North Carolina War Between the States Sesquicentennial

"Healing the Sick and Wounded"

The Medical Profession During the War


Gen. Charles E. Johnson

Surgeon-General of North Carolina

The following are derived from several excellent sources that include Brenda Chambers McKean’s

“Blood and War at My Doorstep” and Donald B. Koonce’s “Doctor to the Front,” the latter following

a young Wilmingtonian who clerked at a local pharmacy at the outbreak of war in 1861,

and rose to the position of surgeon in the Eighteenth North Carolina Regiment.

This young man, Thomas Fanning Wood, worked at Mr. Erambert’s pharmacy

at the corner of Second and Market Streets which was “secession” headquarters

in late 1860 and to the outbreak of war. Wood joined the Wilmington Rifle Guards

commanded by Capt. Oliver P. Meares; Erambert was already a member of the

Wilmington Light Infantry which took part (along with the Rifle Guards) in the early seizure

of Forts Caswell and Johnston at the mouth of the Cape Fear river.

Of Dr. Wood’s dedication to the medical profession in his State, Koonce writes: “[He] was the

twenty-second member of the newly-formed North Carolina Medical Society to sign its Constitution

in 1867 and from that moment until his death, he was one of the most powerful influences for good

works in the Society.” Dr. Wood was elected to the Board of Medical Examiners in 1878 and

later appointed by the legislature to be Secretary of the State Board of Health, an organization

Dr. Wood had founded.

The medical profession in North Carolina provided care not only to the civilian population, but also

rose to the challenge of treating gunshot wounds and worse, and the multitude of diseases prevalent

in large camps of men. Faced with the Northern blockade which stopped the flow of medicines to the

South, North Carolina physicians had to resort to colonial methods of treatment with flora and fauna.

As is stated below, North Carolinians discovered that “an all-wise Providence has especially provided

the best antidotes in creation on the hills and dales, and by the vales and streams” of their State –

and were there to comfort human misery.

The War Conditions Faced by Physicians



Blood and War at My Doorstep, North Carolina Civilians in the War Between the States,

Brenda Chambers McKean, Xlibris, 2011, excerpts pp. 113-115:

“The State had two so-called hospitals before the war, but not for ordinary people. A small

marine hospital for seamen was found in Wilmington and Portsmouth. The Moravians had

established a sick house in Salem in the eighteenth century for their members.

Dr. Charles E. Johnson opened the first military hospital in Raleigh in May 1861 know as the

Fair Grounds Hospital. Large buildings were revamped for hospital use to hold from two hundred

to four hundred patients. The Guion Hotel in the capital city [was] converted to hospital. Pettigrew

Hospital in Raleigh, built in 1864, was the only new building constructed in Raleigh as a hospital

[and it] would hold up to 588 beds. Hospital [Number] 4 in Wilmington, previously known

as Seamen’s Hospital . . . was considered the largest and best equipped in the State.

The convalescent hospital in [Little] Washington admitted its patients in 1863.

Women began making and storing hospital supplies such as bandages and clothing before

hospitals were established for the soldiers . . . [and] Newspapers encouraged those at home to

economize so that troops in the field could be supplied.

At the beginning of the war, convalescing soldiers became the nurses if they were able to

stand to rigors of medical work. Apparently, they were not attune[d] to sanitary conditions

because the people visiting the areas commented on the filthy conditions present in these

buildings. Everyone knew a woman’s touch would clean up the place, and their

tender care would enhance the surroundings.

Medical department authorities developed several medical facilities known as general

hospitals throughout the State. These were given numbers instead of names. By the end

of the war, fourteen general military hospitals and seven wayside hospitals were identified.

Every general hospital had a surgeon in charge and one medical officer or a contract

surgeon to care for seventy to eighty ill soldiers. Usually, the ratio was greater.

Wayside hospitals were located next to the railroad depots (or in the depots) for convenience

in towns such as Tarboro, Greensboro, Salisbury, Charlotte, Kittrell, Fayetteville, High Point,

Wilson, Weldon and Goldsboro. These wayside hospitals were equipped with refreshments

and clean bandages/bedding, etc. These small wayside institutions served an important

role and were invaluable for saving lives.

There were instances when the sick and wounded soldier could not tolerate the lengthy trip

home or transfer to another hospital. Women would meet these trains and remove the patient

to the nearby temporary hospital or to their homes. Schools, colleges, hotels, churches,

warehouses, barns, sheds and private homes caught the overflow of the wounded,

especially after battles. All the vacant hospitals in [Little] Washington were used

as hospitals to house sick soldiers early in the conflict.

The above-mentioned hospitals were different from a field hospital, which was located about

one mile behind the battlefront. Dr. Thomas F. Wood [of Wilmington] described in a letter home

to his folks a division hospital that was also made up of tents:

“June 10, 1864, Rode’s Division Hospital, Cold Harbor
Our hospital is an apple orchard . . . Each Brigade has a hospital wagon and each [Division]

one for transporting stoves, cooking utensils, tents, etc. Each tent is marked as that of the

Brigade . . . One large tent fly is located centrally as a tent for operations . . . the wounded

are placed in these tents, and are operated on in such order that suit the case of the patient.”



Doctor to the Front, The Recollections of Confederate Surgeon Thomas Fanning Wood,

1861-1865, Donald B. Koonce, editor, University of Tennessee Press, 2000, excerpts:

“In 1863, two, two-mule or two-horse ambulances were allotted to each regiment. The wagons

had no springs and straw was used for bedding. The ambulance corps consisted of twenty men,

two from each company – usually men with strength and personal courage – and selected carefully

by the medical officers. Each regiment was allowed a hospital cook and a medical knapsack bearer.
The knapsack bearer carried a canteen of water, tin cup, and on his back lint, bandages, sponges,

tourniquets, four splints, chloroform, morphine, and a pint of alcoholic stimulants.

Common medical source in the South for medical students and doctors was Dunglison’s Medical

Dictionary. Thomas F. Wood as a teen used this to find a dysentery cure for his sick father – using

Dover’s Powder which contained both opium and ipecac – which relieved pain and induced perspiration.

One could determine the composition and dosage from the dictionary. Another source was

“Watson’s Practice,” in which Wood found an antidote to shingles.

Most army physicians were so swamped with soldier patients that they could only perform some

kind of treatment as expeditiously as possible. Insufficient training, fear of infection, and impossible

conditions forced many surgeons to resort to the speedier and more reliable option of amputation.

The majority of amputations were performed at so-called “field hospitals” a mile or two behind enemy lines –

often on the front porch of abandoned farmhouses – operating tables ranged from the tailgate of a wagon

or a door atop two barrels.

Under these “tables” were placed tubs to catch blood; water was always scarce and heat and flies

were overwhelming. Amid the groans and screams of mangled soldiers awaiting their turn, surgeons

worked hour after hour with scalpel and saw, with the only anesthesia often being a drink of whiskey.

The shortage of linen and cotton material resulted in old bandages being used again and again after

being rinsed in bloody water. Pieces of shirts, filthy handkerchiefs, [and] discarded socks were

all used as tourniquets to control the bleeding.

Infections such as osteomyelitis, erysipelas, gangrene and pyemia were widespread. By the time

most wounded men made it to the hospital, various infections had already taken hold.

Those overcome by fatigue were given powders of opium and camphor, often made on his saddle pummel.

Opium was used for its narcotic and analgesic effects. Camphor was obtained from the wood of the

Cinnamomum caphora, an evergreen tree. It was applied topically to the skin as an antipruritic and

anti-infective. It was prepared as camphor-water, spirit of camphor, and as a liniment. Taken orally,

it supposedly had a useful effect in treating cholera, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pains, typhoid and

eruptive fevers. It was also used to relive pain when needed for conditions such as

myalgia, toothache, or gangrene.

An incredibly large number of battle field operations took place with no pain killers at all. Patients

were already unconscious from shock were often regarded as naturally prepped for surgery. In

some cases, surgeons came to believe that pain was an appropriate combatant against shock.

Like other Confederate doctors, Wood acquired a Northern surgeon’s pocket case of instruments

which included folding lancets and vaccinators, grooved director with tongue tie for cutting tongue

frenulum, straight and angular scissors, spatula and elevator for spreading plasters, probe with eye,

finger saw for amputations, silver catheters in sections, various types of forceps, suturing needles,

and possibly a variety of scalpels for incisions and dissections.

One single item which we now possess would have saved the Confederacy an immense expense

of labor, and put our surgeons in possession of the very best dressing – absorbent cotton. It would

have been necessary to boil the cotton in strong lye to rid it of the natural oil in the fiber, and would

have taken the place of the nasty sponges we had to use over and over again, unwittingly infesting

the wounded with each other’s poison.

Our ambulances were usually captured Northern ones still emblazoned with “US” on the sides.
Stethoscopes and microscopes were rare instruments in the US at the time of the war and no more

than ten thermometers were in use in all the Confederate armies. Few surgeons North or South

had any idea that unseen organisms called germs played any part in infection.

[Wood]: “In one of my visits to Kinston [early in the war] I found a stock of drugs owned by

Mr. or Dr. Pollock for sale . . . I bought the lot as all kinds of drugs were very scarce."

According to Wood, the custom of becoming an assistant surgeon in Richmond was to examine

two candidates at a time; one candidate was given the topic Typhoid Fever and the other Compression

and Concussion of the Brain – each had to write a paper in the presence of the examiner. If successful,

the candidate was then called for an oral examination by a doctor who might ask questions about

diseases of the chest, the actions of medicines applied to this condition. Another doctor might ask

questions about the physical and general anatomy of the arteries, and also fractures of the lower

jaw and how the candidate would feed the patient.

If he candidate passed the examinations, he would receive word addressed to “Assistant Surgeon” John Doe.

The Confederacy never had more than 3200 physicians in the field, an average of one surgeon for

312 soldiers. Neither side in this war possessed physicians with experience to deal with

large numbers of incapacitated men.

Thomas Fanning Wood was assigned to the Third North Carolina Regiment.

Smallpox was still common and vaccinations existed – but victims were nursed privately

away from others. Sixty years earlier British Dr. Edward Jenner demonstrated that the disease

could be vaccinated against with crusts or scabs, esp. taken from the arms of children –

accompanied by a fifteen day quarantine.

At the Wilderness battle, getting to the wounded in the tangled thickets was difficult, and often

under fire. The fires caused by artillery during the night of the 5th caused many wounded to burn

to death as they were unable to move. Hospital gangrene was also a serious problem after the

battle – caused by closed-in camps and field hospitals, extreme fatigue, depression, exposure,

improper and insufficient food. The distance which the wounded had to be transported also

contributed to the increased cases of gangrene. Grant’s unrelenting pressure on Lee gave the

men no time to recover from the mental and physical exertions of battle and severe cases

of battle fatigue resulted – giving the surgeons new problems to deal with. (Doctors in Gray,

Cunningham, pp. 115-117).

The blockade of Wilmington was being tightened and doctors had to resort to natural herbs and

plants to help ease the pain and suffering. The shortage of quinine caused more concern than that

of any other single medicine. Fatigue, poor nutrition, and exposure were still encouraging the spread

of diseases like malaria, small pox, and typhoid fever – the North’s systematic destruction of the

Shenandoah Valley caused severe shortages of critical fruits and vegetables further weakening the

stamina of the confederate soldier. Dysentery and diarrhea remained in the lead over bullets . . .

in the mounting casualty lists. Thousands in our army were without shoes."


Doctors in Gray, H.H. Cunningham, LSU Press, 1958, excerpts:
“John Julian Chisholm, the noted South Carolina surgeon, declared: “Continued exposure and fatigue,

bad and insufficient food, salt meat, indifferent clothing, want of cleanliness, poor shelter, exposure

at night to sudden changes of temperature, infected tents and camps, form a combination of causes

which explains the fatality of an army in the field.” The causes set forth by Chisholm as explaining

army fatalities in general were among the foremost causes of Southern disease and death.

One major cause of the large amount of sickness was the early failure to prevent many who

were unqualified for military service from being inducted. The amount of sickness around

Manassas and other camps in 1861 was staggering. On August 17, 1861, Gen. Joseph Johnston,

at Manassas, reported 4,809 sick of 18,178 present. General Lee, asserting that conscripts

were proving burdensome rather than advantageous to his army, requested that they

“be assembled in camps of instruction, so that they may pass through these inevitable

diseases and become a little inured to camp life.” (pg. 165)

Thousands of illiterate troops contributed to the elevation seen in disease statistics.

The ignorant soldier . . . could not be made to comprehend “the dangers of dirt and filth, or the

importance of cleanliness . . . He burned his bread and fried his food saturated with grease,

and suffered from indigestion, colic and diarrhea, but was ignorant of the cause.”

A source of considerable sickness in many camps was the improper disposal of excrementitious

matter. An army of 17,000 under the command of General Lee in the fall of 1861, encamped in a healthy

locality, was devastated by such diseases as typhoid fever, dysentery, and pneumonia. Investigation

revealed that [rainwater carried latrine matter] into sources of the water supply.

Most serious perhaps as a factor in the breeding of disease was the improper burial of offal and

the failure to remove dead cattle from the camps. [Poorly] ventilated quarters were an important

cause of disease. (pg. 169)"


Col. E. Burke Haywood

Chief Surgeon, Pettigrew Hospital

Raleigh, North Carolina

Confederate Drug Conditions, Joseph Jacobs, Pharmacist, Atlanta, Georgia.

Read before the American Pharmaceutical Association meeting in Baltimore, August 1898.

Southern Historical Society Papers, Volume XXXIII, 1905, pp. 161-186)

[The author was born in August 1859, his father a soldier in the Fourteenth Georgia Regiment.

He gathered the research for this paper from “various sources, by interviewing men who were

in the drug business during the war, and by having access to many

interesting and valuable papers.”]

“The Confederate government, immediately after the formation of the provisional government

at Montgomery [gave instructions that] there were only two sources of supply, capture and

blockade running. [Third in importance after arms and clothing, were] drugs and chemicals,

such as the most pressingly needed, as quinine, chloroform, ether, opium, morphine, rhubarb.

At the outset . . . the druggists of the South had either to manufacture what they could from

native barks and leaves and herbs and roots, or purchase at the Southern ports such supplies

as the blockade runners brought in that were not intended for the government. In most cases

these cargoes were offered at auction.

As to capture, while the [Confederate] army frequently captured the wagon trains of

the enemy, thus obtaining some supplies of medicines and surgical appliances, these

were barely sufficient to supply the most distressing needs in the army; so, it may be

seen that home manufacture and blockade running were the only source of supply during

nearly four years for between six and seven millions of people.

The interior towns suffered most [from medicine shortages], such places as . . . Fayetteville,

Goldsboro, Raleigh, Statesville and Charlotte, in North Carolina . . . In nearly all of these towns

one or more druggists manufactured from stock on hand of roots, herbs, and barks, or from

home supply of such medicinal plants as he could secure, tinctures and like preparations.

The supply of whiskey was not so short as that of medicines. The so-called “moonshiners” of the

mountains of North Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia kept their stills, (often called gum-logs) running

night and day, and could find a ready sale for all they produced. So far as I can learn,

no tax was placed on whiskey.

Amongst the scarcest articles in a drug store in those days were paper, twine and cork.

Some of the stores obtained old life-preservers from abandoned river boats and got a supply,

thus, of hand-cut [bottle] stoppers. Various fabrics were pressed together for small stoppers,

and for large bottles, demijohns and jugs, different sized corn-cobs commanded the

same price as . . . corks do today.

In the interior districts and small villages the country doctors returned to the first principles

and to the use of the plants of the fields and forests; and these agencies were about all they

had to rely on, outside of whiskey and a little quinine, the latter frequently $100 an ounce.

Interviewing one of our old Confederate surgeons, he said: “I perused my dispensary and called

into requisition an old botanic practice which had been handed down as a relic from the past,

but from what I confess to have received many valuable aid and many useful hints in regard

to the medical virtues of our native plants.

[Early in the war I] had but little else at my command except the cold-water dressing for

wounds. From experiment I learned . . . [to employ] a decoction of red-oak bark added to

the water, which acted as a disinfectant, and by its stimulating and astringent [stopping

blood flow] properties promoted the healing process. I also used a weak solution of

bicarbonate of soda, which I found beneficial in the supperative stage [formation and

discharge of pus]. When emollients were indicated, I used slippery elm and wahoo root

bark, and solution of common salt often helped. In case of great pain I employed

poppy heads, nightshade and stramonium.

[For cases of intermittent fever] I would give strong boneset tea, warm, until free vomiting

was produced, and as a substitute for quinine I used . . . butterfly root or pleurisy root tea,

which would nearly always shorten the febrile [feverous] stage.

Remittent or bilious fevers were treated in much the same way, except that I invariably gave good

doses of mandrake tea in the febrile stage. Virginia snake-root, yellow root, or Sampson’s

snake-root acted nearly as well . . . If I could have obtained blue mass [a preparation of

mercury] or calomel I would have begun treatment with that, but none were to be had.

Mayapple root or peach-tree leaves made into strong tea and drank warm would act on the

bowels as certain as senna; but with children where too much tea is not desirable, I often gave

beef’s feet oil, hog’s feet oil, or even lard heated with syrup. In cases of pneumonia, pleurisy,

catarrhal fevers, etc., I made local applications of mustard seed or leaves, stramonium leaves,

hickory leaves, pepper, etc., warm, and gave alternately butterfly-root and sanguinaria, and

continued to slightly nauseating [the patient], from day to day (no need of anything else). The

two last-named remedies took the place of Dover’s powder, quinine and all other

diaphoretics, febrifuges and arterial sedatives.

In stomach and bowel diseases I found but little difficulty in obtaining plenty of substitutes

for opiates, astringents and the like; in fact, I believe that an all-wise Providence has especially

provided the best antidotes in creation on the hills and dales, and by the vales

and streams of our own Southland.

In ordinary looseness of the bowels or diarrhea, I gave an infusion of raspberry leaves

or whortleberry leaves (both of which act finely on the kidneys and bladder. Where there

is nausea or sick stomach, a handful of peach leaves steeped in water and drank will

settle it, or what is perhaps better, the kernel or two or three seeds cracked and cold

water drank off of them. If a stronger astringent is necessary, the inner bark of red oak,

blackberry or dewberry root tea, or red shank root, are sure remedies.

I raised lobelia from the seed and found it to be a reliable emetic, useful in cough medicines,

croup and asthma. I have relieved asthma with lobelia, and by smoking stramonium leaves.

Onions and garlic were used as poultices in nearly all glandular enlargements, as are also

poke-root, celery, pepper, parsley, sage, thyme, rue and other garden products. White sumac,

red elm, prickly ash and poke . . . will cure many cases of chronic rheumatism. Peach-tree

leaves and Sampson’s snake-root will cure most cases of incipient dyspepsia. Gargle made

of sage and honey will cure most cases of sore throat, tonsillitis, etc. For infants,

calamus, catnip and soot teas are better than soothing syrups with opiates.

A blockade runner brought into Wilmington . . . a supply of apparatus for making sulphuric acid,

which arrived only a few days before the city fell. The excessive high price of quinine made its

handling a profitable employment. Almost every means known to human ingenuity were

employed to smuggle it through the lines. Officers speculating in buying it, buying and

selling until this created a scandal almost equal to speculating in cotton, and it was

finally stopped by strong proclamation.

[The was word] of a woman who went into the Northern lines four times, returning

always with a considerable quantity of the more costly drugs concealed beneath her skirts.

[Another] had exchanged his hospital wagon into a blockade runner. He soon had a stock

of quinine, morphine, ether and such other drugs as promised the greatest profit,

stored away under a yellow flag [marked smallpox], and over these he placed

several layers of [various articles].

Dr. J. Julian Chisholm, professor of surgery in the Medical College of South Carolina, published

in 1861 his “Manual of Military Surgery for the Use of Surgeons in the Confederate Army.”

This book was widely used . . .[though] we find the surgical staff of the army composed of physicians

without surgical experience. Most of those who composed the staff were general practitioners,

whose country circuit gave them but little surgery and seldom presented a gunshot wound.

[H.B. Metcalf of Montgomery wrote as follows:] “We were able to secure some drugs and

chemicals during the war by attending the blockade [runner] sales at Charleston and Mobile.

I am told by an Atlanta lady . . . [that the] country people [were encouraged] to raise

castor oil beans. The crushed beans were boiled and the oil skimmed off.

She said that the grandmothers of those days revived the traditions of colonial times.

For rash they used red-oak bark and alum. Goose grease and sorghum, or honey, was a

standard remedy for croup [inflammation of respiratory passages], backed up by turpentine

and brown sugar. Sassafras tea was given in the spring and fall as a blood medicine.

Adult’s colds were doctored with horsemint tea and tea from the roots of broom sedge.

For eruptions and impure blood, spice-wood tea was given.

For diarrhea, roots of blackberry and blackberry cordial . . . Mutton suet, sweet gum and

the buds of the balm of Gilead was a standard slave for all cuts and sores. Balsam cucumber

was widely used as a tonic, and was considered a specific remedy in burns. Calamus root

for colic in babies was a common dose. In hemorrhages, black haw root was commonly used.

All the white mustard we had was raised in our garden.

She learned from experience that barks were best gathered while the sap was running,

and when gathered the outer and rougher portion should be shaved off and the bark cut thinly

and put in a good position in the shade to dry; that the roots ought to be gathered after the

leaves are dead in the fall, or better, before the sap rises; that the seeds and flowers must

be gathered only when fully ripe, and put in a nice dry place, and that medicinal plants to

be secured in the greatest perfection should be obtained when in bloom

and carefully dried in the shade.”

[As an alternative for Quinine and Peruvian bark, use] Tulip tree bark, Dogwood,

Cotton-seed tea, Chestnut root and bark, Thoroughwort, Spanish oak bark, Knob grass,

Willow bark. [As an alternative for Opium, use] American hemlock, Motherwort.

[An alternative for Laudanum, use] Hops, Mother-wort. [An alternative for Calomel, use]

Dandelion, Pleurisy root, Butterfly seed.

Wood anemone was applied . . . in removing corns from the feet. Powdered may-apple

mixed with resin was used as a caustic in treating horses . . . Pond-lily poultices was

extensively applied to ulcers. Button snake-root, or globe-flower, was used largely as an

expectorant and diuretic. Tooth-ache bark (aralia spinosa) was used to allay pain caused

by carious teeth, and in South Carolina the Negroes relied on it almost exclusively for

rattle-snake bite. Side-saddle or fly-cather was used in the various forms of dyspepsia.

Ink was made from the rind of the pomegranate fruit and from poke berries.

When during convalescence and astringent tonic was indicated, dogwood supplied the need.

This with blackberry and gentians and pipsissiwa as tonics and diuretics, and sweet gum,

and sassafras for mucilaginous and aromatic properties, and wild jalap as a cathartic,

supplied the surgeon in camp with easily procurable medicinal plants,

which proved sufficient in times of need.

The seed of the watermelon and those of the gourd were used as a diuretic.

The ladies of St. John’s Parish, SC, used prickly pear for hardening tallow in candle

making, one pound to four pounds of tallow taking the place of wax.

Red maple made an astringent wash. Buckeye lotion was used for gangrenous ulcers,

and by some for toothache. Cotton-seed decoction was used for inflammation in mucous

passages. The roots of the cotton plant were employed in asthma, and by the Negroes

as an abortant. Soap was made from cotton seed by treating them directly with lye.

[Among the substitutes] for coffee, at home and in camp, the following were a part: Rye,

parched okra seeds, cotton seeds, parched sweet potatoes, parched corn hominy, peanuts.

Among the substitutes for tea were Ceanothus Americanus, known as red root, or New Jersey

tea, and holly leaves and blackberry and raspberry leaves and rose leaves.

The ox-eyed daisy was used in place of Persian insect powder – an insecticide used as far

back as 1857. In the country, fresh elderberry leaves were laid next to the head of a

bed-ridden person to keep away flies.

The roots and leaves of the cocklebur were considered serviceable in passive hemorrhages,

diarrhea, gonorrhea, and as a deobstruent in obstructions of the spleen and

diseases arising from torpid liver.

The peach tree furnished a number of uses. The gum was used instead of gum Arabic;

a tea of the leaves given in whooping cough; the leaves used to season creams instead

of vanilla; the leaves used in [dyeing].

Calycanthus (sweet shrub) was employed as an anti-spasmodic tonic in cases of chronic

agues [fevers and recurring chills]. It was noticed that the root was strongly camphorated

[camphor stimulant added].

As an antidote for poison oak the bruised leaves of the Collinsonia Canadensis (stone root)

were employed . . . Rhus glabra (smooth sumac) was used as a gargle for cleansing the mouth

in putrid fevers; and a deconction of the root employed in gonorrhea and gleet.

A vinegar was made from the berries.

Black oak was considered efficacious in leucorrhoea, amenorhoea, chronic hysteria,

diarfhea, rheumatism, cynanche, tonsilaris, and asthma. The powder of the bark,

mixed with lard, was a remedy in painful hemorrhoids, and used as a fomentation

in prolapsus uteri and ani, and for deflections in these parts.

As substitutes for hemp the following were used: The sunflower stalk, [Yucca], or bear grass.

The juice of the blue fig made a red ink. Fig twigs were used a pipe stems. Rope was made

of wahoo (Ulmus alata), and used in baling cotton. Wax myrtle . . . was employed in making

candles, and as a basis for fine soap. The soap was obtained from the berries by boiling

and skimming. Four pounds of the wax made forty pounds of the soap, with other

ingredients counted. Candles made by the addition of grease are of a green color.

[Also], on every plantation . . . the monthly waste of ashes and grease, with the addition of

a little lime and salt, and the labor of one person for one day, will make soap enough for our

purposes. Candles in wartime were made of rosin.

Phytolacca decandraa, or poke, was largely used in diseases affecting the scalp and ulcers,

eruptions, itch and hemorrhoids. Knot grass was considered a powerful astringent in diarrhea

and uterine hemorrhages. Water pepper, says a writer at Manchester, [SC], was used in

his family in 1862 in dysentery, and every case was improved and cured. Mountain laurel

was employed with claimed success in rheumatism, gout and glandular enlargements.

Black alder was used as wash in cutaneous [skin] troubles.

Love vine was used as a laxative tea.

Woodbine was given in asthma, and a decoction of the flowers administered to calm

the pain of colic following childbirth. A decoction made by pouring boiling water over the

leaves, flowers or berries of the elder bush was used as a wash for

wounds to prevent injury from flies.

Sea myrtle was used in popular practice in South Carolina as a palliative in consumption

and coughs, a strong decoction given several times a day. Ragweed was used in whiskey

in place of quinine in Maryland. Catweed employed in popular practice in diseases of the

chest and bowels. Hound’s tongue employed in domestic practice as a mucilaginous drink,

and the rots made into poultice in case of bruises, sprains, etc. The buds and inside

bark of the long-leaved pine and bits of pine steeped in gin were favorite domestic

remedies in coughs and colds, and as a diuretic.”


Major Peter E. Hines

Medical Director of General Hospitals in North Carolina


Confederate Surgeons
“What a prolific theme of hallowed memories! Every battalion, every company of artillery

had its assistant surgeon; every regiment its surgeon and assistant surgeon; and this applies

alike to both the cavalry and infantry arm. On the staff of every major-general, of every

lieutenant-general, and of very general, there was a medical director. At every hospital

post was a surgeon of the post, and every hospital had its surgeon and assistant surgeons.

The navy was likewise provided with her corps of surgeons and assistant surgeons.

When the famous Alabama, that Confederate ruler and terror of the sea, fighting until her

belching cannon quenched forever their flaming throats in the ocean’s wave, went down to

stainless sleep, “rocked in the cradle of the deep,” her pure and unsullied deck a stranger

to the foeman’s tread, a Confederate surgeon bore her company and sleeps heroically

on her bosom by the side of her other immortal dead.

On the more than two thousand battlefields the Confederate surgeon’s duty called him

where the battle waxed the hottest, and where the dead and wounded lay the thickest.

His mission required him to be calm, self-possessed, and unawed where death’s

messengers filled the very air he breathed, with no weapon in his

hand save his surgical instruments.

Gen. Joseph Hooker said of [Gen. Robert E. Lee’s] Army of Northern Virginia

(“Conduct of the War,“ Vol. I, pg. 113): “That army has by discipline alone

acquired a character for steadiness and efficiency unsurpassed, in my judgment,

in ancient or modern times. We have not been able to rival it . . . “

With medicines, instruments, and medical works and needful delicacies made contraband

of war [by the northern blockade], they turned to and developed the resources of the field and

forest; and though charged with the care of fifty thousand more Federal prisoners than the

enemy had of Confederate prisoners, yet, in spite of these adverse surroundings,

lost four thousand less Federal prisoners than the Federals lost of Confederate prisoners,

with every means to command better results.

For the nineteen months--- January, 1862, to July, 1863, inclusive--- over 1,000,000 cases

of wounds and sickness were entered upon the Confederate field reports, and over 400,000

cases of wounded upon the hospital reports. It is estimated that all of the 600,000 Confederates

were, on an average, disabled for greater or lesser periods by wounds and sickness about six

times during the war. The heroic, untiring, important part thus borne by the skillful Confederate

surgeons in maintaining in the field an effective army of unexampled Confederate soldiers

must challenge particular attention.

Whatever medical attention the sick and wounded Confederate soldiers had, the Federal

prisoners in like condition also received. Where the supply of the usual standard medicines

was exhausted and could not be replenished in consequence of the action of the Federal

government in holding them to be contraband of war, and preventing their introduction by

blockade and severe penalties, when resort was had to the virtues of the healing herbs of

the country as substitutes for more efficient remedial agents, the suffering Federals

shared these equally with like suffering Confederates.

Vice President A. H. Stephens, in his [book] "The War between the States," . . . writes:

"Neither Libby nor Belle Island nor Salisbury nor Andersonville would have had a groaning

prisoner of war but for the refusal of the Federal authorities to comply with the earnest desire

of the Richmond government for an immediate exchange upon the most liberal and humane

principles. Had Mr. Davis's repeated offers been accepted, no prisoner on

either side would have been retained in confinement a day."
(Address by Surgeon General, UCV, Dr. C.H. Tebault, Confederate Veteran, August 1900, pg. 362)


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