from The Worcester Daily Spy, July 25, 1861 , (Volume 16 # 174), 

The Health of The Army  

The following is a part of the recommendations of the sanitary commission, who have visited the troops now in the field, and inquired into their wants and needs.

On The March

Take especial care of the feet. Bathe them every night before sleeping, not in the morning.  Select a shoe of stout soft leather, with a broad sole and low heel.

Prefer woolen socks.  If the feet begin to chafe rub the socks with common soap where they come in contact with the sore places.

An old soldier drinks and eats as little as possible while marching.  The recruit. on the contrary, is continually munching the contents of his haversack, and using his canteen; it is a bad habit, and causes more suffering in the end.

The commencement of the days march should be prompt.  Nothing tires men so much as hanging around a camp, waiting for the word to start.

It is a great comfort for men to halt for ten or fifteen minutes at the end of the first half hour: many, about this time, require to attend to the calls of nature.  After this there should be a halt of ten or fifteen minutes at the end of every hour, with a rest of twenty minutes in the middle of the day for lunch.  A longer halt than this stiffens the men, and renders subsequent marching difficult.  The best rule is to get through the day’s march and rest in camp if possible, by two o’clock p.m.   The best pace to adopt, in marching, is from 90 to 100 steps ( of 28 inches each ) to the minute; this will give a rate of from 2 ½ to 2 ¾ miles to the hour.


The amount allowed for each man is greater in quantity than the similar allowance for any European soldier.  If he understands his duties and manages well, any commissary of subsistence  can save from fifteen to thirty per cent out of the rations furnished by the government, and with the money thus saved fresh vegetables, butter, milk & ect., may be procured.

When the surgeon considers it “necessary for the health of the troops the commanding officer, on his recommendation, may order issues of fresh vegetables, pickled onions, sour kraut, or molasses, with an extra quantity of rice and vinegar.”  Desiccated vegetables and dried apples may be obtained on similar authority.

When the rations furnished for the troops are damaged, or in any unfit for use, the army regulations require the commanding officer to appoint a “board of survey,” composed of competent officers, by which they may be condemned, in which case, good provisions are issued in their stead.

Soldiers should always eat at regular hours, as far as the exigencies of service permit.  Neglect of regular hours for meals tends to disorder the digestion, and to invite diarrhea.

 In Action

The proper position in which to place a wounded or fainting man is flat upon his back, with the head very slightly raised.

The most urgent want of a wounded man is water; if a canteen or cup is not at hand, bring it in a hat or any available vessel.

As a rule, cuts even when extensive, are less dangerous to life than they seem; the contrary is true of bayonet or bullet wounds.

Whenever blood is flowing freely by spirts or jets there is immediate danger, and, if the wound is situated in one of the limbs, a stout handkerchief or band should be promptly tied  loosely around it. between the wound and the heart; a drum stick, bayonet, ramrod, or jack knife, is to be then inserted between the skin and the bandage, and twisted around until the strangulation of the limb stops the flow of blood, and it should be held thus until the surgeon arrives.

In a less urgent case, or where the wound is differently situated, pressure applied directly to its surface, and kept up steadily, will often save  life,

Camp Life

No more than five men should ever be allowed to sleep in a common army tent of the kind most commonly used.

The men should sleep in their shirts and drawers, removing the shoes, stockings, and outer clothing, except when absolutely impracticable.  Sleeping in the clothes is never so refreshing, and is absolutely unhealthy. 

……………………, for preventing annoyance from insects, for drying clothing, and for security against chilliness during the night.

The underclothing should be washed and thoroughly dried once a week.

The men should bathe, or wash the whole body with water, at least once a week, and oftener when practicable, but the feet should be bathed daily, and the stockings washed whenever soiled.


The tents for the men should be placed as far from each other as the “regulations” and the dimensions of the camp permit ( never less than two paces 0; crowding is always injurious to health. ( Regulations, p 508. )  No refuse, slops, or excrement should be allowed to be deposited in the trenches for drainage around the tents.  Each tent should be thoroughly swept out daily, and the materials used for bedding aired and sunned, if possible; the canvas should be raised  freely at its base, and it should be kept open as much as possible during the day time, in dry weather, in order to secure ventilation for tents are liable to become very unhealthy if not constantly and thoroughly aired.

Fresh ventilation should also be secured at night, by opening and raising the base of the tent to as great an extent as the weather will permit.


Except when impossible for military reasons, the site of a camp should be selected for the dryness of its soil, its proximity to fresh water of good quality, and shelter from high winds.  It should be on a slight declivity, in order to facilitate drainage, and not in the vicinity of swamps or stagnant water.  A trench at least eighteen inches deep should be dug around each tent, to secure dryness, and these should lead into other mains or gutters, by which water will be conducted away from the tents.

Strong Drink

Spirits should only be issued to the men after unusual exertion, fatigue, or exposure, and on the discretion of the surgeon.  Those men who drink spirits habitually, or who commit excess in its use, are the first to fall when strength and endurance are required, and they are less likely to recover from wounds and injuries.



15th Massachusetts VI