02-05-2009, 10:23 PM
In case someone has already looked into this, I thought I'd ask first. Any ideas on what medicines would be available to a civilian in late-war rural Louisiana, and what would be affected by shortages? Would the average household still have laudanum, calomel, etc.?
02-07-2009, 09:39 PM
Thanks to some private correspondence and research on my own, I thought I'd share what I found so far.
Apparently, the governor of Louisiana opened a laboratory to make medicines, which he distributed at low or no cost to citizens of the state through a dispensary in Shreveport. It happened sometime in 1864, but I don't know if it was operating by March, when we're portraying. Also, it seems that a fairly large quantity of drugs was being smuggled up from Mexico. I can't find what specifically was made in the laboratory and distributed, though presumably it was indigenous medicines, or what was coming from Mexico. Certainly one couldn't go wrong with indigenous medicines for an 1864 impression, but I'd love to know when the Shreveport dispensary opened.
Below are some quotes from websites.
January 1865 report of Gov. Allen to the Louisiana state legislature:
The sum of five hundred thousand dollars was appropriated by you for the purchase of medicines for the families of soldiers. To obtain enough to make the distribution contemplated by the Act was found impracticable. I therefore established a Dispensary at this place [Shreveport], from which every portion of the State has been supplied as far as possible. Every parish has, I believe, derived benefit from this Dispensary. To none has medicine been denied. To the poor and destitute it has been given "without money and without price." For a statement of the affairs of this establishment, I respectfully refer you to the report of Surgeon General Amzi Martin. [I haven't been able to find that report--wish I could.] You will see that he has furnished to citizens of the State medicines at about one-third of the market price here, to the value of
$274,972; that he has distributed for charitable purposes $13,790 worth; and that the nett profits for five months amount to about $50,000, all of which has been paid into the State Treasury. Although my agents have been very active, they have succeeded, at great personal risk and labor, in keeping the Dispensary only partially supplied. I have found it exceedingly difficult to procure medicines for the people, as the enemy took a malignant pleasure in destroying all drug-stores in their march through the lower portion of the State, and by a refinement of cruelty, have declared all medicines contraband of war. Notwithstanding all these difficulties, I am happy to inform you that I have received a large supply from Mexico--amply sufficient for many months to come. Every citizen of Louisiana can now be abundantly supplied with medicines of all kinds.
Then Allen established his system of State stores, factories, foundries. He arranged a State Dispensary, from which the people were furnished with pure medicines at cost price. This supplied a most important need, as none can know so well as those who have seen beloved ones perishing while they were forced to stand by helplessly and hopelessly, unable to procure for love or money the ounce of quinine, that might have prolonged their precious lives.
The medicines were sold reasonably for Confederate and State money, and "were given to the poorest people with money and without price." The Federals had declared all medicines contraband of war. We were reduced to the use of herbs, tisans, barks, and all indigenous vegetable medicaments. Allen established his laboratories for the preparation of these indigenous medicines. They were of inestimable, inappreciable value to the people.
sometime after Allen becomes governor in 1864:
A state laboratory is organized at Mt. Lebanon Women's Academy in Minden to make and distribute medicine and a medical dispensary is established in Shreveport.
From the OR's, General Taylor wrote from Alexandria, Feb 16, 1864
Medicines, which, being light articles, are easily transported and smuggled through their lines, are coming in in considerable quantities, and I think the wants of this district, and perhaps of the Trans-Mississippi Department, can be supplied as to needful medicines...
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