Healthy Hints for Soldiers

John Hartwell

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#1
The Boston Herald of February 4, 1864, printed a list of "Items for Soldiers ... Which if studied and lived up to by our soldiers in the field cannot but prove most valuable, and would save he life of many a brave man." Taken from Hall's Journal of Health:

"Swallowing poison. Stir in a glass of water a heaping teaspoonfull each of salt and kitchen mustard, and drink it instantly -- this will empty the stomach in a minute. To antagonize any poison that may be left, swallow the white of two or three eggs; then drink a cup or two of very strong coffee, or as much sweet milk or cream, if impossible to get coffee.

"Poisoned vines. Apply a paste made of gunpowder, or sulphur, with milk; renew night and morning until cured. Live on gruel, soups, rice, and other mild food, having the bowels to act twice a day.

"Signs of death. Bury no man unless his head is off, or the abdomen begins to turn green or dark, the only sure signs, and always sure of actual death. If there is haste, cut off a toe or finger, which would wake up the slightest spark of life left.

"To stop bleeding. Four or five drops of Perchloride of Iron will check completely the flow of blood from all except the largest arteries; half a teaspoon will arrest even their bleeding. Each non-commissioned officer should have two ounces of this in a flat tin bottle, wound around with a little cotton batting, on a bit of which the liquid could be dropped for application.

"Inner clothing. Every garment that touches a soldier's skin should be woolen in all seasons -- most important in the warmest weather. It is impossible to over-estimate the value of this one item to the health of an army.

"Saving life. In the first seven months of the Crimean campaign, the soldiers died at the rate of 60 out of 100 per annum, while for the last five months of the war not many more soldiers died of disease as at home, owing to a more systematic and rigid attention to five things; 1st. Selecting healthful camps; 2d. Enforcing strict cleanliness; 3d. Avoiding unnecessary exposure; 4th. Proper preparation of healthful food; 5th. Judicious nursing."
 

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Cavalry Charger

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"Signs of death. Bury no man unless his head is off, or the abdomen begins to turn green or dark, the only sure signs, and always sure of actual death. If there is haste, cut off a toe or finger, which would wake up the slightest spark of life left.
I would have thought a lack of respiration would have sorted that one out! Still, just to be on the safe side...

On a more serious note, though, I have the impression during this era there was a terrible fear of being buried alive, so if that was the case (and they sometimes got it wrong), I'd opt for the finger or the toe just to be sure, to be sure :wink:
 

John Hartwell

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I would have thought a lack of respiration would have sorted that one out! Still, just to be on the safe side...

On a more serious note, though, I have the impression during this era there was a terrible fear of being buried alive, so if that was the case (and they sometimes got it wrong), I'd opt for the finger or the toe just to be sure, to be sure :wink:
Before a burial at sea, old-time sailors supposedly ran a needle through the cartilage of the deceased's nose -- figuring, I guess, if anything would raise the dead, that would do it!
 

Cavalry Charger

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ran a needle through the cartilage of the deceased's nose
I'd say that would do it! These are all seeking response to pain, but potentially not indicative of death if the patient is unconscious, as in this state they may be unable to show they are in pain. Another method used more recently is to rub the knuckles over the sternum to see if you get a response (if you try it you'll see what I mean).
 
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JPK Huson 1863

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"Inner clothing. Every garment that touches a soldier's skin should be woolen in all seasons -- most important in the warmest weather. It is impossible to over-estimate the value of this one item to the health of an army.

This is the one which gives me the willies! Chopping off fingers would be nothing compared to wool in 90% humidity- no blends for soldiers! We grew up wearing good, oily Canadian wool- knitted everythinggggg, like good Scots. I think the rash from tying hats under the chin ( no ribbons, thank you, all crocheted wool there, too ) is still there, much less kilts ( real tartans, those leather buckles were a big pain, wrapped wool is 3 times the itch ) raising hives around one's knees. There are 3 Fair Isle sweaters in the closet making me itch as I write this, from 3 rooms away- can you imagine all those poor men at Gettysburg, July in PA, wearing wool?
 

John Hartwell

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This is the one which gives me the willies! Chopping off fingers would be nothing compared to wool in 90% humidity- no blends for soldiers! We grew up wearing good, oily Canadian wool- knitted everythinggggg, like good Scots. I think the rash from tying hats under the chin ( no ribbons, thank you, all crocheted wool there, too ) is still there, much less kilts ( real tartans, those leather buckles were a big pain, wrapped wool is 3 times the itch ) raising hives around one's knees. There are 3 Fair Isle sweaters in the closet making me itch as I write this, from 3 rooms away- can you imagine all those poor men at Gettysburg, July in PA, wearing wool?
And yet, they were! Civil War uniforms, North AND South, were made of wool! There were, indeed, a lot of "red necks" at Gettysburg ... on both sides!

Not everybody is sensitive to "wool itch." And some types of wool (Merino, for instance) is less likely to cause irritation. How tightly the yarn is spun, and how it is woven also affect both its weight and its itchiness ... also how it is cleaned.

What do our reenactors have to say on the subject?
 

captaindrew

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And yet, they were! Civil War uniforms, North AND South, were made of wool! There were, indeed, a lot of "red necks" at Gettysburg ... on both sides!

Not everybody is sensitive to "wool itch." And some types of wool (Merino, for instance) is less likely to cause irritation. How tightly the yarn is spun, and how it is woven also affect both its weight and its itchiness ... also how it is cleaned.

What do our reenactors have to say on the subject?
Personally I'm pretty comfortable in wool in the heat. My undergarments get pretty wet and the wool breaths a little bit so I don't think it's too bad but then again I live in Florida and work outside and wear long sleeve shirts and pants to protect from the sun so I may be more used to it. You have to remember those soldiers lived outside 24/7 and there was no AC and had to have become acclimated with thier climate.
 
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#9
I'd say that would do it! These are all responses to pain, but potentially not indicative of death if the patient is unconscious, as in this state they may be unable to show they are in pain. Another method used more recently is to rub the knuckles over the sternum to see if you get a response (if you try it you'll see what I mean).
Having been a paramedic back in the '80s, I know the knuckles on the sternum works. I also once "cured" an unresponsive patient be starting an IV with the biggest angiocath I had. :smile:
 

JohnW.

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#10
"Signs of death. Bury no man unless his head is off, or the abdomen begins to turn green or dark, the only sure signs, and always sure of actual death. If there is haste, cut off a toe or finger, which would wake up the slightest spark of life left.
Today we use ice calorics as part of determining brain death....supposed to be the most painful thing known to human beings...if you get any response from this...you are not dead. :D
 

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View attachment 167589

" In doubtful cases of actual death ". I'm not sure if this one rang a bell on the surface- some did. You do wonder if anyone hearing this kind of thing, walking through a cemetery would imagine there's a living person underground or flee.
I think I'm preparing to run @JPK Huson 1863 :eek::eek:. Back from the dead?? Halloween seemed to be a year round tradition back in the day, going by some of the creepy cards on the Christmas card thread!
 

JPK Huson 1863

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Personally I'm pretty comfortable in wool in the heat. My undergarments get pretty wet and the wool breaths a little bit so I don't think it's too bad but then again I live in Florida and work outside and wear long sleeve shirts and pants to protect from the sun so I may be more used to it. You have to remember those soldiers lived outside 24/7 and there was no AC and had to have become acclimated with thier climate.

Thank you! It is genuinely a puzzle to me, so appreciate the reply. So odd! Was it Green who died of heat stroke, retiring to his plantation in Georgia after the Revolution? Guessing people just become acclimated and do not notice what would flatten someone else. The thought that wool ' breathes ' never occurred to me, thinking it just, plain hot! Brand, new information, so good to know.

The Nova Scotia Scots genes are still running screaming into the nearest frigid ocean but good to know.
 

JPK Huson 1863

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I think I'm preparing to run @JPK Huson 1863 :eek::eek:. Back from the dead?? Halloween seemed to be a year round tradition back in the day, going by some of the creepy cards on the Christmas card thread!

Is that thread back? Aren't some of them hysterical? I mean, Christmas, really? Once in awhile you see where a dreary, determined dirge like Poe found a fan base, goodness.
 
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#17
View attachment 167589

" In doubtful cases of actual death ". I'm not sure if this one rang a bell on the surface- some did. You do wonder if anyone hearing this kind of thing, walking through a cemetery would imagine there's a living person underground or flee.
This was a very real fear for many back then. In the 1920s my Grandpa made extra money by helping an undertaker with odd jobs and once helped move a body from one cemetery to another. When Grandpa and the undertaker dug up the casket, the undertaker opened it and the body was on its side, hands over the face, and there were scratches on the lid. That story gave me nightmares for a while.
 

captaindrew

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Thank you! It is genuinely a puzzle to me, so appreciate the reply. So odd! Was it Green who died of heat stroke, retiring to his plantation in Georgia after the Revolution? Guessing people just become acclimated and do not notice what would flatten someone else. The thought that wool ' breathes ' never occurred to me, thinking it just, plain hot! Brand, new information, so good to know.

The Nova Scotia Scots genes are still running screaming into the nearest frigid ocean but good to know.
Don't get me wrong, when it's hot it's hot, wool or no wool. When you have a good sweat going underneath it keeps it bearable. You have to watch yourself, when you stop sweating you're in trouble. And it's no joke when the experienced guys are walking around yelling at everybody to hydrate. I'm sure back then they had the same issues in hot weather but they were in it 24/7 and of course were much younger and thinner than most reenactors. (myself included) If you're inside in the AC all week and go out on the weekend and put wool on in 90 degree heat it's not going to be good. Like I said before I'm out in the heat every day so it doesn't get to me as bad as some. I believe that was Green who died of heat stroke. During the Rev war battle of Monmouth in NJ it was extremely hot and there were many cases of soldiers dying of heat stroke. I don't recall reading of any CW battles where there was an extreme number of heat stroke victims, I'm sure it must have happened. Maybe somebody can chime in on that.
 

lelliott19

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I don't recall reading of any CW battles where there was an extreme number of heat stroke victims, I'm sure it must have happened. Maybe somebody can chime in on that.
On the march from Williamsport to Gettysburg (June 26-July 1, 1863; by way of Hagerstown, Middleburg, Greencastle, Chambersburg, and Cashtown), the regimental historian of the 18th Georgia recalled:

The troops suffered very severely on this march from the excessive heat; so great was it indeed that as many as one hundred cases of sun-stroke occurred in the division (McLaws' Division) during one day. [1]
[1] https://archive.org/stream/heroesmartyrsofg00fols#page/18/mode/2up
 
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#20
I think they used to put a string inside coffins with a bell hanging on the outside in case the "deceased" finally figured out he or she needed to get out of there!
That's also why someone was supposed to sit with the encoffined corpse until the burial, to be able to hear the bell. The phrase "Saved by the bell" supposedly comes from this custom. My source is a lecture on mourning customs given locally a few years ago.
 

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