Saturday, August 14, 2010
Misery in the Trans-Mississippi
Diseases killed far more men than bullets did during the American Civil War, but historians tend to focus their attention on dramatic events such as battles. Disease, though, could have far more impact on a military unit than a battle. Recently, I read an interesting book by Andrew McIlwaine Bell titled Mosquito Soldiers: Malaria, Yellow Fever, And The Course Of The American Civil War (
: Louisiana State University Press, 2010). According to Baton Rouge Bell, “mosquito-borne disease posed the greatest threat to military personnel serving west of the Mississippi River. In fact, the two states where mosquitoes were the most troublesome were both within the region the Confederacy dubbed the Trans-Mississippi Department. For the Union the Department of Arkansas held the ignoble distinction of being its most malarious. Between 1863 and 1865 there were an astonishing 1,287 cases of malaria each year for every 1,000 northern soldiers assigned to the state. experienced more yellow fever outbreaks than any other state in the Confederacy. Southern soldiers stationed in port towns such as Texas Galveston, Lavaca, and burned with fever and spewed black vomit before drawing their last breath. But west of the Sabine City malaria was a far more pervasive problem” (p. 101). Trans-Mississippi soldiers also struggled with many other diseases such as measles and dysentery. I will focus on some of the most disease ridden places in the trans-Mississippi in some of my upcoming postings.