620,000 soldiers died during the Civil War. Two thirds died of disease, not wounds.
Disease has been a major theme in the blog thus far. How many of you have had dysentery, typhoid fever, ague, yellow fever, malaria, scurvy, pneumonia, tuberculosis, smallpox, chicken pox, scarlet fever, measles, mumps, or whooping cough? Most of these illnesses are almost unheard of today in the Western world because of hygiene and vaccinations. The link below explains several things: why diseases were so prevalent, the types of illnesses soldiers were exposed to, and what an ambulance of that day was like. Parham referred to a Yankee Ambulance in his second and third letters.
First 11th Mississippi Battle Flag. Sewn by the Ladies of Crawford, Mississippi, this flag was retired shortly after the Battle of First Manassas. Click image to view photo source.
In his third letter, Parham wrote that several…have died within the last week or two, most of them having been wounded in the late battle. The timing of this letter and the unit’s history indicates the late battle was likely the First Battle of Manassas (also known as Bull Run by the Union) which took place just 19 days before his enlistment. The gruesome and archaic methods for medical care of the wounded are described in great detail in this link.
September 5, 1861: page 1 on right, page 4 on left
I suppose you all will think I intend to do all the writing, as I just wrote to Mary a few days ago. But as I have changed my place of abode I thought you would like to know about it. I gave an account of my having the measles in Mary’s letter which I mailed two days before receiving hers. Walter young (?) Stowers and myself are staying with a very nice family about 3 miles from Warrenton, the county seat of F’aquier [sic]. There is another very sick soldier here, but I think he will recover, though several of them around in the country have died within the last week or two, most of them having been wounded in the late battle. The people through the country seem to take great interest in the welfare of the sick and wounded soldiers. At some houses there are as many as 8 and 10. There are a great many sick in our Reg. at this time, mostly cold and fevers. For fear Mary’s letter may not reach its destination, I will give you also an acount of my sickness. For two or three days I had a very severe cold and on Friday morning – (today two weeks ago) I broke out with the measles – Walter breaking out [previous two words scratched out in same ink] at the same time. Preperations [sic] were immediately made to take us to some house, Tubby having procured one about 8 miles from camp. We started about two Oclock [sic] in a Yankee Ambulance Tubby going with us. By that time they were out very thick and I was too sick to sit up, the Ambulance being made somewhat like an Omnibus I lay down covering myself with a blanket. Having lost our way we traveled over the roughest road I every saw until dark. I can truly say that was the hardest time I ever had + if any one was ever glad to get rest it was me. Walter not being near as sick as I was. We were with a very clever man + rcd [sic] all the attenion we could ask of any stranger. Next day Stowers + Brown came to the same place. For three days I was very sick, eat nothing, + had no taste whatever + had a very coughs. We then improved very fast, staying there ten days. We then came to this place as I said before where we were kindly rcd [sic], a very strict old Presbyterian family. The old man invites us to to [sic] family worship every night. I think we will be able to
September 5, 1861: page 2 on left, page 3 on right
return to camp and resume active duty in a week or two. The Capt told us not to return until we got sound well if it was 6 weeks. Tell all the family I would be gald to recive [sic] a letter from any of them. Tell the old man [scratched-out in pencil] I will write to him next. Give my best respects to all the family and to all enquiring friends. Write soon to your devoted son P M Buford. Let no one outside of the family see this – they can read it if they want.
I suppose you all will not write often as you have to pay for my letters. Though I can pay myself when I have the change, but I believe when the reciver [sic] pays for the letter it will be more apt to reach its destiny.
*** Blogger’s Note: “Tubby” is Goodloe Warren Buford, Jr.