Tuesday, January 8, 2013

January 9, 1863 (Friday): The Health of the Army

Lafayette Guild

MEDICAL DIRECTOR'S OFFICE, Army of Northern Virginia, January 9, 1863.
Dr. S. P. MOORE,
Surgeon-General, C. S. Army:
    SIR: Herewith I transmit the consolidated monthly report of sick and wounded, and the monthly return of medical officers of this army for the month of November, 1862, together with the list of casualties* in the battle of Fredericksburg. This list is considerably larger than was at first estimated.
     At present there are about sixty of variola and varioloid in this army. These cases have invariably occurred among the men who have recently returned to duty from the general hospitals, particularly from Richmond. Could not a system of quarantine be adopted, by which the soldier returning to duty from general hospitals might be retained sufficiently long to insure an immunity from the contagion?
     I believe our exemption from a fearful epidemic of small-pox is owing to our present mode of life, viz, bivouacking in the open air. When we go into winter quarters, I fear the health of the troops will not remain so good. There is a tendency to scorbutus throughout the whole army. Unless there is an increase of the vegetable portion of the ration, scurvy make its appearance. None of the component parts of the ration, except flour and unsmoked bacon, with beef occasionally, of inferior, are issued. Vinegar and potatoes are absolutely necessary for the maintenance of the health of the troops, and I would most respectfully request you to impress it upon the Subsistence Department that our next campaign may be a disastrous one, simply for the want of antiscorbutic. The condition of the Army of Northern Virginia is
remarkably fine, and nothing is needed so much as proper food to complete its efficiency.
     I inclose a rough draught of orders or regulations intended for promoting the efficiency of our department in the field, and request that you may give this your consideration. After mature reflection, I am convinced that many evils now existing will be corrected by its adoption. This paper has been submitted to General Lee, and meets with his unqualified approval. Should you deem it unnecessary to incorporate it in the medical regulations, the general is still desirous of having its requirements adopted for the guidance of this army, and has instructed me to furnish him with the number and names of medical officers who are to constitute the members of the staff corps of the medical department of the Army of Northern Virginia. When this is accomplished, and additional number of about forty medical officers will be required, and I would respectfully request that the same number, if available, be ordered to report to me with as little delay as practicable.
     I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

    L. GUILD,
    Surgeon, and Medical Director Army of Northern Virginia.

*See p.558. 

Official Records, Series I., Vol.21, Part 1, Pages 1084-1085.

Variola and varioloid are types of small pox.  Antiscorbutic is a term dealing with prevention of scurvy.  Guild was just 37, but was the medical director of the Army of Northern Virginia and would keep the job through the end of the war.  He was a pioneer in the study of yellow fever, both before and after the war.

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