Nature's Civil War
Common Soldiers and the Environment in 1862 Virginia
Publication Year: 2013
Meier explores how soldiers forged informal networks of health care based on prewar civilian experience and adopted a universal set of self-care habits, including boiling water, altering camp terrain, eradicating insects, supplementing their diets with fruits and vegetables, constructing protective shelters, and most controversially, straggling. In order to improve their health, soldiers periodically had to adjust their ideas of manliness, class values, and race to the circumstances at hand. While self-care often proved superior to relying upon the inchoate military medical infrastructure, commanders chastised soldiers for testing army discipline, ultimately redrawing the boundaries of informal health care.
Published by: The University of North Carolina Press
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Title Page, Copyright
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At one point in time, the manuscript of this book was absurdly replete with examples and unnecessarily didactic. Good-natured and highly re-spectable people more than did their parts in attempting to steer me back Chief among these people is Gary W. Gallagher. His advice kept me in graduate school in dark days, and his unfl agging support and trust has ...
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Civil war changed Virginia. In 1862, the blue-green patchwork of Shenan-doah Valley hills and farms and the immense, slithering rivers of the Peninsula, so picturesque from a distance, became more like sprawling latrines to the hundreds of thousands of humans who hunkered down to make war. Regiments and their horses rapidly fouled the water supplying ...
1 Health and the American Populace before 1862
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In their wartime journals and correspondence, soldiers fi xated upon cat-aloging their natural environments. Pvt. William Randolph Smith of the 17th Virginia, for example, wrote in March 1862, “There is the fi nest pine timber on the road I ever saw. . . . The farms are also fi ne and fertile. . . . From Robison River to the Rapidan is the fi nest country I ever saw. The ...
2 At War with Nature
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Just a few days into fi rst encampment, soldiers had to reexamine the pre-sumption that those raised on the fresh air of country life had superior constitutions to the urban-bred. “Death invaded my camp,” observed Capt. George Clark of Alabama, astonished by the swiftness of this transfor-mation. Predictably, measles, mumps, small pox, scarlet fever, whooping ...
3 Soldiers and Official Military Health Care
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Before the war, common soldiers could scarcely have imagined the sprawl-ing, alien medical systems that would be constructed by the United States and the Confederacy. Properly supporting soldier health necessitated the consideration of supply lines and camp sanitation, sick call and diagnostic procedures in the ranks, treatment at regimental and remote hospitals, ...
4 Becoming a Seasoned Soldier
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Given the tremendous environmental pressures on mental and physical health and the unreliable nature of the Confederate and Union military medical systems, common soldiers attempted to reconstruct personal, informal networks of environmental information and health care based on their prewar experiences. This unoffi cial system would be based on ...
5 Straggling and the Limits of Self-Care
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The regimentation of military life was intended to deny individuality. In doing so, it aimed to fortify mental health by serving as a barrier against inaction, resignation, and reluctance to kill and physical health by regu-lating camp behavior and hygiene. It compelled soldiers to complete the mundane and unpalatable duties necessary to maintaining an army, typi-...
CONCLUSION: Self-Care beyond 1862
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On May 22, 1862, New York artillerist George Perkins lay in camp lis-tening to the thuds of hail “as big as marbles and some as big as English walnuts.” Though his “little tent stood the storm well,” the private was sodden and, over the course of the night, developed a raging fever. The next morning, he dropped out of his battery to wander the bewilder-...
APPENDIX 1 Figures
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APPENDIX 2 Tables
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Note: The totals for location/health may be more than the number of soldiers in the sample because some soldiers were concerned about the health of their regiment in addition to expressing information (a) Confederate soldiers who reported on both mental and physical health (n=37)(b) Union soldiers who reported on both mental and physical health (n=four.lt7)...
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Page Count: 240
Illustrations: 2 line drawings, 1 map
Publication Year: 2013
Series Title: Civil War America