Health of the camp.
My attention has been attracted by your excellent article in the Dispatch
of this morning, upon the "Health of the Camp," and I would willingly contribute something to keep this matter before the proper authorities and the public until some radical change is made in behalf of our suffering soldiers.
We are taught by the history of all wars, in all countries, that more men die of disease contracted in camp then are slain in the field.
It becomes a matter, then, of the highest importance that every possible precautionary measure should be used to obviate the causes of disease in our military camps, and insure the health of the troops.
That they are regularly supplied with wholesome food and warm blankets and clothing, is not sufficient.
It is not always the want of these that produce disease in military camps — there are other laws of Nature regulating health, which must be consulted and regarded, if we would escape the fearful consequences of their violation.
Among these, and by far the most important, is that one requiring pure air for healthy purposes.
In visiting many of the camps about Richmond
, I find, by observation and upon inquiry, that the tents with which our troops are supplied are so constructed that, when the open end is drawn together and made fast, they become almost perfectly air-tight.
I find further, that from five to seven men are put in these tents to sleep.
Now, every one who knows aught of the properties of which the air is composed, and their action upon the lungs, must see at once that disease and death are the necessary results of such a number of persons sleeping in an air-tight apartment so small as one of the tents used by our troops.
The lungs of a single man will consume in the course of a night much more of a vital principle of air, necessary to perfect health, than is contained in one of these tents when closed up. The only remedy for the evils resulting from sleeping in close tents, is that which you suggest — viz.: open tents for the free circulation of air, with fires in front of them to secure the necessary warmth.
An experience of two years of camp life in that region known as the Everglades of South Florida
, enables me to speak with some degree of confidence on this subject.
On first going to the Everglades, myself and those who were with me dreaded more than all things else the miasma, and when night came we closed our tents so as to permit no breath of fresh air to enter until morning.
The consequence was, we were constantly troubled with colds, fevers, and other diseases.
But becoming convinced at last of the real cause, we abandoned the use of the tent altogether, and from the day we commenced to sleep in the open air with our feet to a fire which was kept burning through the night, we never afterwards had a case of sickness in the camp.
Fresh air is as necessary for the sustenance of life in Virginia
as in the Everglades.