficient. Although the department was unable to match its Union counterpart in manpower and supplies, Moore’s intelligent management enabled it to help maintain the fighting strength of the Confederate army.

 Guy R. Hasegawa, a retired pharmacist and editor, is the author of Villainous Compounds: Chemical Weapons and the American Civil War and Mending Broken Soldiers: The Union and Confederate Programs to Supply Artificial Limbs.

 Table of Contents:

1. Medical Department for a New Nation 

2. The Surgeon General and His Office 

3. Medical Director

4. Medical Inspectors

5. Medical Purveyors

6. Importation of Medical Supplies 

7. Turning to Domestic Resources 

8. Care on and near the Battlefield 

9. General Hospitals 

10. Prison Hospitals 

11. Striving for Quality in Medical Personnel 

12. Adding to Medical Knowledge 

13. Examining for Disability 

14. War’s End and Beyond



A. Selected Individuals in or Influencing the Confederate Medical Department

B. Staff of the Surgeon General’s Office, November 1864 

C. Surgeon General Moore’s Proposal for a Medical Evacuation System 

Bibliographic Notes 



Text Source: Southern Illinois University Press


Monday, July 12, 2021

New & Noteworthy: Campaign Fort The Confederate Coast: Blaocking, Blockade Running and Related Endeavors During the American Civil War, Gil Hahn



Campaign for the Confederate Coast: Blockading, Blockade Running and Related Endeavors During the American Civil War, Gil Hahn, 2021.$21.95, 322 pp., illustrations, index, bibliographic notes, West 88th Street Press 

Hahn offers a through but concise discussion of the aims, means available to the Confederacy as it seeks to maintain its economic trade with Europe and the aims and means available to the Union to restrict and minimize that economic intercourse. He well establishes the social and economic circumstances involved along with the evolution of the sea tactics and the emerging technologies of blockade and blockade running which include naval rams and seacoast fortresses.

Also, Hahn reviews the variety of ‘laws of the sea’ along with the rights of belligerents. His chapters on the commerce suppression campaigns of 1861 through 1863 and the successful adaptions made by the Federals during 1864 and 1865.

Benefiting readers, Hahn offers 13 chronological charts composed of the attempts, the seasonal successes and the losses of block-runners for the Confederate ports of Wilmington, Charleston, Savannah, St. Marks, Mobile, New Orleans, and Galveston.

Additionally, for 1859-1865 Hahn presents charts for the production, the consumption, and the exports and the imports of 500 pound bales of cotton. These charts show related trends and blockade successes.  Importantly the charts include U.S. imports of cotton from the U.K and from the British West Indies and causes Civil War Librarian to wonder: Did the U.S. import cotton which had previously run the naval blockade? 

Campaign for the Confederate Coast: Blockading, Blockade Running and Related Endeavors During the American Civil War clearly and cogently describes, from both Southern and Northern points of view, the dozens upon dozens economic, technology and military policy conditions and adaptations which created military outcomes of the war. Throughout, Hahn offers these discussions in a writing style which is both accessible and concise. 

Forthcoming: Civil War Witnesses and Their Books, Fall 2021

Civil War Witnesses and Their Books: New Perspectives on Iconic Works (Number 74 in the series, Conflicting Worlds: New Dimensions of the American Civil War), Gary Gallagher et al., 314 pp., Louisiana State University Press, $45.00

From the Publisher: 

Civil War Witnesses and Their Books: New Perspectives on Iconic Works serves as a wide-ranging analysis of texts written by individuals who experienced the American Civil War. Edited by Gary W. Gallagher and Stephen Cushman, this volume, like its companion, Civil War Writing: New Perspectives on Iconic Texts (2019), features the voices of authors who felt compelled to convey their stories for a variety of reasons. Some produced works intended primarily for their peers, while others were concerned with how future generations would judge their wartime actions. One diarist penned her entries with no thought that they would later become available to the public. The essayists explore the work of five men and three women, including prominent Union and Confederate generals, the wives of a headline-seeking US cavalry commander and a Democratic judge from New York City, a member of Robert E. Lee’s staff, a Union artillerist, a matron from Richmond’s sprawling Chimborazo Hospital, and a leading abolitionist US senator.

Civil War Witnesses and Their Books shows how some of those who lived through the conflict attempted to assess its importance and frame it for later generations. Their voices have particular resonance today and underscore how rival memory traditions stir passion and controversy, providing essential testimony for anyone seeking to understand the nation’s greatest trial and its aftermath.


 From Manassas to Appomattox: James Longstreet’s Memoir and the Limits of Confederate Reconciliation,” Elizabeth R. Varon

“A Modern Sensibility in Older Garb: Henry Wilson’s Rise and Fall of the Slave Power and the Beginnings of Civil War History,” William Blair

“‘The Brisk and Brilliant Matron of Chimborazo Hospital’: Phoebe Yates Pember’s Nurse Narrative,’” Sarah E. Gardner

“George McClellan’s Many Turnings,” Stephen Cushman

“Maria Lydig Daly: Diary of a Union Lady 1861–1865,” J. Matthew Gallman

John D. Billings’s Hardtack and Coffee: A Union Fighting Man’s Civil War,” M. Keith Harris

“One Widow’s Wars: The Civil War, Reconstruction, and the West in Elizabeth Bacon Custer’s Memoirs,” Cecily N. Zander

“Proximity and Numbers: Walter H. Taylor Shapes Confederate History and Memory,” Gary W. Gallagher

 Publisher's Page:

Thursday, May 06, 2021

Finding Unionists in Virginia: John L. Nau III Center for Civil War History & Building a Digital History Website

UVA Unionists: Digital Project Studying University of Virginia Alumni Who Stayed Loyal to the Union

On May 4 at 7 pm ET, the John L. Nau III Center for Civil War History at the University of Virginia officially launched its second digital project, UVA Unionists. This project chronicles the more than sixty UVA students, alumni, or professors who served the Union cause during the Civil War. Editorial Assistant Brian Neumann and Digital Historian Will Kurtz discussed the projects findings and give a short demonstration of the website.

YouTube Video:  University of Virginia Unionists

 Journal of the Civil War online publication, Muster,  

Nau Center for Digital Projects


Monday, May 03, 2021


Army University Press: The ‘Union Army’ Is No More,  By Fred Bauer, National Review, April 27, 2021

 Having triumphed over rebel forces 160 years ago, the Union army now faces a new challenge: the effort to erase it from history books  The Army University Press announced new guidelines for article and book submissions that strongly discourage the use of the term 'the Union' to refer to the forces of the U.S. government during the Civil War.

Similarly, citizens in states who remained loyal to the United States did not all feel a strong commitment towards dissolving the institution of slavery, nor did they believe Lincoln’s views represented their own.

Thus, while the historiography has traditionally referred to the “Union” in the American Civil War as “the northern states loyal to the United States government,” the fact is that the term “Union” always referred to all the states together, which clearly was not the situation at all. In light of this, the reader will discover that the word “Union” will be largely replaced by the more historically accurate “Federal Government” or “U.S. Government.” “Union forces” or “Union army” will largely be replaced by the terms “U.S. Army,” “Federals,” or “Federal Army.

 However, it’s not just “the historiography” in the abstract that has referred to the states loyal to the federal government as “the Union.” The people who fought to preserve the Constitutional order called their side “the Union,” too. In his memoirs, Ulysses S. Grant referred many times to the “Union army” or “Union troops.” Countless documents written during the Civil War (by those who fought against the Confederacy) spoke of the “Union army.” Referring to the effort to preserve the U.S. federal government during the Civil War as “the Union” is not some retrospective invention of historians.

In fact, it’s arguable that erasing the term “the Union” from historiographical discourse, far from being “more historically accurate,” distorts the vision of Lincoln, Grant, and many other Americans.

“Union” has a particular charge in American discourse, from the Constitution’s “more perfect Union” onward. In his first inaugural address, Lincoln reflected on the centrality of the hopes of union for the American republic. He held in that address that secession was not just the splintering of the United States but the obliteration of political order: “The central idea of secession is the essence of anarchy.” The secession crisis threatened the U.S. government, but Lincoln and his contemporaries also saw violent secession as threatening the prospect of democratic governance in general.

The project of Union was about the U.S. federal government, but it was about more than that, too. Union was the hope of reconciling conflict within a democracy. Union was the assertion of the rule of law over factional violence. Union was securing the prospect of republican liberty. For many Americans, the army that marched under the Stars and Stripes was in that deeper sense the Union army.

In his funeral sermon for Abraham Lincoln, the minister Phineas Gurley did not once mention the “federal government” or even “United States.” Instead, he spoke again and again about “union”: “through all these long and weary years of civil strife, while our friends and brothers on so many ensanguined fields were falling and dying for the cause of Liberty and Union.” If one of the goals of historical study is to capture the textures of past eras, erasing “the Union” and “the Union army” from historical discourse would make it harder to understand the passions and principles of those who risked their lives to preserve the American republic.

 Text Source: National Review April 27, 2021

Image:  accompanying National Review online article
Union troops form near the battlefield during a re-enactment of “The Wheatfield” as part of the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg in Gettysburg, Pa., July 5, 2013. (Gary Cameron/Reuters)

Friday, April 30, 2021

Both Union and Confederate Armies Faced a Third Army


Lessons learned — and forgotten — from the horrific epidemics of the U.S. Civil War, Jonathan S. Jones April 18, 2021 STAT, April 18, 2021

 Andersonville Prison

As the U.S. approaches 600,000 deaths from Covid-19, it is hard to fathom that this calamity pales in comparison to America’s worst outbreak of epidemic diseases during and just after the Civil War.

From smallpox and measles to dysentery and typhoid, the Civil War, which lasted from 1861 to 1865, triggered an explosion of deadly epidemics on a scale never seen in the U.S., before or since. A million sick soldiers, newly emancipated ex-slaves, families caught in the crossfire, and hungry refugees died during the war, about 3% of the U.S. population. Two-thirds of these deaths were from disease. For comparison, it would take nearly 10 million Americans deaths from Covid-19 to reach the Civil War’s death toll.

As a medical historian, I’ve spent countless hours poring through vintage medical journals, public health reports, and eyewitness accounts of the health nightmare that was the Civil War. These sources are full of sobering parallels between that war and Covid-19, as well as the valuable but essentially forgotten lessons it taught the country about public health.

Complete text is found at STAT