Disease in the Civil War
There were many diseases that killed numerous soldiers because they were at that time lesser-known, untreatable, or unpreventable. Some of the major ones were pneumonia, typhoid, and dysentery. Pneumonia, although commonly diagnosed and treated today, killed 20,000 Union soldiers and 17,000 Confederate soldiers. This inflammatory condition of the lungs has been around for centuries, but its biggest strike was the Civil War. The bacterial disease typhoid fever was another predominant ailment; it killed 35,000 in the Union and 30,000 in the Confederacy. Dysentery, an inflammatory condition of the colon, was the biggest killer of them all: it took the lives of nearly 45,000 men in the Union army and 50,000 in the Confederate.
Many factors caused these deadly diseases. One of which was exposure to the elements: the soldiers on both sides encountered all types of weather such as extreme hot and cold, rain, sleet, and snow that lowered their bodys’ ability to resist disease. Another contributor was the diet: the foods , such as hardtack and cornbread, lacked in vital nutrients and most soldiers were drastically underfed. The final blow to the health of the men was the poor hygiene: there was garbage strewn all over the camp, drinking water contaminated by latrines, and soldiers covered with unimaginable filth. The combination of all these factors made it nearly impossible to stay healthy. As one can imagine, all of these diseases affected the war greatly. The first couple of months were almost unbearable for the civilians-turned-soldiers because of their new conditions; there was the cold, squalid camp, apprehension of an upcoming battle, and dying comrades to ensure that the danger of disease never slipped anyone’s mind. It’s no mystery why many chose to desert their armies. Disease also extended the war by about two years: Often times, an ambush or battle had to be delayed because of the lack of healthy, battle-ready soldiers. Perhaps...
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