Medical inquiries and observations. By Benjamin Rush, M.D. professor of chemistry in the University of Pennsylvania.
Rush, Benjamin, 1746-1813., Redman, John, 1722-1808, dedicatee., Rush, Benjamin, 1746-1813. Appendix: containing, the new method of inoculating for the small pox.
Page  180


1. THE army when it lay in tents was always more sickly, than when it lay in the open air. It was likewise more healthy when it was kept in motion, than when it lay in an encampment.

2. YOUNG men under twenty years of age were subject to the greatest number of camp diseases.

3. THE southern troops were more sickly than the northern or eastern troops.

4. THE native Americans were more sickly than the natives of Europe who served in the American army.

5. MEN above thirty, and five and thirty years of age, were the hardiest soldiers in the army. Perhaps the reason why the natives of Europe were more healthy than the native Americans, was, they were more advanced in life.

Page  181 6. THE southern troops sickened from the want of salt provisions. Their strength and spirits were re|stored only by means of salted meat. I once saw a private, in a Virginia regiment, throw away his ration of choice fresh beef, and give a dollar for a pound of salted bacon.

7. THOSE officers who wore flannel shirts or waist|coats next to their skins, in general escaped fevers and diseases of all kinds.

8. THE principal diseases in the hospitals were the ty|phus gravior and mitior of Doctor Cullen. Men who came into the hospitals with pleurisies or rheumatisms, soon lost the types of their original diseases, and suf|fered, or died, by the above mentioned fever.

9. THIS fever always prevailed most, and with the worst symptoms in winter. A free air, which could only be obtained in summer, always prevented, or mi|tigated it.

10. IN all those cases, where the contagion was re|ceived, cold seldom failed to render it active. When|ever an hospital was removed in winter, one half of the patients generally sickened on the way, or soon after their arrival at the place to which they were sent.

11. DRUNKEN soldiers and convalescents were most subject to this fever.

12. THOSE patients in this fever who had large ulcers on their backs or limbs, generally recovered.

Page  182 13. I MET with several instances of buboes, also of ulcers in the throat, as-described by Doctor Donald Monro. They were mistaken by some of the junior surgeons for venereal sores, but they yielded to the common remedies of the hospital fever.

14. THERE were many instances of patients in this fever, who suddenly fell down dead, upon being mo|ved, without any previous symptoms of approaching dissolution. This was more especially the case, when they arose to go to stool.

15. THE contagion of this fever was frequently conveyed from the hospital to the camp, by means of blankets and clothes.

16. THOSE black soldiers who had been previously slaves, died in a greater proportion by this fever, or had a much flower recovery from it, than the same number of white soldiers.

17. THE remedies which appeared to do most ser|vice in this disorder were vomits of tartar emetic, gen|tle doses of laxative salts, bark, wine, and volatile salt in large doses, and in some cases, blisters.

18. AN emetic seldom failed of checking this fever if exhibited while it was in a forming state, and before the patient was confined to his bed.

19. MANY causes concurred to produce, and in|crease this fever; such as the want of cleanliness, ex|cessive fatigue, the ignorance or negligence of officers in providing suitable diet and accommodations for their men, the general use of linen instead of woollen clothes Page  183 in the summer months, and the crouding too many patients together in one hospital, with such other in|conveniencies and abuses, as usually follow the union of the purveying and directing departments of hospitals in the same persons. But there is one more cause of this fever which remains to be mentioned, and that is, the sudden assembling of a great number of persons together of different habits and manners, such as the soldiers of the American army were in the years 1776 and 1777. Doctor Blane informs us in his observations upon the diseases of seamen,

that it sometimes happens that a ship with a long established crew shall be very healthy, yet if strangers are introduced among them, who are also healthy, sickness will be mutually pro|duced.
The history of diseases furnishes many proofs of the truth of this assertion.*. It was very remarkable, that while the American army at Cam|bridge in the year 1775, consisted only of New-Eng|land men (whose habits and manners were the same) there was scarcely any sickness among them. It was not till the troops of the eastern, middle and southern states met at New-York and Ticonderoga in the year 1776, that the typhus became universal, and spread with such peculiar mortality in the armies of the Uni|ted States.

20. THE dysentery prevailed in the summer of 1777 in the military hospitals in New-Jersey, but with very few instances of mortality. This dysentery was frequently followed by an obstinate diarrhoea, in which the warm bath was found in many cases to be an ef|fectual remedy.

Page  184 21. I SAW several instances of fevers occasioned by the use of the common ointment made of the flour of sulphur and hogs lard, for the cure of the itch. The fevers were probably brought on by the exposure of the body to the cold air, in the usual method in which that ointment is applied. I have since learned, that the itch may be cured as speedily by rubbing the parts affected, two or three times with the dry flour of sul|phur, and that no inconvenience and scarcely any smell, follow this mode of using it.

22. IN gunshot wounds of the joints, Mr. Ranby's advice of amputating the limb was followed by success. I saw two cases of death where this advice was ne|glected.

23. THERE was one instance of a soldier who lost his hearing, and another of a soldier who had been deaf, who recovered his hearing by the noise of ar|tillery in a battle.

24. THOSE soldiers who were billetted in private houses, generally escaped the contagion of the hospi|tal fever, and recovered soonest from all their diseases.

25. SOLDIERS are but little more than adult chil|dren. That officer, therefore, will best perform his duty to his men, who obliges them to take the most care of their HEALTH.

26. HOSPITALS are the sinks of human life in an army. They robbed the United States of more citi|zens than the sword. Humanity, oeconomy, and philosophy, all concur in giving a preference to the conveniencies and wholesome air of private houses; Page  185 and should war continue to be the absurd and unchris|tian mode of deciding national disputes, it is to be hoped that the progress of science will so far mitigate one of its greatest calamities, as to produce an aboli|tion of hospitals for acute diseases. Perhaps there are no cases of sickness in which reason and religion do not forbid the seclusion of our fellow-creatures from the offices of humanity in private families, except where they labour under the calamities of madness and the venereal disease, or where they are the subjects of some of the operations of surgery.