* OFFICIAL *
Regtl. Staff Chickamauga 2018
- Mar 15, 2013
Scrofula is a disease caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It's the same bacteria that causes Tuberculosis, but in scrofula, the bacteria affects the lymph glands instead of the lungs. Since tuberculosis was fairly common during the Civil War, cases of scrofula were also fairly common. Nobody knew about bacteria so it was common for whole families to get it.
Back in the 17th and 18th centuries, people called it "King's evil" because it was thought the only way for someone to be cured of it was to be touched by a member of the Royal family. In reality, the only way cure scrofula is a regimen of powerful antibiotics, taken over several months. At the time of the Civil War, there were no antibiotics --- and there wouldn't be any that could cure scrofula for a long time.
I've never seen a period image of a person who has scrofula, but I think it's possible that this is one - father and son. First of all, the older gentleman on the right (the father) looks like he is very sick and probably has been for some time. See the dark circles under his eyes? And his eyes and cheeks look sunk in. His lips look very white and his color overall is very bad. It is possible that he has tuberculosis.
The symptoms of scrofula include fever, malaise, night sweats, and unexplained weight loss. But the most noticeable symptom is swollen lymph nodes on the neck that form nodules. These nodules increase in size over time and may spread to other places.
At first glance the young man on the left (son) looks relatively healthy. He is in good weight and his color looks better. But on closer inspection, it seems he has a large lump or lesion on his temple, wrapping around his eye, as well as some possible swelling under his chin that reduced it's definition.
Like I said, I have never seen a period image of a person with scrofula, but if I had to guess, I'd opine that this image is one. Perhaps the son, knowing his father was very ill and not likely to live much longer, wanted a picture before his father died? Desire for an image with his father overcame vanity and he chose to have his likeness taken, even though he was exhibiting symptoms of scrofula?