Life in the Army

Here is a link a how life was as a soldier in the 2nd Florida Infantry.

Here is an exerpt.

Most soldiers who enlisted in the Second Florida, or in any other unit which served during the Civil War, expected that the war would be a glorious and romantic affair offering them adventure. Instead, they found gore and revulsion. Disease in the Civil War, portray accurately the daily squalor in which the soldiers lived. Perhaps, more striking about the camps than the dust in the summer or the mud in the spring and fall was the pungent odor, a mixture of burning wood in campfires, rotting flesh in the commissary, the smell of unwashed clothes of men who went weeks if not months without bathing, and open latrine ditches.

One soldier vividly described the situation:

…an army, any army, does poison the air. It is a city without sewerage, and policing only makes piles of offal to be buried or burned. Animals die as they do not die in cities and, if buried, they are apt to be insufficiently so. Then animals are slaughtered for beef and so, what with the fragments of food and scraps of decaying substances, all festering under a mid-summer sun, an army soon breeds . . . the most fatal of fevers…

Medically, the sleeping arrangements were, in the nineteenth century, nearly identical to those of mankind’s cave-dwelling days. With only one or two blankets to defend against rain and cold, the men were exposed enough to contract respiratory illnesses such as pneumonia. Some men who were gifted in the art of sneaking off after final roll call managed to find haystacks, barns, or even household porches to provide nighttime shelter. Even though they had tents, because they were not entirely enclosed, malaria and other insect-borne maladies abounded during the summer months.  Insect-borne diseases became a problem due to an imprudent attitude towards personal hygiene. The men regarded vermin that infested camps and their persons as a nuisance and not as a threat to their health.

The vermin most men of the regiment had to cope with were lice—called “greybacks” by the men. Nearly every soldier had to deal with them, even the officers. At first, the men saw them, as a mark of shame similar to being thought to be a coward. However, as time went on, and all ranks fell victim to the plague of “greybacks,” it became a matter of jest. After the initial shock of having lice wore off, the men tried to manage them. The soldiers all washed at the same time and boiled their clothes together, rather than one at a time, to avoid transferring the lice to  one-another. This practice proved somewhat effective in dealing with the problem, but, lice were an ever-present nuisance, as bathing remained a rare occurrence.48 The Floridians were especially susceptible to the cold. T. M. Palmer, the surgeon in charge of the hospital to which all Florida troops were admitted, wrote that the Floridians suffered a higher percentage of deaths from sickness than any other state’s troops serving in Virginia. Yet those same troops had experienced good health while still in Florida. He blamed their inability to cope on two factors: First, because the men were used to warm weather, the cold of Virginia was beyond their ability to cope; and second, many men were not fit for service.