Disease not only was the major cause of mortality during the civil war but what affect on the the performance of the the commanders and their troops did it have? Probably profound. For example, Lee's heart symptoms from Gettysburg to the Appomatox, Ewell's leg ailments, Hill's numerous bouts of prostatis, the lingering effects of Hancocks Gettysburg wound, etc. Not to forget the common diseases of pneumonia, diarrhea, etc. Also, the common soldiers were not immune to these also. A reporter at Antietam stated that he could tell where the lines of confederates were by the lines of human feces - related to the confederates consumion of green apples and unripe corn.
One serious impact disease had was the number of troops who actually died from disease. Wasn't that number even higher than the number who were killed? The many who succumbed to disease would have had tremendous impact on troop manpower numbers. This would have been most heavily felt in the Confederacy.
As an aside, Lee not only suffered at Gettysburg from the after effects of a possible, maybe even probable, heart attack, but it is said he had debilitating diarrhea there as well. I don't know about Lee, but that double whammy would put me out of commission. Just imagine all the responsibility he had on top of being weakened by two different medical conditions!
Another general whose physical condition certainly impacted his performance was John Bell Hood, especially at Spring Hill, Franklin and Nashville.
President Jefferson Davis also had debilitating conditions that seriously impacted his performance from time to time during the war.
There is a book about the physcial condition of Civil War generals, both Union and Confederate. I'll scrounge around and see if I can find the name. It is one I thought might make some interesting reading.
Last edited on Thu May 24th, 2007 10:39 pm by CleburneFan
There are a host of scenarios and conterfactuals that could orbit around this topic, for example take the other Jefferson Davis, had he not gotten sick he probably performs better in the defense of Louisville, doesn't get chewed out by "Bull" Nelson and doesn't murder him. Maybe not a huge effect on the war but certainly for "Bull" and family.
One serious impact disease had was the number of troops who actually died from disease. Wasn't that number even higher than the number who were killed?
All my TWBTS medical references are packed up right now, but I am certain that the loss to disease is almost always given as twice the loss to battle deaths. I do have one book left out that will indicate that: Burke Davis' "The Civil War, Strange and Fascinating Facts", pg 215.
I am really glad this thread was posted. Personally, I find it one of the most fascinating aspects of The War of Sucession.