Diseases During The Civil War Essay

3906 words - 16 pages

We are all aware of the tragedy that took place in our nation from 1861 to 1865. The Civil War resulted in needless, devastating deaths of thousands of soldiers. What we might not be aware of, however, is the number one killer throughout those years. More soldiers died from this single calamity than battle wounds or blood loss. The catastrophe that tragically affected more soldiers than any other element of the war was disease.

Diseases did not only affect the soldiers in a tremendous way. As I will discuss in greater detail further in this paper, diseases gave an advantage to the Northern side of the war, and this played a role in their victory. Additionally, the treatments and discoveries that were made as diseases were treated led to spillover effects that have changed certain aspects of our lives today, providing advances in the realm of medicine. The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate how diseases played a larger role in the Civil War than is generally known. Diseases did not affect the soldiers fighting for the Northern side and the Southern side in an equal fashion. In contrast, the Confederate soldiers were hindered much more deeply than the Union soldiers. This gave an advantage to the Union side.

Diseases played a role in the strength of the Union Army and the weakening of the Confederate Army, although it is impossible to say diseases alone were the cause of their victory. After realizing that diseases benefited the Union Army, one begins to wonder why. Why did the Union soldiers survive diseases more frequently that Confederates soldiers? Although that question is pressing and relevant, it is beyond the realm of this paper to thoroughly explain the answer. There were most certainly several factors that played a role in the Confederate side being weakened by diseases to a greater extent than the Union side. While each of those factors will not be elucidated in a clear and comprehensive manner, I will explain the effects and causes of soldiers in the war in general, and then specifically show what the effects and causes of diseases were on each side of the war. It will become clear which side diseases victimized in a more severe manner.

Effects and Causes of Disease on Civil War Soldiers in General

Although most people would not object to the idea that diseases played some sort of role in the Civil War, few truly realize the extent of their influence. As it was stated previously, diseases affected the Northern soldiers and the Southern soldiers in different ways and to different extents. Those differences will be examined later in this paper. There are some issues relating to diseases, however, that affected soldiers in general, not particularly one side of the war. Those factors will be observed here.

Diseases affected the morality of soldiers in a fashion greater than all the other causes of death combined. The typical soldier fell sick two times a year, assuming he lived through the first disease. The death...

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