View Full Version : Foot care for the soldier.

Regular DOC
01-16-2009, 11:38 AM
After my treadmill workout today I noticed a good size blister on my instep when I took off my shoes and socks. While attending to the nefarious little bugger I got to thinking about how much of a nightmare footcare must have been for the troops especially early in their careers. Does anyone have any good articles on the subject. I will be doing some web searching but any help would be a beneift.

Pvt Schnapps
01-16-2009, 10:47 PM
You can start with Scott's Military Dictionary:


The advice on blisters is repeated in (or repeats) a number of other period works:

"To cure blistered Feet." Rub the feet at going to bed with spirits mixed with tallow dropped from a candle into the palm of the hand ; on the following morning no blister will exist. The spirits seem to possess the healing power, the tallow serving only to keep the skin soft and pliant. This is Captain Cochrane's advice, and the remedy was used by him in his pedestrian tour ; " (murray's Handbook of Switzerland.') The receipt is excellent; all pedestrians and all teachers of gymnastics endorse it, and it cannot be too widely known. To prevent the feet from blistering, it is a good plan to soap the inside of the stocking before setting out, making a good lather all over it; and a raw egg broken into a boot, before putting it on, greatly softens the leather. After some hours' walking, when the feet are beginning to be chafed, take off the shoes, and change the stockings; putting what was the right stocking on the left foot, and the left stocking on the right foot. Or, if one foot only hurts, take off the boot, and turn the stocking inside out."

Other works discuss when to wash the feet and the necessity of drying them before turning in. Try the Cornell University "Making of America" site. I recall an article called "Forced Marches" that had some good advice. Other titles in Google Books that provide more or less information on the subject include "Treatise on Hygiene", "Domestic Medicine", "Hints for Camping", "Mountain Scouting", and Sir Garnet Wolseley's "Soldier's Pocketbook." Enjoy!

01-18-2009, 11:58 AM
I wonder if an application of bag balm would do after all a blister is the result of prolonged chafing

01-28-2009, 11:41 AM
As Michael is the only one who has offered anything based on period documentation and research, I will provide two examples written by medical officers, both Confederate. I trust someone portraying a federal surgeon will have in his collection of period manuals and texts something which he can offer the forum from the federal perspective.

From "The Southern Soldiers Health Guide," by John Stainback Wilson M.D., A. A. Surgeon PACS, Richmond 1863:

Care of the feet - Blistered feet should be bathed in cold water, and then a plaster made of hog's lard, worked up with a finely-powdered chalk or flour, should be applied. It is said that rubbing soap into the socks will prevent blistering. Corns should be well soaked in warm water, closely trimmed, and then one or two wafers should be placed on them The feet should be bathed every morning in cold water to harden the skin, allay and prevent irritation, and guard against cold. A cold foot bath every morning is the best of all remidies for cold feet, and is the best preventative of "colds" and internal congestions.

From "A Manual for Military Surgery, " by Julian J. Chisolm M.D., Surgeon CS Army, 3rd Edition, Columbia 1864

During the mid-day rest, if any opportunity exists, the shoes and stockings should be removed and the feet bathed, which, by removing dirt and acid secretions, will prevent excoriations. It may also be advantageous, at such times, to change the socks from one foot to the other, so the seams may come at different portions of the foot, which will prebvent continued and injurious pressure. Soaping the sock will also prevent excoriations, and add much to the comfort of a soldier while on the march.

I found no mention of the topic in the first edition of Chisolm which was published in 1861.

As with many subjects, you will need to go beyond the keyboard to find the answers and delve into the original text.