Saturday, September 3, 2011

Help us Jefferson Davis!

Jefferson Davis must have received numerous requests and petitions, and here is one of them.  This entry is a letter signed by 34 patients of a Charlottesville, Virginia Confederate hospital, petitioning Davis to help with a situation of incompetent medical care and disease-causing food. This letter can be found at the U. S. National Archives website.

Hospital at Charlottesville Sep 3rd 1861
To his Excellency Jefferson Davis, Pres. Confed. States America
Dear Sir

We would humbly pray you to come to our help. Disease is wasting away the glorious Army of the Potomac.  We have lost 10 times as many men by sickness as by warfare.  We come to you because we regard you as our great chief, who is able and willing and anxious to reform all abuses.

What more enormous abuse than this -- one fifth of the army sick and no additional means used to prevent the spread of the fearful pestilence!  We humbly protest that three fourths of the surgeons of the army are wholly unfit for their positions -- especially those who have been transferred into the confederate service from that of the state of Virginia and who were all appointed for political reasons and not with a view to their qualifications.  The lives of hundreds of brave men will die at the door of the men in authority who let such base motives influence the in a matter so vital to all our interests.  These surgeons have not ordered nor enforced the most ordinary sanitary requirements. . . .

. . . . We would, besides, humbly call your attention to another and a most important matter.  We believe ours is the only army of modern times that attempts to cook their own wheaten bread.  Whether so or not, this is a grand mistake.  The horrid mixtures which pass in the army for bread are enough to destroy the health of any amry that uses them.  There is not one man in the whole army that would not infinitely prefer his rations in hard bread, prepared in Richmond by good, professional bakers.  Such a change would be received with shouts by multitudes of suffering men and grateful thanks would be rendered to the man who shall effect it.  This bread forwarded from Richmond would even at the distance of a week or more from baking, surpass the present food as ambrosia surpasses the vilest food of the Feejees.  We earnestly pray God that the army may have reason to hail your name as their great friend and deliver in this respect.  Many (full 2/3rds) of these signing this petition trace their suffering (some from diarrhea, some from dysentery and many from typhoid fever) to this horrid bread.  Typhoid fever is fast becoming the scourge and dread of the army and this awful fare is the main and true source of this disease.
Wounded soldiers in hospital, ca. 1860 - ca. 1865, from U S National Archives

No comments:

Post a Comment