Dis­ease the main killer for black Civil War soldiers

The Globe - - OPINION -

It’s not the bul­lets and shells that killed most of the soldiers fighWing in Whe APeUiFDn Civil War (1861-1865), but the sharp in­FisoUs oI dis­eDse WhDW UDvDged troops in detestable num­bers, in­Flud­ing Dn AIUiFDnAPeUiFDn FhDSlDin who seUved wiWh Whe 6th United States ColoUed TUooSs (86CT) oI CDPS Wil­liam Penn.

6eUv­ing Ds SDsWoU of South-Philly’s Shiloh BDSWisW ChuUFh beIoUe join­ing in 1863 Whe 6Wh 86CT, one oI 11 UegiPenWs Fon­sisWing oI DlPosW 11,000 blDFk wDUri­ors to train in what’s WodDy ChelWen­hDP Town­shiS DW Whe 13-DFUe CDPS Wil­liDP Penn, Whe 5ev. -eUePiDh AsheU wDs D dynDPiF blDFk SUeDFheU who sWDunFhly oSSosed slDveUy.

And he didn’W hes­iWDWe Wo SUeDFh DgDinsW seUviWude Wo his FongUegDWion, Fon­sisWing oI exs­lDves Dnd IUee blDFks in D FiWy WhDW hDd Whe lDUgesW nuPbeUs oI suFh libeUDWed AIUiFDn-APeUiFDns in Whe FounWUy. MDny joined Whe UDnks oI CDPS Wil­liDP Penn Ds soPe oI APeUiFD’s fiUsW IedeUDl sol­dieUs DW Whe lDUgesW 8.6. IDFil­iWy Wo WUDin Whose wDUUioUs duUing Whe Civil War.

AIWeU Dll, Ds Py PosW UeFenW 384-SDge (6FhiIIeU Pub­lish­ing) book, CDPS Wil­liDP Penn: 1863-1865, noWes, AsheU hDd veUy sWUong Ueli­gious Fon­viF­tions, likely drawn from his gUDndIDWheU GDd who wDs FDSWuUed in AIUiFD’s “GuineD” Ue­gion Dnd en­slDved in 1ew (nglDnd beIoUe seUv­ing in Whe APeUiFDn 5evoluWion.

DuUing Whe BDWWle oI BunkeU Hill, GDd UeFeived in­juUies WhDW evenWuDlly led Wo his blind­ness; yeW DIWeU Whe wDU his so-FDlled PDsWeU Ue­neged on Dn oIIeU Wo lib­er­ate him, de­spite an ear­lier SUoPise oI IUee­doP sinFe GDd hDd UeSlDFed Whe sSine­less PDn duUing Whe wDU. GDd wDs IoUFed to work many more years to earn his lib­erty.

YeW, WhDW wDs Whe in­FUed­i­ble sWUengWh WhDW UDn WhUough Whe 5ev. -eUePiDh AsheU’s veins Ds he died likely oI PDlDUiD on -uly 27, 1865, in WilPingWon, 1.C., DIWeU leDv­ing his 6hiloh FongUegDWion, wiIe Dnd FhildUen to help shep­herd Whe 6Wh 86CT WhDW IoughW in soPe oI Whe fieUFesW fighWing oI Whe wDU wiWh seveUDl eDUn­ing Whe MedDl oI HonoU.

, Whink oI suFh in­FUed­i­ble sDFUi­fiFes Ds Whis MePoUiDl DDy DSSUoDFhes Dnd vDUious FeUe­monies honor the 150Wh Dn­niveUsDUy oU sesquiFenWen­niDl oI Whe APeUiFDn Civil WDU WhDW sWill seePs Wo PiniPize Whe FonWUibuWions oI blDFk wDUUioUs. ,W’s viWDl WhDW we SDy WUibuWe Wo CDPS Wil­liDP Penn, iWs gDl­lDnW wDUUioUs Dnd Ds­soFiDWed DnWis­lDveUy DboliWion­isWs suFh Ds LuFUeWiD MoWW, who lived Dd­jDFenW Wo Whe IDFil­iWy.

Linked Wo Whe FDPS weUe Dlso Whe gUeDW Wil­liDP 6Will, )UedeUiFk DouglDss Dnd HDUUieW TubPDn, who’d evenWuDlly PDUUy D sol­dieU suIIeUing IUoP WubeUFu­lo­sis — 1el­son DDvis — oI Whe 8Wh 86CT IUoP CDPS Wil­liDP Penn.

,n IDFW, even beIoUe leDv­ing Whe gDWes oI CDPS Wil­liam Penn that stood near the noUWh­wesW FoUneU oI BUoDd 6W. Dnd ChelWen­hDP Ave., dis­eDse took its nasty toll. Dozens of UeFUuiWs IUoP Whe FDPS’s 25Wh 86CT SeUished oI dis­eDse DW Whe IDFil­iWy. One sol­dieU, as I re­ported in an ear­lier arWiFle IoU APeUiFD’s Civil WDU PDgDzine, even wUoWe PUes­i­denW LinFoln FoPSlDin­ing oI PDlWUeDWPenW by doFWoUs Dnd unFleDn FondiWions.

The siWuDWion beFDPe so bDd WhDW AUPy in­sSeFWoUs evenWually made some head­way in IoUFing beWWeU FondiWions WhDW weUe FeUWDinly PDde woUse by UDFisP Dnd di­veUWing es­senWiDl sup­plies.

6oPe oI Whe PosW de­vDsWDWing “FDPS dis­eDses” weUe “di­ar­rhea and dysen­tery as well as malaria, and ty­phoid feveU,” noWes Whe hisWoUiDn -DPes (lWon -ohn­son in his 8niveUsiWy oI Penn­sylvDniD doFWoUDl the­sis.

And blDFk sol­dieUs, even in Whe field, weUe PoUe likely Wo be iPSDFWed by dis­eDse beFDuse Whey weUe oIWen IoUFed Wo SeUIoUP in­FUed­i­bly hDUd me­nial tasks un­der the most deFUeSiW FondiWions: “The PediFDl UeFoUds in­diFDWe WhDW Whe SUoSoUWion oI siFk­ness DPong blDFk sol­dieUs,” sSeFi­fiFDlly Whe 3Ud 86CT oI CDPS Wil­liDP Penn, “wDs 1.74 WiPes gUeDWeU WhDn DPong WheiU whiWe FounWeUSDUWs,” wUoWe PeWeU D. .lingPDn in his 1976 book, -os­iDh WDlls: )loUidD’s BlDFk CongUessPDn oI 5eFon­sWUuFWion.

WDlls, in­iWiDlly D SUivDWe oI Whe 3Ud 86CT, who joined 8nion IoUFes DIWeU be­ing UesFued Ds D seUvDnW IoU D ConIedeUDWe oI­fiFeU, wDs WoUPenWed by his wDU DilPenWs “wiWh D seveUe FDse oI diDUUheD, heP­or­rhoids, and an un­known eye dis­eDse WhDW FonWin­ued Wo SlDgue hiP IoU Whe UesW oI his liIe,” noWed .lingPDn. YeW, WDlls, wiWh Whe equiv­DlenW oI D fiUsW-gUDde eduFDWion, beFDPe one oI )loUidD’s lDUgesW lDn­downeUs Dnd D SioneeUing blDFk SoliWiFiDn.

MeDn­while, duUing fieUFe ViUginiD fighWing, Whe 22nd 86CT oI CDPS Wil­liDP Penn losW 72 sol­dieUs in FoPbDW “Dnd PoUe [WhDn] WwiFe WhDW num­ber were killed by dis­eDse,” DFFoUd­ing Wo hisWoUiDn -ohn­son.

A lDUge nuPbeU oI Whe UeFUuiWs — DbouW 300 — oI Whe 43Ud 86CT IUoP Whe IDFil­iWy suFFuPbed Wo “wounds Dnd dis­eDse,” wiWh in­IeFWions Dnd sFuUvy un­doubWedly FounWing Ds D sig­nifiFDnW SDUW oI Whe deD­Whs. AbouW 30,000 blDFk sol­dieUs duUing Whe enWiUe wDU died oI ill­ness, DFFoUd­ing Wo Whe 1DWionDl AUFhives.

6Ddly, PDny oI CDPS Wil­liDP Penn’s blDFk sol­dieUs DIWeU Whe wDU UeFeived PiniPDl Iol­low-uS PediFDl oU mone­tary at­ten­tion for their wDU in­juUies Dnd weUe even leIW ouW in Whe sWUeeWs Wo beg. An DlDUPing DPounW did noW UeFeive Pil­iWDUy Sen­sions siPSly beFDuse oI blDWDnW UDFisP oU Whey hDd PisSlDFed FUuFiDl SDSeUs Wo SUove WheiU seUviFe Wo APeUiFD.

HDUUieW TubPDn, Ds Py book in­diFDWes, even hDd D WeUUi­fiFDlly hDUd WiPe geWWing heU Sen­sion Ds she lived oII oI Whe veWeUDn’s Dl­lowDnFe oI heU seFond hus­bDnd, Whe CDPS Wil­liDP Penn wDUUioU 1el­son DDvis oI Whe 8Wh 86CT.

How­eveU, DDvis Woo hDd gUeDW diI­fiFulWy obWDin­ing D Sen­sion beIoUe he died oI WubeUFu­lo­sis DIWeU Fo-Iound­ing wiWh TubPDn D hoPe in AubuUn, 1ew YoUk, IoU dis­Dd­vDnWDged Dnd el­deUly blDFks — soPe wiWh Pil­iWDUy seUviFe Dnd no SlDFe else Wo seek UeIuge.

For more in­for­ma­tion about Py CDPS Wil­liDP Penn book, SleDse DFFess: hWWS:// www. sFhiIIeU­books. FoP/ newsFhiIIeU/book_WePSlDWe. ShS?isbn=9780764342530.

Don ‘Og­be­wii’ Scott, a Mel­rose Park res­i­dent, can be reached at dscott9703@aol. com.

Courtesy of the Li­brary of Congress

Con­gress­man Josiah Walls, in the cen­ter of this fa­mous Currier and Ivesí litho­graph,suf­fered from Civil-War-re­lated ill­nesses most of his life fol­low­ing Army ser­vice with the 3rd USCT reg­i­ment of Camp Wil­liam Penn.

Don­ald Scott

A Place in His­tory

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