Thursday, July 14, 2005

I'm reading the second volume of Beatie's Army of the Potomac and his account of McClellan's December bout with typhoid fever that supposedly almost killed him, and it sent me off on a counterfactual meander of wondering what might have happened if McClellan had been killed by it, during the first winter of the war. Then the thought brought me up short: what general, Union or Confederate, was killed by sickness during the war?

The only one I could come up with was John Buford - Charles F. Smith sort of counts, but then, sickness due to complications from a bad fall strikes me as not quite on the point. Granted, I'm not really up to speed on the biographies of all the division-level commanders, let alone the hundreds of brigade commanders, but it's striking that I can rattle off plenty of commanders of corps or armies dead by violence - Nelson, in a half-assed duel with a fellow Union general, Mansfield on the field at Antietam, A.S. Johnston, T.J. Jackson, McPherson, Sedgwick, Reynolds, etc, etc - it's a very, very long list. But their soldiers generally died at a ratio of two to one, death by sickness versus death by violence. Where are all the generals dead from camp fevers?

Is it a matter of exposure, and poor usage, and bad camp conditions? What protected those with shoulder-straps from the worst of the dysenteries and typhoids that killed off the cannon-fodder? I can't imagine it would be better access to doctors, could it?

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