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Nature's Civil War : common soldiers and the environment in 1862 Virginia / Kathryn Shively Meier.

By: Meier, Kathryn Shively.
Material type: TextTextSeries: Civil War America (Series): Publisher: Chapel Hill, NC : The University of North Carolina Press, c2013Description: xiii, 219 pages ; 25 cm.ISBN: 9781469610764 (cloth : alk. paper); 1469610760 (cloth : alk. paper).Other title: Common soldiers and the environment in 1862 Virginia.Subject(s): Self-care, Health -- Virginia -- History -- 19th century | Self-care, Health -- United States -- History -- 19th century | Military life -- Virginia -- History -- 19th century | Military life -- United States -- History -- 19th century | United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Health aspects | United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Environmental aspects -- Virginia
Contents:
Health and the American populace before 1862 -- At war with nature -- Soldiers and official military health care -- Becoming a seasoned soldier -- Straggling and the limits of self-care -- Conclusion: self-care beyond 1862.
Summary: "In the Shenandoah Valley and Peninsula Campaigns of 1862, Union and Confederate soldiers faced unfamiliar and harsh environmental conditions--strange terrain, tainted water, swarms of flies and mosquitoes, interminable rain and snow storms, and oppressive heat--which contributed to escalating disease and diminished morale. Using soldiers' letters, diaries, and memoirs, plus a wealth of additional personal accounts, medical sources, newspapers, and government documents, Kathryn Shively Meier reveals how these soldiers strove to maintain their physical and mental health by combating their deadliest enemy--nature. Meier explores how soldiers forged informal networks of health care based on prewar civilian experience and adopted a universal set of self-care habits, including boiling water, altering camp terrain, eradicating insects, supplementing their diets with fruits and vegetables, constructing protective shelters, and most controversially, straggling. In order to improve their health, soldiers periodically had to adjust their ideas of manliness, class values, and race to the circumstances at hand. While self-care often proved superior to relying upon the inchoate military medical infrastructure, commanders chastised soldiers for testing army discipline, ultimately redrawing the boundaries of informal health care."--book jacket.
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Item type Current location Call number Status Date due Barcode
Book University of Texas At Tyler
Stacks - 3rd Floor
E621 .M454 2013 (Browse shelf) Available 0000002056422

Includes bibliographical references and index.

Health and the American populace before 1862 -- At war with nature -- Soldiers and official military health care -- Becoming a seasoned soldier -- Straggling and the limits of self-care -- Conclusion: self-care beyond 1862.

"In the Shenandoah Valley and Peninsula Campaigns of 1862, Union and Confederate soldiers faced unfamiliar and harsh environmental conditions--strange terrain, tainted water, swarms of flies and mosquitoes, interminable rain and snow storms, and oppressive heat--which contributed to escalating disease and diminished morale. Using soldiers' letters, diaries, and memoirs, plus a wealth of additional personal accounts, medical sources, newspapers, and government documents, Kathryn Shively Meier reveals how these soldiers strove to maintain their physical and mental health by combating their deadliest enemy--nature. Meier explores how soldiers forged informal networks of health care based on prewar civilian experience and adopted a universal set of self-care habits, including boiling water, altering camp terrain, eradicating insects, supplementing their diets with fruits and vegetables, constructing protective shelters, and most controversially, straggling. In order to improve their health, soldiers periodically had to adjust their ideas of manliness, class values, and race to the circumstances at hand. While self-care often proved superior to relying upon the inchoate military medical infrastructure, commanders chastised soldiers for testing army discipline, ultimately redrawing the boundaries of informal health care."--book jacket.

Reviews provided by Syndetics

Library Journal Review

All the battles, campaigns, and generals of the American Civil War have received their fair share of ink. But as historian Meier (history, Virginia Commonwealth Univ.) points out in this edifying account of the common Union and Confederate soldier's quest for survival in the Peninsula and Shenandoah Valley Campaigns of 1862, it was the soldiers' time spent "in between the spaces of battles" that largely determined individual survival in the harsh environment. Those lucky enough to survive the process of "seasoning" disdained the formal yet somewhat counterproductive services of institutional outlets and instead adopted a variety of self-care tactics, from home remedies to simply straggling, that proved more effective. VERDICT Meier has scoured the available sources left by everyday soldiers from both sides of the war, studying letters, diaries, and memoirs, to produce a captivating "ethnographic history of soldier health," building a strong case for environmental determinism, a phenomenon commonly overshadowed by the "persistent romanticizing" of the Civil War in popular culture. Recommended to Civil War history buffs and anyone interested in soldiers' adaption and survival in trying environments.-Brian Odom, Birmingham, AL (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

CHOICE Review

Meier (Virginia Commonwealth Univ.) focuses on how soldiers stayed healthy during a very specific historical moment and place, Virginia in 1862. She compares the swampy Peninsula Campaign with the Shenandoah Campaign, the latter perceived as a healthier environment because of the mountainous region. The book's five chapters cover such topics as the ways in which the public viewed health and healing before 1862, how the particular encounters with nature in the two campaigns presented health obstacles to common soldiers, and the expansion of military health care during the war. The most important chapter (5) focuses on self-care, or how common soldiers tended to their health in a particularly taxing environment. Throughout the book, but especially in chapter 5, Meier reveals the soldiers' thoughts through their letters home. The main focus is on physical health. The briefer discussion of mental health, although weaker, does introduce an important subject. The book is thoroughly researched, contributing to the burgeoning body of literature on environmental history in the Civil War era. It is well written and accessible to undergraduates, enhanced by figures and tables as well as an extensive bibliography. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above. H. Aquino Albright College

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