Fort Scott National Historic Site program discusses health practices of 1865

Fort Scott National Historic Site News Release

Fort Scott National Historic Site
Old Fort Boulevard
Post Office Box 918
Fort Scott KS 66701-0918
(620) 223-0310 phone

Release Date: June 12, 2015

Contact: Galen Ewing, galen_ewing@nps.gov, (620) 223-0310

Dandelions, Ginger and Bloodletting: Keeping Soldiers And Civilians Healthy in 1865

FORT SCOTT, Kansas: On Saturday, June 20, 2015, Fort Scott National Historic Site offers an evening program focusing on healthy eating and medical treatments used by soldiers and civilians at Fort Scott in 1865. 

American medical thought in the first half of the nineteenth century was characterized by the view that human bodies were constantly interacting with the surrounding environment. Health was a product of ensuring that one's body maintained a proper equilibrium with itself and with the environment around it. People usually used known home remedies to attack illness. Mrs. Katherine Blair, portrayed by volunteer Jan Elder, arrived in Fort Scott with her husband, Charles, in 1859. Mrs. Blair will share home remedies that she used to maintain her family’s health. Many of the medicinal ingredients came from her kitchen and herb garden, and include some you may even use today.

Too many Civil War soldiers, upon entering the army after a lifetime of care by mothers and wives, tended to "go native." This was to ignore regularly washing themselves and their clothing, but worst of all, to ignore standing military regulations dealing with camp sanitation, Each company of soldiers was supposed to have a latrine, a trench eight feet deep and two feet wide, onto which six inches of earth were to be put each evening. Some units initially avoided digging latrines. In other cases men, disgusted by the foul sights and odors around the latrines, relieved themselves at the edge of camp. The swarms of flies that followed were inevitable as were the diseases they spread to the men and their rations.

The diets of both Union and Confederate armies did little to maintain health as they were deplorably high in calories but low in vitamins. Fresh fruits and vegetables were notable by their absence, and especially so when the army was on the move. Soldiers’ food rations were fresh or preserved beef, salt pork, navy beans, coffee, and hardtack, the large, thick, usually stale crackers that were often infested by weevils. When troops were in camp, many often pooled funds to buy fruits and vegetables on the open market. More often they foraged the countryside, with fresh food a valuable part of the booty. Park Ranger Galen Ewing, representing a Hospital Steward, will focus on the lack of healthy eating and the poor camp conditions of Fort Scott soldiers in 1865.

The evening program begins at 6:30 p.m. near the visitor center/Post Hospital.

About the National Park Service. More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America’s 407 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities.

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