Period Boiled water

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#1
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Did soldiers boil water? Did they know about the germ theory of disease? I understand the germ theory wasn't known until after the Civil War. Why boil water if they didn't about the germ theory?

If they had to use a somewhat dirty source of water such as a pond would they somehow filter it to make it cleaner?

Pretty sure if I was dying of thirst I would drink from any source no matter it's cleanliness.
 
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WJC

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I don't know that soldiers of the time had 'connected the dots', but they did boil water for cooking and for coffee. The first choice was made by appearance and smell but often it was just what was available.
It was known in the scientific community that unclean water could spread disease. By 1850 the British had been filtering city water and identified a relationship between unfiltered water and cholera. In response, London passed the Metropolitan Water Act of 1852 requiring filtration.
 
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#6
I don't know that soldiers of the time had 'connected the dots', but they did boil water for cooking and for coffee. The first choice was made by appearance and smell but often it was just what was available.
It was known in the scientific community that unclean water could spread disease. By 1850 the British had been filtering city water and identified a relationship between unfiltered water and cholera. In response, London passed the Metropolitan Water Act of 1852 requiring filtration.
Thanks. Cholera hasn't gone away. Still hear about it on the world news.
 

NH Civil War Gal

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The other thing, on the CSA side, that saved lives by boiling is, as silk became harder and harder to get for suturing, they started to use horsehair. But they had to boil the horsehair to soften it enough to use, so they unknowingly created a fairly sterile condition (not in handling or storage) in surgery using that.
 
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#8
The other thing, on the CSA side, that saved lives by boiling is, as silk became harder and harder to get for suturing, they started to use horsehair. But they had to boil the horsehair to soften it enough to use, so they unknowingly created a fairly sterile condition (not in handling or storage) in surgery using that.
This is interesting. Thank you.
 

NH Civil War Gal

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#11
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Pretty sure if I was dying of thirst I would drink from any source no matter it's cleanliness.
Here's your answer in reverse: I remember reading (and may have posted somewhere, some time back) about thirst. A soldier mentioned how they were going through a big stream that 50,000 men, mules, and horses had gone through and he said, the water was "impure" but they were so thirsty, each soldier took off his cap and scooped the water up as they went through the stream and drank straight from their cap.
 
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#12
In reading about the gathering of troops in an encampment on the muddy Rio Grand River for the start of the Mexican War, Two doctors observed some enlisted men making coffee. As they observed this performance they noted to each other that coffee drinkers did not get sick as often as non-coffee drinkers. They surmised that there must be something in the coffee bean that barred these ailments.

Post Civil War, many book refer to finding less than palatable water. Putting flour sacks above a rain barrel to pour in muddy water using the sacks to strain out impurities. Another trick was to let the water stand and let the sediment drop to the bottom of the barrel.
I have been told, that running water cleanses itself after running 10 to 15 feet. However, I have seen the Mississippi and the Rio Grand, and of that I am a little doubtful.
 
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#13
What happened? I wrote something out and it is gone!

Mexican War (1845 /1846) down on the Rio Grand, as he American Army encamped several diseases broke out. Two doctors observed two soldiers making coffee. The doctors observed that soldiers who drank coffee were not as sick as often as those who didn't. Both agreed it must be something to the coffee bean. (no one considered boiling water to kill germs which they had no idea of)
 

Yankeedave

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#15
They did understand sanitation, eventually. Understood to keep drinking water sources distant from latrines. You have to understand that on campaign a man would drink from a puddle with a dead whatever in it. IMHO they brought much of what they new from home and people knew to boil water. But once again boys in the field will run amuck no pun intended.
 

O' Be Joyful

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Other wise cookin' n' boilin' advice, that likely saved lives.

But for the soldier in the field, these were not his problems. All that likely mattered was the skill of his cook and the quality and quantity of his rations. In his handy 1862 guide, Sanderson provides his “Kitchen Philosophy” - applicable to both the casual and professional cook, whether in the army or the kitchen:
Remember that beans, badly boiled, kill more than bullets; and fat is more fatal than powder. In cooking, more than in anything else in this world, always make haste slowly. One hour too much is vastly better than five minutes too little, with rare exceptions. A big fire scorches your soup, burns your face, and crisps your temper. Skim, simmer, and scour, are the true secrets of good cooking.(84)

(This remains sound advice when in the kitchen to this day.)

https://www.libertyrifles.org/research/uniforms-equipment/commissary-cooking/
https://civilwartalk.com/threads/no...ng-and-equipment-1861-65.144881/#post-1792065
 
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#17
Why boil water if they didn't about the germ theory?
I think even if the chain of reaction was not understood, the effects could be observed. As some others already wrote: People observed that others who drank water that had been boiled became less sick, so boiling did the trick for them, even if they knew Nothing About germs.

Coffee... saved thousands upon thousands of US lives simply by boiling the water to make coffee soldiers purified it making it safe to drink.
Same with beer. I come from a beer brewing city, so we learned about the importance of beer in the Middle Ages. The brewing process cleaned out the germs and at it became healthier to drink beer than to drink water. Although that "beer" would not be worth ist name now. It did not contain much alcohol, it even was called "Dünnbier" = thin beer and even kiddies could drink it.
 
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byron ed

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#18
Same with beer. I come form a beer brewing city, so we learned about the importance of beer in the Middle Ages. The brewing process cleaned out the germs and at it became healthier to drink beer than to drink water. Although that "beer" would not be worth ist name now. It did not contain much alcohol, it even was called "Dünnbier" = thin beer and even kiddies could drink it.
Which explains my generally good health.
 

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