Saturday, November 29, 2008

Scurvy in the Civil War blockading fleet

Report of Rear-Admiral Dahlqren, U. S. Navy, advising, as a health measure, certain additions to the regular ration.

Off Morris Island, August 9, 1863.

SIR: I am admonished by the daily recurrence of disability among the men, which diminishes their number rapidly, that some more than ordinary measures are required to sustain them under the increasing labor of operations in this enervating climate. Scurvy is now added to the list of diseases, and to-day the fleet surgeon recommends the return of the Marblehead to the North, because to remain here would break down the whole of the crew.

I would therefore respectfully submit to the Department a recommendation to add certain articles of diet to those already provided by the regular ration:
1. Fresh vegetables daily, whether the meat be fresh or salt; potatoes, cabbage, onions, lemons, etc.
2. A bakery of fresh bread, for which some vessel can be provided with a regular baker.
3. A ration of ice.

The Department may be assured that any expenditure due to these additions will be amply repaid by the diminution of disease, and the increased efficiency of those not yet absolutely reduced to the sick list.

I shall make requisitions on the proper bureau for the above, but also urge the action of the Department, because the effect of these measures has a general bearing on our operations.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Rear-Admiral, Comdg. South Atlantic Blockading Squadron.

Secretary of the Navy, Washington, D.C.

Source: Edward K. Rawson and Charles W. Stewart, Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War Of The Rebellion, Series I-Volume 14 (South Atlantic Blockading Squadron, April 7 to September 30, 1863), Washington: Government Printing Office, 1902, page 431.

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