Discussion An Enemy of both the Yanks and Johnnies, which came in an unlikely form

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In addition to fighting against each other during the ACW, a plethora of soldiers from both armies were fighting a separate war of attrition against a mutual enemy, specifically the mosquito and the sand-fly. In reading my 3rd Great Grandfather`s journal, who served 1,167 days (3 years and 72 days) with the 2nd Regiment Alabama Cavalry, he made numerous references to the mosquitos and sand-flies, specifically in the Florida Panhandle and throughout Georgia. I have read a few letters home from some of the other men in his company and regiment who were complaining of the same thing.

Soldiers who were fighting for the southern cause would have been more than familiar with both, but when relentlessly attacked by both mosquito`s and sand-flies in aggressive swarms, even those who had grown accustomed to their activity, it quickly became too much for them, which forced the men to find ways to avoid them and to try and keep them from draining their blood. The troops from the north were met with a nice surprise and many would be warned by the locals that the farther south that they went the worse both mosquitos and especially the sand-flies would be. But most would just shake it off as they had mosquitos in the north as well as pesky flies, so what could possibly be the difference.

Below is such an account from Major Joseph G. Vale of the 4th Michigan Cavalry in Minty`s Saber Brigade just after the Battle of Kingston and Woodland`s Georgia on 18 May 1864, during the early days of the Atlanta Campaign. This was just hours after Colonel Richard G. Earle, who was the regimental commander of the 2nd Alabama Cavalry, was killed in action during that fight I might add. Below is what Major Vale wrote regarding his first encounters with the infamous "Georgia Sand-flies" of which he was so many times warned:

"Now, all down through Tennessee, Alabama, and thus far in our march through Georgia, we had been told that after we got a little further South we would meet the enemy in a new form; that there were whole tracts of country where neither man nor animal could live or pass through on account of the hosts of sand flies! Hearing so much about them, and that they were always a "little further to the South," and that we would meet them "down tha'h, su'ah," we had come to regard them like the Western man' s mosquitoes, who, when asked if the "skeeters" are bad in his locality, always answers: "No, stranger; but you jist bet they be in the next county. Why, sir, over in that county they eat the hogs up alive." So we thought the "sand flies" were always in the next county, and would always remain a "little further Souf, sah." Moreover, after our experience with the pediculus (head lice), the woodtick, and jigger, in Tennessee, we thought our selves proof against the assaults of any and all the vermin of the Southern rebel country combined, and did not believe the much-vaunted and widely-advertised "sand fly" was much of a "bug" after all. We knew what sand was, and had seen flies before, and laughed at the idea of a fly of any kind being even a transient annoyance.

The movement to the railroad was to be a surprise, hence we left Woodland about 11, P. M. (18 May 1864), and marched, by unfrequented ways, across the fields, winding along water-courses and deep hollows, and quietly passing in solemn silence through the gloom and over the sward of the shadowy forest. No talking, or even speaking in lowest tones, or clanking of bits or saber scabbards, being permitted.

And so, like silent specters of the night, we were passing through a strip of rather open woods, each man intent only on keeping his horse in place and close against the rump of his file-leader, when suddenly, without a premonitory buzz or sign of any kind, a horse in one of the center files gave a loud snort, sounding more like the dying cry of a mortally-stricken human being than any sound we had ever before heard a horse make, and dashed off to the right at the top of his speed, rearing, plunging, and kicking the while, soon leaving his luckless rider sprawling on the ground. Another and another followed, rushing madly right, left, front, and rear, with snorts and kicks, and almost human-like groans of pain, in every direction, unhorsing riders, trampling the fallen, dashing headlong through the woods, rubbing against trees, rolling over and over on the ground, and in an instant converting the quiet, orderly column into a pan demonium-like mass of struggling, groaning, kicking, plunging, rolling horses and swearing, yelling men, in which confusion worse confounded reigned supreme. We had struck the sand flies, and the sand flies had struck us!

Well, the expedition ended there! The railroad was not cut that night! In fact, in less than three minutes from the time the first fly struck the column, about twelve hundred cavalry were scattered over a radius of two miles of rebel territory, and deeming one surprise enough in one night, and we being the party surprised, and we having made noise enough to arouse the whole rebel army, if in hearing distance, the colonel concluded to sound the "rally," and get into a camp as soon as possible. It was a bad repulse, and though the damage consisted mainly in the swollen nostrils of the poor horses, yet many of the men were bruised, kicked, tramped on, and otherwise disabled.

This was our first and only experience with this adjunct of rebeldom, and we had no desire to renew, much less to prolong, the acquaintance. The combined power of a swarm of angry bees, of a fully-developed colony of un-nested hornets, and of a completely fledged nest of after harvest oats-stubble yellow-jackets, with their business qualities intensified one hundredfold, would not be a circumstance to the terrific onslaught of the average Georgia sand fly!"


The excerpt above was taken from the book: "Minty and the Cavalry; a History of Cavalry Campaigns in the Western Armies" Major Joseph G. Vale, circa 1886 (pages 280-291).

Regarding the mosquitos, below I will give an account of them in Florida by John Taylor Wood who was part of President Jefferson Davis`train when they were captured at Irwinville, Ga. by the 4th Michigan Cavalry on 10 May 1865, but escaped and fled south with General John C. Breckinridge (last Confederate Secretary of War and former Vice President of the United States of America under President Buchanan) at the end of the war. He wrote during this trip:

"The weather was intensely hot, and our time was made miserable by day with sand-flies, and by night with mosquitos... Whenever the breeze left us the heat was almost suffocating; there was no escape for it. If we landed, and sought any shade, the mosquitos would drive us at once to the glare of the sun. When sleeping on shore, the best protection was to bury ourselves in the sand, with cap drawn down over the head (my buckskin gauntlets proved invaluable); if in the boat, to wrap the sail or tarpaulin around us. Besides this plague, sand-flies, gnats, swamp-flies, ants, and other insects abounded. The little black ant is especially bold and warlike. If, in making our beds in the sand, we disturbed one of their hives, they would rally in thousands to the attack, and the only safety was in a hasty shake and change of residence."

The excerpt above was taken from the book: "Famous Adventures and Prison Escapes of the Civil War" circa 1911, New York the Century Company (pages 305-308).

There are numerous other examples, I just used these two because of their great detail and general interest.
 

John Winn

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Mar 13, 2014
Location
State of Jefferson
In addition to fighting against each other during the ACW, a plethora of soldiers from both armies were fighting a separate war of attrition against a mutual enemy, specifically the mosquito and the sand-fly. In reading my 3rd Great Grandfather`s journal, who served 1,167 days (3 years and 72 days) with the 2nd Regiment Alabama Cavalry, he made numerous references to the mosquitos and sand-flies, specifically in the Florida Panhandle and throughout Georgia. I have read a few letters home from some of the other men in his company and regiment who were complaining of the same thing.

Soldiers who were fighting for the southern cause would have been more than familiar with both, but when relentlessly attacked by both mosquito`s and sand-flies in aggressive swarms, even those who had grown accustomed to their activity, it quickly became too much for them, which forced the men to find ways to avoid them and to try and keep them from draining their blood. The troops from the north were met with a nice surprise and many would be warned by the locals that the farther south that they went the worse both mosquitos and especially the sand-flies would be. But most would just shake it off as they had mosquitos in the north as well as pesky flies, so what could possibly be the difference.

Below is such an account from Major Joseph G. Vale of the 4th Michigan Cavalry in Minty`s Saber Brigade just after the Battle of Kingston and Woodland`s Georgia on 18 May 1864, during the early days of the Atlanta Campaign. This was just hours after Colonel Richard G. Earle, who was the regimental commander of the 2nd Alabama Cavalry, was killed in action during that fight I might add. Below is what Major Vale wrote regarding his first encounters with the infamous "Georgia Sand-flies" of which he was so many times warned:

"Now, all down through Tennessee, Alabama, and thus far in our march through Georgia, we had been told that after we got a little further South we would meet the enemy in a new form; that there were whole tracts of country where neither man nor animal could live or pass through on account of the hosts of sand flies! Hearing so much about them, and that they were always a "little further to the South," and that we would meet them "down tha'h, su'ah," we had come to regard them like the Western man' s mosquitoes, who, when asked if the "skeeters" are bad in his locality, always answers: "No, stranger; but you jist bet they be in the next county. Why, sir, over in that county they eat the hogs up alive." So we thought the "sand flies" were always in the next county, and would always remain a "little further Souf, sah." Moreover, after our experience with the pediculus (head lice), the woodtick, and jigger, in Tennessee, we thought our selves proof against the assaults of any and all the vermin of the Southern rebel country combined, and did not believe the much-vaunted and widely-advertised "sand fly" was much of a "bug" after all. We knew what sand was, and had seen flies before, and laughed at the idea of a fly of any kind being even a transient annoyance.

The movement to the railroad was to be a surprise, hence we left Woodland about 11, P. M. (18 May 1864), and marched, by unfrequented ways, across the fields, winding along water-courses and deep hollows, and quietly passing in solemn silence through the gloom and over the sward of the shadowy forest. No talking, or even speaking in lowest tones, or clanking of bits or saber scabbards, being permitted.

And so, like silent specters of the night, we were passing through a strip of rather open woods, each man intent only on keeping his horse in place and close against the rump of his file-leader, when suddenly, without a premonitory buzz or sign of any kind, a horse in one of the center files gave a loud snort, sounding more like the dying cry of a mortally-stricken human being than any sound we had ever before heard a horse make, and dashed off to the right at the top of his speed, rearing, plunging, and kicking the while, soon leaving his luckless rider sprawling on the ground. Another and another followed, rushing madly right, left, front, and rear, with snorts and kicks, and almost human-like groans of pain, in every direction, unhorsing riders, trampling the fallen, dashing headlong through the woods, rubbing against trees, rolling over and over on the ground, and in an instant converting the quiet, orderly column into a pan demonium-like mass of struggling, groaning, kicking, plunging, rolling horses and swearing, yelling men, in which confusion worse confounded reigned supreme. We had struck the sand flies, and the sand flies had struck us!

Well, the expedition ended there! The railroad was not cut that night! In fact, in less than three minutes from the time the first fly struck the column, about twelve hundred cavalry were scattered over a radius of two miles of rebel territory, and deeming one surprise enough in one night, and we being the party surprised, and we having made noise enough to arouse the whole rebel army, if in hearing distance, the colonel concluded to sound the "rally," and get into a camp as soon as possible. It was a bad repulse, and though the damage consisted mainly in the swollen nostrils of the poor horses, yet many of the men were bruised, kicked, tramped on, and otherwise disabled.

This was our first and only experience with this adjunct of rebeldom, and we had no desire to renew, much less to prolong, the acquaintance. The combined power of a swarm of angry bees, of a fully-developed colony of un-nested hornets, and of a completely fledged nest of after harvest oats-stubble yellow-jackets, with their business qualities intensified one hundredfold, would not be a circumstance to the terrific onslaught of the average Georgia sand fly!"


The excerpt above was taken from the book: "Minty and the Cavalry; a History of Cavalry Campaigns in the Western Armies" Major Joseph G. Vale, circa 1886 (pages 280-291).

Regarding the mosquitos, below I will give an account of them in Florida by John Taylor Wood who was part of President Jefferson Davis`train when they were captured at Irwinville, Ga. by the 4th Michigan Cavalry on 10 May 1865, but escaped and fled south with General John C. Breckinridge (last Confederate Secretary of War and former Vice President of the United States of America under President Buchanan) at the end of the war. He wrote during this trip:

"The weather was intensely hot, and our time was made miserable by day with sand-flies, and by night with mosquitos... Whenever the breeze left us the heat was almost suffocating; there was no escape for it. If we landed, and sought any shade, the mosquitos would drive us at once to the glare of the sun. When sleeping on shore, the best protection was to bury ourselves in the sand, with cap drawn down over the head (my buckskin gauntlets proved invaluable); if in the boat, to wrap the sail or tarpaulin around us. Besides this plague, sand-flies, gnats, swamp-flies, ants, and other insects abounded. The little black ant is especially bold and warlike. If, in making our beds in the sand, we disturbed one of their hives, they would rally in thousands to the attack, and the only safety was in a hasty shake and change of residence."

The excerpt above was taken from the book: "Famous Adventures and Prison Escapes of the Civil War" circa 1911, New York the Century Company (pages 305-308).

There are numerous other examples, I just used these two because of their great detail and general interest.
Having grown up in Georgia and having spent a lot of my childhood in southern Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina I can certainly relate and sympathize. I'm surprised they didn't mention chiggers, too. I'd put up with a number of things so as to avoid chiggers.
 
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Having grown up in Georgia and having spent a lot of my childhood in southern Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina I can certainly relate and sympathize. I'm surprised they didn't mention chiggers, too. I'd put up with a number of things so as to avoid chiggers.
They did mention the chiggers as "jiggers" (in Tennessee). I agree with you one hundred percent, growing up in Mississippi I am no stranger to chiggers, mosquitos and sand flies, and being bitten numerous times by sand flies in Mississippi the things were barely the size of a grain of rice but the bite felt like they had teeth a foot long!
 
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A good thing might be no mention of ticks. Granted some of the others can pass along disease including Malaria ,but the tick is the nastiest transmitter. Maybe ticks were not around back then.
JOHN42768, Major Vale did mention the ticks in Tennessee on his way to Georgia above in his comments as "woodticks", he stated:

"Moreover, after our experience with the pediculus (head lice), the woodtick, and jigger, in Tennessee, we thought our selves proof against the assaults of any and all the vermin of the Southern rebel country combined, and did not believe the much-vaunted and widely-advertised "sand fly" was much of a "bug" after all."

His reference to a "jigger" is actually a mispelling of "chigger". There were numerous insects and pests that the Yanks in specific had to be made aware of, as well as the Johnnies. Those being the woodticks, louse (head lice), chiggers, mosquitos, sand-flies, hornets, yellow-jackets, gnats, swamp-flies, leaches, black ants, fire ants and spiders (along with their webs) among others. They also had to worry about cotton mouths, copperheads, timber rattlers, alligators, panthers and wild boar in the swamps of southern Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.

You are absolutely correct in making mention that many of the above referenced insects and pests were more than just annoyances they also carried disease and could transmit those diseases on contact with the soldiers. Ticks, now as well as back then, carried lime disease among other diseases.
 
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For those who want more information about sand-flies and their differences from mosquitos, specifically regarding their bites, follow the link below:

 
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leftyhunter

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For those who want more information about sand-flies and their differences from mosquitos, specifically regarding their bites, follow the link below:

When my son was at the Marine Drill Instructor School the DI Instructors did not mention sand fleas and the instructor DIs were grievously bitten. Then the DI trainees were told to cost their skin liberally with Avon skin so soft. Back in the day not sure if there was anything that could suffice as insect repellent.
Leftyhunter
 
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When my son was at the Marine Drill Instructor School the DI Instructors did not mention sand fleas and the instructor DIs were grievously bitten. Then the DI trainees were told to cost their skin liberally with Avon skin so soft. Back in the day not sure if there was anything that could suffice as insect repellent.
Leftyhunter
leftyhunter, a heavy dose of DEET (diethyltoluamide) works well to keep them off of you, even in a swarm. The same with mosquitos. A few years ago I made a visit to the town of Flores in Guatemala’s northern Petén region to visit the Mayan Ruin of Tikal, and was warned that the mosquitos were terrible and that they would actually swarm you if you did not wear a heavy concentration of DEET to keep them away from you. I am glad that I listened, as while I was trekking through the triple canopy jungle there I was swarmed numerous times by hundreds of mosquitos, they flew right towards me and once they got close to me they would react to the DEET and then fly off only to come back again and again to see if they could find a place on my body to land which was not protected. I walked around in the jungle much of the day literally with a cloud of hundreds of mosquitos hovering over me and trying to land somewhere on my body. Eventually after sweating much in the high summer humidity the DEET began to wear off and the mosquitos began to light on me, I immediately re-applied more DEET and was able to keep them off of me for the remainder of the day.

As far as I am aware they had no such remedies back during the ACW so they would wear clothing to cover as much of their body as possible, use mosquito nets or try and sleep by burying their body up to the neck in sand or dirt if they did not have mosquito nets, or apply mud on the exposed areas of their body to create a layer between their skin and the mosquitos or sand-flies. The smoke from a good fire at night would keep some of them away until the fire got low and no longer gave off smoke.
 

leftyhunter

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leftyhunter, a heavy dose of DEET (diethyltoluamide) works well to keep them off of you, even in a swarm. The same with mosquitos. A few years ago I made a visit to the town of Flores in Guatemala’s northern Petén region to visit the Mayan Ruin of Tikal, and was warned that the mosquitos were terrible and that they would actually swarm you if you did not wear a heavy concentration of DEET to keep them away from you. I am glad that I listened, as while I was trekking through the triple canopy jungle there I was swarmed numerous times by hundreds of mosquitos, they flew right towards me and once they got close to me they would react to the DEET and then fly off only to come back again and again to see if they could find a place on my body to land which was not protected. I walked around in the jungle much of the day literally with a cloud of hundreds of mosquitos hovering over me and trying to land somewhere on my body. Eventually after sweating much in the high summer humidity the DEET began to wear off and the mosquitos began to light on me, I immediately re-applied more DEET and was able to keep them off of me for the remainder of the day.

As far as I am aware they had no such remedies back during the ACW so they would wear clothing to cover as much of their body as possible, use mosquito nets or try and sleep by burying their body up to the neck in sand or dirt if they did not have mosquito nets, or apply mud on the exposed areas of their body to create a layer between their skin and the mosquitos or sand-flies. The smoke from a good fire at night would keep some of them away until the fire got low and no longer gave off smoke.
My understanding is that while Deet is effective it is also a neuro toxin. I forget the name but there is some kind of smoke tablets that supposedly work but only is your confined to a specific area.
Leftyhunter
 
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damYankee

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We always think of malaria attributed to mosquitos, and rightfully so, but what about equine encephalitis and other very nasty conditions that may not have even been recognized at the time?
The common Deer Tick can carry many diseases, as do rodents. It is very common to run across reports of soldiers suffering from jaundice but the never mention hepatitis (jaundice is one symptom of hepatitis), or polio, or so many other diseases that have only been identified in the years after the Civil War.
 
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We always think of malaria attributed to mosquitos, and rightfully so, but what about equine encephalitis and other very nasty conditions that may not have even been recognized at the time?
The common Deer Tick can carry many diseases, as do rodents. It is very common to run across reports of soldiers suffering from jaundice but the never mention hepatitis (jaundice is one symptom of hepatitis), or polio, or so many other diseases that have only been identified in the years after the Civil War.
Those are very good points... In addition to spreading malaria, mosquitos also spread yellow fever which was still killing people and wiping out entire communities up until the turn of the 20th Century. The last major outbreak of yellow fever in the United States occurred in 1905 in New Orleans. There were several very bad epidemics of yellow fever during the Civil War. Another disease which was suffered in some Civil War camps was typhus, which was spread by fleas that catch the disease from rats and possums. Then there was typhoid fever which was spread through food that had come into contact with fecal bacteria. In the summer of 1862 in the Florida Panhandle the 2nd Regiment Alabama Cavalry lost more than 200 of its troopers to a deadly epidemic of typhoid fever and measles. Representing more than 1/5 of the entire regiment.

Follow the link below for a very interesting write up regarding insects (disease) and the Civil War:


Follow the link below for a very informative article about several very bad epidemics of yellow fever during the ACW:

 
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JPK Huson 1863

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Ok, you won the ' most hair raising story ' award. Don't mind snakes, mice can be cute, bear can be avoided and we name ours out here, bobcats like to mess with your head but aren't scary- BUGS? No, thank you. What I want to know is what on earth early settler looked around down there and decided this was going to be home? ALL my respect.

Do you guys get black flies? They swarm in Maine, around June. I think it's to keep tourists away for another month. After that it's horseflies the size of New Jersey, with a bite that feels like a drill bit.

You don't hear these stories when authors are recounting say, Sherman's march. What's surprising is they didn't turn back- I'd have made it to Maryland.

And now I'm really itchy. It's a great post, unsure whether or not I'm glad I read it.
 
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bdtex

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In addition to fighting against each other during the ACW, a plethora of soldiers from both armies were fighting a separate war of attrition against a mutual enemy, specifically the mosquito and the sand-fly. In reading my 3rd Great Grandfather`s journal, who served 1,167 days (3 years and 72 days) with the 2nd Regiment Alabama Cavalry, he made numerous references to the mosquitos and sand-flies, specifically in the Florida Panhandle and throughout Georgia. I have read a few letters home from some of the other men in his company and regiment who were complaining of the same thing.

Soldiers who were fighting for the southern cause would have been more than familiar with both, but when relentlessly attacked by both mosquito`s and sand-flies in aggressive swarms, even those who had grown accustomed to their activity, it quickly became too much for them, which forced the men to find ways to avoid them and to try and keep them from draining their blood. The troops from the north were met with a nice surprise and many would be warned by the locals that the farther south that they went the worse both mosquitos and especially the sand-flies would be. But most would just shake it off as they had mosquitos in the north as well as pesky flies, so what could possibly be the difference.
I think about that every time I drive through Louisiana, particularly Fort Burton at Butte-la-Rose. It was literally on an island in the swamps of the Atchafalaya River Basin. The boys of the small Confederate garrison were probably used to it but it was still miserable I'm sure. They were probably glad when it was captured by a Union force on April 20,1863. Not sure how long it was garrisoned by Union forces afterwards but it had to have been doubly miserable for those New England boys. Here is how one of them described Fort Burton:

Member of the 17th New Hampshire said: "Butte a la Rose, aside from a very strategic position froma military point of view, proved also to be such from several other points of view. It was the grand rendezvous of mosquitoes, fleas, woodticks, lice, lizards, frogs, snakes, alligators, fever bacteria, dysentery microbes, and every conceivalbe type of malarial poison." (History of the Seventeenth regiment, New Hampshire volunteer infantry. 1862-1863, by Charles Nelson Kent, 172).

 
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Ok, you won the ' most hair raising story ' award. Don't mind snakes, mice can be cute, bear can be avoided and we name ours out here, bobcats like to mess with your head but aren't scary- BUGS? No, thank you. What I want to know is what on earth early settler looked around down there and decided this was going to be home? ALL my respect.

Do you guys get black flies? They swarm in Maine, around June. I think it's to keep tourists away for another month. After that it's horseflies the size of New Jersey, with a bite that feels like a drill bit.

You don't hear these stories when authors are recounting say, Sherman's march. What's surprising is they didn't turn back- I'd have made it to Maryland.

And now I'm really itchy. It's a great post, unsure whether or not I'm glad I read it.
It is amazing what you can get used to here in the south once you have become accustomed to it. Snakes, insects, spiders and other bugs and reptiles included, LOL. As long as they do not mess with me I will not mess with them.
 
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I think about that every time I drive through Louisiana, particularly Fort Burton at Butte-la-Rose. It was literally on an island in the swamps of the Atchafalaya River Basin. The boys of the small Confederate garrison were probably used to it but it was still miserable I'm sure. They were probably glad when it was captured by a Union force on April 20,1863. Not sure how long it was garrisoned by Union forces afterwards but it had to have been doubly miserable for those New England boys. Here is how one of them described Fort Burton:

Member of the 17th New Hampshire said: "Butte a la Rose, aside from a very strategic position froma military point of view, proved also to be such from several other points of view. It was the grand rendezvous of mosquitoes, fleas, woodticks, lice, lizards, frogs, snakes, alligators, fever bacteria, dysentery microbes, and every conceivalbe type of malarial poison." (History of the Seventeenth regiment, New Hampshire volunteer infantry. 1862-1863, by Charles Nelson Kent, 172).

Louisiana is a haven for all of the things that you mentioned. It reminds me of when I was at Fort Sherman in Panama going through Jungle Survival School in the U.S. Army decades ago. They began the course by telling me and the other candidates to avoid the snakes, spiders, millipedes, centipedes, caterpillars, ants, caiman, jaguars, howler monkeys, poison frogs, and a thousand other things such as vegetation and poison plants because of the immediate danger they could pose on us. Basically nearly every thing that you touch or touches you in the jungles of Central and South America can kill you, that was my interpretation anyway. I remember reading that for fun, the Yanks while laying siege on both Port Hudson and Vicksburg from May-July 1863, on some days would have contest`s shooting the alligators in the Mississippi River as they floated or swam by, purely out of boredom.
 
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On another note, yellow jackets, hornets and spiders (webs) were hard to detect when marching or scouting through the woods, until you were literally right up on them, at which time it was too late. I read one account involving a nest of angry hornets that temporarily diverted attention from bullets flying during heated battle, in order to escape them, when their nest was accidently struck and torn down. I guess that the fear of being stung by an entire nest of angry hornets was greater than getting shot, at least in the moment.

The account was given by Brig. General Samuel Wragg Ferguson, under whom the 2nd Regiment Alabama Cavalry was brigaded from 20 Jul 1863 - 5 May 1865. Basically during the Battle of Atlanta on 22 Jul 1864, Wheeler was ordered by Hood to leave his position just south of Bald Hill to make a raid on nearby Decatur on the Georgia & Augusta Railroad, part of that raid involved Ferguson and his Cavalry Brigade. Below is what he wrote about the fighting that day and then his sudden interaction with a nest of angry hornets:

"On the 22nd of July (1864) I was ordered to capture the town of Decatur about 7 miles from Atlanta on the road to Augusta. Other Cavalry Brigades joined in the attack (General Joseph Wheeler / W. H. Jackson`s Division) but I made the direct attack fighting on foot (at times) and in thick woods of black oak". The resistance was stubborn, we were driving the enemy back slowly when I rode into a hornets nest, my horse dashed off almost scraping me off through the thickets. My hat was knocked off and the hornets struck me on my head and neck. I was between two fires and altogether in a very hot place. As soon as an opening was reached I threw myself from my horse landing on my heels and jerked the horse down. The hornets had been distanced and for a moment or two I did not know which way to go for I had not taken note of direction in my little excursion. However a glance at the sun and habits as a hunter enabled me to make the way back to my command. The first man that I met had my hat in his hand. In a few minutes more we had driven the enemy from the woods and then advanced rapidly to the railroad cut. Here my horse was shot from under me. The town was on the other side of the railroad and had to be taken house by house resulting in numerous hand to hand conflicts".

Just after midnight of the 22nd, Hood had dispatched General Wheeler and his Cavalry Corps, including Ferguson`s Cavalry Brigade, to Decatur to attack McPherson’s wagon train. Wheeler found several regiments of Federal infantry posted south of Decatur. At 1:00pm, Wheeler dismounted two of his divisions and assaulted the Federals. He pushed them north across what is now Agnes Scott College and then across the railroad tracks to the Decatur Square. The wagon train was detoured from Decatur after Wheeler started his assault. Wheeler pushed the Federals through the square and through the old city cemetery. The Federals then formed a new line along what is now North Decatur Road. Before Wheeler could attack the new Federal line, he was recalled back to Atlanta to help defend an attack against Hardee south of Bald Hill, during the Battle of Atlanta.
 
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Sbc

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Location
Georgia
In addition to fighting against each other during the ACW, a plethora of soldiers from both armies were fighting a separate war of attrition against a mutual enemy, specifically the mosquito and the sand-fly. In reading my 3rd Great Grandfather`s journal, who served 1,167 days (3 years and 72 days) with the 2nd Regiment Alabama Cavalry, he made numerous references to the mosquitos and sand-flies, specifically in the Florida Panhandle and throughout Georgia. I have read a few letters home from some of the other men in his company and regiment who were complaining of the same thing.

Soldiers who were fighting for the southern cause would have been more than familiar with both, but when relentlessly attacked by both mosquito`s and sand-flies in aggressive swarms, even those who had grown accustomed to their activity, it quickly became too much for them, which forced the men to find ways to avoid them and to try and keep them from draining their blood. The troops from the north were met with a nice surprise and many would be warned by the locals that the farther south that they went the worse both mosquitos and especially the sand-flies would be. But most would just shake it off as they had mosquitos in the north as well as pesky flies, so what could possibly be the difference.

Below is such an account from Major Joseph G. Vale of the 4th Michigan Cavalry in Minty`s Saber Brigade just after the Battle of Kingston and Woodland`s Georgia on 18 May 1864, during the early days of the Atlanta Campaign. This was just hours after Colonel Richard G. Earle, who was the regimental commander of the 2nd Alabama Cavalry, was killed in action during that fight I might add. Below is what Major Vale wrote regarding his first encounters with the infamous "Georgia Sand-flies" of which he was so many times warned:

"Now, all down through Tennessee, Alabama, and thus far in our march through Georgia, we had been told that after we got a little further South we would meet the enemy in a new form; that there were whole tracts of country where neither man nor animal could live or pass through on account of the hosts of sand flies! Hearing so much about them, and that they were always a "little further to the South," and that we would meet them "down tha'h, su'ah," we had come to regard them like the Western man' s mosquitoes, who, when asked if the "skeeters" are bad in his locality, always answers: "No, stranger; but you jist bet they be in the next county. Why, sir, over in that county they eat the hogs up alive." So we thought the "sand flies" were always in the next county, and would always remain a "little further Souf, sah." Moreover, after our experience with the pediculus (head lice), the woodtick, and jigger, in Tennessee, we thought our selves proof against the assaults of any and all the vermin of the Southern rebel country combined, and did not believe the much-vaunted and widely-advertised "sand fly" was much of a "bug" after all. We knew what sand was, and had seen flies before, and laughed at the idea of a fly of any kind being even a transient annoyance.

The movement to the railroad was to be a surprise, hence we left Woodland about 11, P. M. (18 May 1864), and marched, by unfrequented ways, across the fields, winding along water-courses and deep hollows, and quietly passing in solemn silence through the gloom and over the sward of the shadowy forest. No talking, or even speaking in lowest tones, or clanking of bits or saber scabbards, being permitted.

And so, like silent specters of the night, we were passing through a strip of rather open woods, each man intent only on keeping his horse in place and close against the rump of his file-leader, when suddenly, without a premonitory buzz or sign of any kind, a horse in one of the center files gave a loud snort, sounding more like the dying cry of a mortally-stricken human being than any sound we had ever before heard a horse make, and dashed off to the right at the top of his speed, rearing, plunging, and kicking the while, soon leaving his luckless rider sprawling on the ground. Another and another followed, rushing madly right, left, front, and rear, with snorts and kicks, and almost human-like groans of pain, in every direction, unhorsing riders, trampling the fallen, dashing headlong through the woods, rubbing against trees, rolling over and over on the ground, and in an instant converting the quiet, orderly column into a pan demonium-like mass of struggling, groaning, kicking, plunging, rolling horses and swearing, yelling men, in which confusion worse confounded reigned supreme. We had struck the sand flies, and the sand flies had struck us!

Well, the expedition ended there! The railroad was not cut that night! In fact, in less than three minutes from the time the first fly struck the column, about twelve hundred cavalry were scattered over a radius of two miles of rebel territory, and deeming one surprise enough in one night, and we being the party surprised, and we having made noise enough to arouse the whole rebel army, if in hearing distance, the colonel concluded to sound the "rally," and get into a camp as soon as possible. It was a bad repulse, and though the damage consisted mainly in the swollen nostrils of the poor horses, yet many of the men were bruised, kicked, tramped on, and otherwise disabled.

This was our first and only experience with this adjunct of rebeldom, and we had no desire to renew, much less to prolong, the acquaintance. The combined power of a swarm of angry bees, of a fully-developed colony of un-nested hornets, and of a completely fledged nest of after harvest oats-stubble yellow-jackets, with their business qualities intensified one hundredfold, would not be a circumstance to the terrific onslaught of the average Georgia sand fly!"


The excerpt above was taken from the book: "Minty and the Cavalry; a History of Cavalry Campaigns in the Western Armies" Major Joseph G. Vale, circa 1886 (pages 280-291).

Regarding the mosquitos, below I will give an account of them in Florida by John Taylor Wood who was part of President Jefferson Davis`train when they were captured at Irwinville, Ga. by the 4th Michigan Cavalry on 10 May 1865, but escaped and fled south with General John C. Breckinridge (last Confederate Secretary of War and former Vice President of the United States of America under President Buchanan) at the end of the war. He wrote during this trip:

"The weather was intensely hot, and our time was made miserable by day with sand-flies, and by night with mosquitos... Whenever the breeze left us the heat was almost suffocating; there was no escape for it. If we landed, and sought any shade, the mosquitos would drive us at once to the glare of the sun. When sleeping on shore, the best protection was to bury ourselves in the sand, with cap drawn down over the head (my buckskin gauntlets proved invaluable); if in the boat, to wrap the sail or tarpaulin around us. Besides this plague, sand-flies, gnats, swamp-flies, ants, and other insects abounded. The little black ant is especially bold and warlike. If, in making our beds in the sand, we disturbed one of their hives, they would rally in thousands to the attack, and the only safety was in a hasty shake and change of residence."

The excerpt above was taken from the book: "Famous Adventures and Prison Escapes of the Civil War" circa 1911, New York the Century Company (pages 305-308).

There are numerous other examples, I just used these two because of their great detail and general interest.
It is estimated that the mosquito has killed more humans than any other creature in history
 
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Joined
Jan 29, 2019
It is estimated that the mosquito has killed more humans than any other creature in history
Malaria is reported to have caused roughly 1,300,000 cases of illness and 10,000 deaths among soldiers during the 4 years of the ACW. The same mosquito carried Dengue fever and yellow fever which also killed soldiers and civilians during the war. Quinine was the only drug available during the ACW with which to fight Malaria and was in plentiful supply in the north. However, because of General Winfield Scott`s blockade of the southern states, Quinine was very difficult to get and was in very short supply in the south. Which resulted in many more deaths in the south than in the north due to illnesses which were transmitted by mosquitos.
 

farmerjohn

Private
Joined
Oct 30, 2019
JOHN42768, Major Vale did mention the ticks in Tennessee on his way to Georgia above in his comments as "woodticks", he stated:

"Moreover, after our experience with the pediculus (head lice), the woodtick, and jigger, in Tennessee, we thought our selves proof against the assaults of any and all the vermin of the Southern rebel country combined, and did not believe the much-vaunted and widely-advertised "sand fly" was much of a "bug" after all."

His reference to a "jigger" is actually a mispelling of "chigger". There were numerous insects and pests that the Yanks in specific had to be made aware of, as well as the Johnnies. Those being the woodticks, louse (head lice), chiggers, mosquitos, sand-flies, hornets, yellow-jackets, gnats, swamp-flies, leaches, black ants, fire ants and spiders (along with their webs) among others. They also had to worry about cotton mouths, copperheads, timber rattlers, alligators, panthers and wild boar in the swamps of southern Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.

You are absolutely correct in making mention that many of the above referenced insects and pests were more than just annoyances they also carried disease and could transmit those diseases on contact with the soldiers. Ticks, now as well as back then, carried lime disease among other diseases.
pardon my ignorance but, are sand flies the same as no-see-ums? we get those like for 2 weeks in spring and 2 weeks in the fall in Arkansas. they will drive ya crazy. or crazier asin my case so says my wife!
 
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