Friday, August 27, 2010


XVII. Confederate Medical Shortages- The Blockade

The blockade of the Confederate states by the Union Navy meant that surgical supplies and medications were soon in short supply in the South. New items could be acquired in one of three ways:

1. From smugglers who managed to slip through the Union blockade. But prices soon became exorbitant: quinine in late 1863 was selling in the South for $400-$600 per ounce!
2. Capture of Union medical supplies. But this method was of course unreliable.
3. Manufacture medicines in the south from available ingredients. Labs were set up in Atlanta, Charlotte, Montgomery, and Knoxville, to name just a few of the cities selected.

XVIII. Confederate Medical Shortages- "Indigenous Remedies"

The Confederate Medical Service in 1864 issued a “Standard Supply Table of Indigenous Remedies for Field Service and Sick in General Hospitals.” Among the listed herbs, plants, and trees which could be used medicinally were:

Calamus, Virginia Snakeroot, Sassafras, Lavender, Bearberry, Sumac, Sage, Blackberry, and Dewberry, plus the leaves and sometimes the bark of these trees:

Dogwood, Persimmon, White Oak, Wild Cherry, and Tulip (to name only some of the listed herbs, plants, and trees).

XIX. Confederate Medical Shortages- Medical Instruments

The South was never able to set up factories to manufacture precision medical instruments, so surgeons sometimes had to improvise. These substitutions were necessary on occasion:

1. Surgical saws- Carpenter’s saws
2. Scalpels- Penknives
3. Surgical hooks- Forks
4. Tenaculum- Knitting needles
5. Splints- Fence rails

Tom Pearson, Reference Librarian
Special Collections Department
St. Louis Public Library
1301 Olive Street
St. Louis, MO 63103

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