View Full Version : I don't think it was from a lack of trying

02-29-2008, 10:41 AM

Reading this paper written by surgeons who served at Andersonville, you can get a sense of just how bad things were. Even they complain about the lack of medical resources and rations for the prisoners. I found the result of the small pox innocculations to be inetresting. I wonder what exactly they were using. It apparently failed miserably, whatever it was. This is what happens when BBQ and slaw is not readily available.

Mar Campbell
Piney Flats, TN

02-29-2008, 12:51 PM
From the article:

Consequently we went to work, and in a week or ten days 2,000 or 3,000 were vaccinated. Out of these nearly every man who happened to be affected with scurvy was attacked with ulceration of the pustule. These small ulcers soon began to slough and extend over a large extent of surface. These sloughs would become detached, the parts beneath suppurate, as in the case of other ulcers in a sloughy condition, until at last the ulcer would become phagedenic and destroy every structure in its track for a considerable extent. In this condition gangrene would set in, and if the disease be not speedily arrested by powerful escharotics, emollient poultices, and the proper vegetable diet, amputation became necessary, or the poor wretch would sink under the irritation; diarrhea or dysentery would supervene and speedily destroy the patient.

There was an accusation that surgeons had deliberately poisoned the Andersonville vaccine matter with syphilis, but there was no proof, and of course, in hindsight, that would hardly be necessary to account for the consequences.

For more on the vaccinations, here's some testimony from the Henry Wirz trial:


It sounds like a tragic combination of possibly contaminated vaccine matter, unsterile instruments, and poor healing of the patients due to Vitamin C (and other) deficiencies.

John McElroy also described the grangrene-like consequences and wrote afterwards:

We thought at the time that the Rebels had deliberately poisoned the vaccine matter with syphilitic virus, and it was so charged upon them. I do not now believe that this was so; I can hardly think that members of the humane profession of medicine would be guilty of such subtle diabolismóworse even than poisoning the wells from which an enemy must drink. The explanation with which I have satisfied myself is that some careless or stupid practitioner took the vaccinating lymph from diseased human bodies, and thus infected all with the blood venom, without any conception of what he was doing. The low standard of medical education in the South makes this theory quite plausible. From http://www.gutenberg.org/files/4257/4257-h/4257-h.htm#ch12

This is what happens when BBQ and slaw is not readily available.

Literally. :) Raw cabbage would have been a good source of scurvy-preventing Vitamin C.

I also liked the mention of trying various indigenous medicines.

Hank Trent