Assignment 5

Assignment 5

Through the research that I have done, I have decided to change my topic to just that of the effects the sanitary conditions had on the war itself rather than relaxation in the enlistment requirements due to lack of information regarding that trend specifically in finding the regulations in a tactical/field manual or an AR (official Army Regulation) in general.

Part 1

  1. During the initiation of the Civil War, recruitment was not an issue for either side due the confidence that each respective side was sure to win and because there was a draft.  Due to this influx of recruits, the armies had difficulties supplying their forces with the appropriate food, clothing and arms to supply them.  Not having the necessary supplies for an army severely weakens a fighting forces capabilities to effectively carry out the objective.  Lack of food directly limits a soldier’s health and readiness and capability to fight which puts that soldier at a greater risk of injury and illness whether it be a heat casualty or weakening a soldier’s ability to fight off infection.  Additionally, lack of appropriate clothing leaves the soldier exposed to the elements.  Lack of appropriate clothing can range from anything to improper boots, improperly sized uniforms, or not being issued a tent.   Improper gear can lead to several health issues and put soldiers at higher risk of illness or injury such as improperly fitted clothing can lead to a higher risk of heat casualties or in different environments cold weather injuries. Heat casualties include cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke and cold weather injuries include hypothermia, frostbite, chilblain, and immersion foot.  All of those example plus the fact that soldiers lived in close quarters while stationed for the fight, creates the perfect scenario for illness to spread quickly. According to “The Sanitary Conditions of the Army of the United States”, at least 30.2% to 87.6% of each respective General’s fighting force, were in a non-fighting capability status due to illness.  The greater percentages of illness were predominant the further south one went which is to be expected due to changes in climate.
  2. Sanitary conditions or lack thereof, during the Civil War lead to high rates of disease amongst the soldiers. Soldiers were more likely to die from disease than die during combat.  The diseases encountered were dysentery, diarrhea, typhoid, pneumonia, measles, tuberculosis, and malaria.  The deadliest disease was dysentery, killing 45,000 in the Union Army and 50,000 in the Confederate Army, then followed by typhoid and malaria, each killing roughly 30,000 soldiers or 1 in 3.  The conditions that led to this level of death were that of poor sanitary standards and the living conditions in which soldiers were kept.  Simple measures such as latrine placement, proper cleaning of medical equipment, quarantine zones, and acceptable living areas, free of overcrowding, would have decreased the number of casualties by disease.  
  3. Additional to the lack of sanitary standards during that time period, medical practices were also lacking in useful, life-saving techniques.  For example, mercury was often used to treat many types of ailments through a substance called Calomel.  Today, we know that mercury is proven to be toxic to the nervous system and can be fatal.  Trivial injuries that could be treated easily today were fixed by amputation, which accounted for 75% of the surgeries performed during the Civil War. In addition to surgeries, antiseptic knowledge was unknown which lead to many post-surgical infections and eventually death.  Chloroform was used as an anesthetic to aid in surgeries although some doctors relied solely on “surgical shock” to perform surgeries.  The main reason that medical professionals were performing such poor operations and practices is that they simply did not know any better.  To quote Surgeon General William Hammond, the surgeon general from 1862-1864, the Civil War was “the end of the medical Middle Ages.”  More modern and sanitary practices didn’t occur until about the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries.


The lack of preventative measures and care during the Civil War led to widespread disease and preventable deaths.  With about two thirds of soldiers dying due to diseases, poor sanitary standards and medical practices contributed a large factor in the outcome of the war.



Record of the sanitary conditions of the army and gives details as to what the lives of a soldier in the Civil War and denotes the standards and diseases encountered during that period.  It is the record that sparked my interest for this project.

U.S. Army account and detailing of what heat casualties are and how to recognize and prevent them.  Mainly used this as backup reference to get accurate data.

U.S. Army account and detailing of what cold weather injuries are and how to recognize and prevent them. Mainly used this as backup reference to get accurate data.



Gave account of the medical practices during the Civil War and allowed me to place it in a timeline of the advancements in medicine.

An good analysis on the medicinal practices that took place during the Civil War and gave insight to the conditions soldiers faced.

A brief history on the beginning of the Sanitary Commision and how it has changed over the years. This allowed me to produce a mental timeline of the USSC and relate it to the Civil War.

An explanation on the living conditions a soldier experienced living in a military camp during the Civil War. Was very important in assessing sanitary conditions and the risks involved.

An account of the most common diseases encountered by medical professionals during the Civil War and provided statistics.

An account of medicinal practices during the Civil War and how ineffective they were.

A list of commonly asked questions about the Civil War and their answers, several of which pertained or related to my topic.

An account of the recruitment trends and the reality around it during the Civil War.




11 thoughts on “Assignment 5”

  1. You said that the large number of soldiers caused there to be insufficient supplies which caused increased injury to soldiers. In addition, even the soldiers who did receive supplies could be affected because soldiers would throw away any extra supplies they were carrying on long marches or in battle to avoid carrying more weight than they had to.

    1. In a time of shortage of supplies I feel that soldiers would cling to any gear that they could get their hands on. On average, a Civil War soldier carried 50lbs which is not a lot compared to todays soldiers carring roughly 100lbs+. Although, I can see soldiers throwing away their extra supplies compared to others to not stand out or be picked on etc.

  2. Sanitary conditions were certainly a huge problem of the military. In my research for my topic about how food or the lack of it had such a huge impact on the south during the war, I came across a lot articles that had medicinal recipes for confederate soldiers on how to cure themselves of different illnesses like chills, measles and diarrhoea. All the remedies sound almost as bad as the sicknesses they are suppose to cure. These were published in hopes of lowering the death rates of soldiers in camps. The lack of proper medical care must have contributed to the unsanitary conditions. You may be interested in issues from the magazine, The Southern Cultivator during the civil war years.

  3. It’s very surprising to most people to learn that in war the biggest source of casualties are sickness and disease. A huge part of that was through not having sanitary sources of water and infected wounds. In my research I found that shoes were actually a huge point of contention for both sides and at the end of battles the victors would take shoes from the captured or dead enemies. One of the reason the battle of Gettysburg took place was due to it being the home to a major shoe factory.

  4. I agree with you that a large number of soldiers is one of the causes to insufficient supplies. This would become a negative circle that insufficient supplies caused more injuries. What’s more, this would be considered as one cause to the defeat of battle. On the contrary, as for soldiers who get enough or excessive supplies, those supplies may become a burden for soldiers during the period of battle.

  5. I am really interested in your topic because no matter what reports and sources I read, I too speculated and was proven at times that many men died because of poor living conditions that ailed them with disease. Really great topic!

  6. I think this is a really interesting topic. So often, when we think of the war, we focus solely on what happened on the battlefield. But, based off of your research, it seems that non-combat related issues had just as much of an impact, if not more so, than the combat-related events. Very insightful topic, shedding light on an unseen side of the war.

  7. Before reading your post I really had no idea that the sanitary conditions of the war had such a dire effect on the soldiers. I found it very interesting and shocking the amount of soldiers who died from disease. It seems that even though such a large number of people were dying little was done to stop the spread of these diseases during the war to try a prevent the number from growing. I also found it interesting to compare the types of medical care to what you discuss in your post and to see how far the field has advanced in treating injuries such as those sustained in the Civil War.

  8. Robert,

    What an interesting research topic! Very unorthodox and attention-grabbing, which is exactly up my alley! You have done quite a lot of research on the topic and it is astonishing looking at exactly how abundant disease was in the war. If you have the ability to find such information, I would be interested to see if the use of “chemical warfare” (smallpox blankets) was common between various forces.

  9. Throughout this class, I have found it fascinating to consider how far America has come since its conception. There have been great changes in blacks’ rights, technology, state status, government, amendments, and perhaps most forgotten is sanitary conditions. Reading through the main diseases that people died from during the Civil War ought to make us so thankful for all of the better medical care and medication that is now available to us. I look forward to hearing about some of your conclusions and perhaps some of the ways that medical care changed throughout the war.

  10. I’m really interested in your topic even though it’s never crossed my mind until now. Stepping outside in the summer heat already sucks, I can’t even imagine fighting during this time of year in the muggy South. Throw in the poor sanitation, trench fighting and countless bodies and it’s a literal cesspool. No wonder so many people died.

Leave a Reply