Monday, February 11, 2013

February 11, 1863: From Judith White McGuire's "Diary of a southern refugee during the war, by a lady of Virginia"

Judith White McGuire
Diary of a Southern Refugee During the War provides Judith White McGuire’s account of her Civil War experience in Virginia. In February of 1863, McGuire was in Richmond, Virginia at one of the city's many hospitals.  On February 11, 1863 she wrote about the South's struggles with shortages caused by the Union blockade of Southern ports and how it impacted her ability to care for her patients.
For ten days past I have been at the bedside of my patient in Richmond. The physicians for the third time despaired of his life; by the goodness of God he is again convalescent. Our wounded are suffering excessively for tonics, and I believe that many valuable lives are lost for the want of a few bottles of porter. One day a surgeon standing by B's bedside said to me, “He must sink in a day or two; he retains neither brandy nor milk, and his life is passing away for want of nourishment.” In a state bordering on despair, I went out to houses and stores, to beg or buy porter; not a bottle was in town. At last a lady told me that a blockade-runner, it was said, had brought ale, and it was at the medical purveyor's. I went back to Mr. P's instantly, and told my brother (B's father) of the rumour. To get a surgeon's requisition and go off to the purveyor's was the work of a moment. In a short time he returned, with a dozen bottles of India ale. It was administered cautiously at first, and when I found that he retained it, and feebly asked for more, tears of joy and thankfulness ran down my cheeks. “Give him as much as he will take during the night,” was the order of the physician. The order was obeyed, and life seemed to return to his system; in twenty-four hours he had drank four bottles; he began then to take milk, and I never witnessed any thing like the reanimation of the whole man, physical and mental. The hospitals are now supplied with this life-giving beverage, and all have it who “absolutely require it,” though great care is taken of it, for the supply is limited. Oh, how cruel it is that the Northern Government should have made medicines, and the necessaries of life to the sick and wounded, contraband articles!

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