Did the Confederacy's Shortage of Quinine Help Turn the Tide in the Union's Favor ? (poll)

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Did the Confederacy's Shortage of Quinine Help Turn the Tide in the Union's Favor ?

  • Yes

    Votes: 3 37.5%
  • No

    Votes: 2 25.0%
  • What is Quinine ?

    Votes: 1 12.5%
  • Wasn't Aware of Shortage

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Maybe

    Votes: 1 12.5%
  • Don't Know

    Votes: 1 12.5%

  • Total voters
    8

gem

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In this thread I'm going to look at what role Quinine (or a lack thereof) had on the War.
 

gem

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Malaria was huge problem during the war. The numbers are staggering. It effected over 1 million soldiers in both the Union and Confederate Army and there were about 30,000 deaths from Malaria.

Back then they didn't understand the cause but now we know malaria is caused by the bite of an infected female Anopheles mosquito.

When a soldier got bitten by an infected mosquito, some of the Plasmodium parasite entered the person's bloodstream. What happens after that is quite complex and outside of the scope of this forum. However, to briefly summarize the parasite gets to the liver where it multiples and get released back into the bloodstream. Back in the bloodstream it infects red blood cells (RBCs) which carry oxygen around the body. In the RBCs the parasite continues to divide until it causes the RBCs to lyse releasing the parasite back into the blood where it can infect more RBCs and the cycle continues. Symptoms typical of malaria included fever, chills and sweats which occurred intermittently or ague as they used to call it, headache, N/V, muscle pain and fatigue. The most severe cases could result in respiratory failure, organ failure and death.
 
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jackt62

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Interesting question I've not thought about. The Confederacy suffered from shortages of all kinds, so a lack of quinine would not be surprising. But was it significant enough to turn the tide in favor of the Union? On its own I would say no it did not, but taken together with all the other shortages of food, forage, clothing, medicine, industrial parts, etc., I would say it played a part.
 

lelliott19

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Civil War doctors didn't connect mosquitoes to malaria, but they did recognize the value of quinine to ease symptoms. When quinine was requisitioned, Confederate medical supply officers often issued substitutes made from indigenous plants such as yellow poplar bark, tulip [poplar] tree bark, holly, black alder, hazel alder, knotgrass, boneset (thoroughwort), dogwood, and willow (a constituent of which gave rise to aspirin.) Georgia bark, which was thought to be closely related to cinchona, from which quinine was derived, was a promising substitute. Also, external application of turpentine.

There's not much documentation about the effectiveness of quinine substitutes. The quinine substitutes were generally considered useful but not nearly as effective as quinine.

Here's a link to a really good article about Confederate purveyor Francis Peyre Porcher's efforts to identify and obtain sufficient quantities of medicinal plants for use in the Confederate medical service. Link to Article
 
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gem

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A Report to the Secretary of War of the operations of the Sanitary Commission - 1861

8450F15A-5D55-45F0-A893-CCC0BD8300CF.jpeg


The above contains valuable insight into many topics including medicine and disease. It was published 1861 so it was fairly early on in the war.

Quinine was understood to be effective against malaria even prior to the war. The Union Army issued quinine (given with whiskey due to quinine's bitterness) as prophylactic treatment particularly to regiments being effected or where conditions existed where they were expected to be effected.
 
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gem

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A Report to the Secretary of War of the operations of the Sanitary Commission - 1861
Page 50

AB19D8AD-D231-48EC-8558-86137166CA63.jpeg
9F5AD839-86D9-41C2-9EDD-60216F8BCB3F.jpeg
C5D4DD0A-E5A2-44DE-8F37-8CE54D8CF0C2.jpeg
 

gem

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Messages
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Quinine is an alkaloid synthesized from the bark of cinchona, a tree native to South America. It was given prophylactically to troops by the Union to prevent symptoms of malaria. The following illustration from Harper's Weekly March 11, 1865 showed Union soldiers taking their rations of quinine and whiskey before Petersburg. Due to its bitterness , quinine was given with whiskey.

Due to supply blocks imposed by Union forces the Confederacy had a severe shortage of quinine. Thus, they tried to use various plants native to the region as a quinine substitute. From what I could gather, these other remedies were either ineffective or much less effective than quinine. Even today, quinine remains a medicine used in malaria treatment. None of the other remedies have an approved use for malaria today.


7F846C06-F354-4CEF-B2A7-41ADD1C58D23.jpeg
 
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Rhea Cole

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One of the first acts of the War Department once hostilities were declaimed was to buy up all the quinine they could lay their hands on. From that point on, Union agents, using hard currency, cornered the market in "Jesuit's Bark". One of the few items of a 19th Century medicine chest that actually had a therapeutic efffect, quinine suppressed the symptoms of malaria. Until TVA began to dam up the great rivers of the South, malaria was an annual scourge. The mosquito borne parasite is both painful & debilitating. In Middle Tennessee, wealthy families owned summer houses in the mountains to avoid the dreaded fever months. Today, TVA raises & lowers the level of reservoirs to control malaria bearing mosquitos.

The inability of Confederate medical services to acquire quinine had a devastating effect. During the Vicksburg campaign, for example, entire Confederate regiments were unavailable because so many men were suffering from malaria. Malaria sufferers are left prostrate for extended periods of time. There is no way to tough it out, there are millions of them & only one of you. The mosquitoes were definitely wearing blue.

It was not just the military that suffered from the lack of "bark". I have the journal of a plantation mistress who laments the impossibility of refreshing her store of quinine. She says that store of bark is more precious than gold, locked up like a cone of sugar.
 

gem

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Joined
Oct 26, 2012
Messages
2,813
One of the first acts of the War Department once hostilities were declaimed was to buy up all the quinine they could lay their hands on. From that point on, Union agents, using hard currency, cornered the market in "Jesuit's Bark". One of the few items of a 19th Century medicine chest that actually had a therapeutic efffect, quinine suppressed the symptoms of malaria. Until TVA began to dam up the great rivers of the South, malaria was an annual scourge. The mosquito borne parasite is both painful & debilitating. In Middle Tennessee, wealthy families owned summer houses in the mountains to avoid the dreaded fever months. Today, TVA raises & lowers the level of reservoirs to control malaria bearing mosquitos.

The inability of Confederate medical services to acquire quinine had a devastating effect. During the Vicksburg campaign, for example, entire Confederate regiments were unavailable because so many men were suffering from malaria. Malaria sufferers are left prostrate for extended periods of time. There is no way to tough it out, there are millions of them & only one of you. The mosquitoes were definitely wearing blue.

It was not just the military that suffered from the lack of "bark". I have the journal of a plantation mistress who laments the impossibility of refreshing her store of quinine. She says that store of bark is more precious than gold, locked up like a cone of sugar.
Great information. Thanks
 
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