Case 94

Case 94.- Private Theodore Somers, Com. D. 55th Mass; admitted Jan. 29, 1865. Dulness on precussion over the right lobe of the left lung; severe cough; free expctoration; anorexia; excessive nostalgia; pulse 120, full and Soft. 31st: Rolling about, looking anxious; wanting to die; refusing food and medicine. Died February 7. Post-mortem examination: Dark straw-colored liquid and lymph in pericardium. Apex of the left lung solid, lower auterior part crepitant but sloughy; lower lobe dark brownish- red and doughy; miliary tubercle in right lower lobe. Liver pale and fatty; spleen small; kidneys granular.-  Third Division Hospital, Alexandria, Va.


I did not want to leave Private Theodore Somers as an autopsy about to happen but hit the limits of my historical ignorance  of this period. Not familiar with the archives don’t know where to look yet.

Could not find any records,  I also have to assume that the abbreviation Mass is Massachusetts = Company D. 55th Massachusetts infantry regiment.

It was an African American unit. Comprising freed men and runaway slaves.


3 posts Tomorrow.

(1) Medical treatment of nostalgia in more detail.

(2) Proposals to improve camp life and limit the occurrence of nostalgia

(3) Use a description of the 55th Massachusetts’s infantry regiments camp life as a general descriptive model.

Cluster of Conditions?

Working on the Hoof

Random math’s and physics find of the day.

If I had to draw a graph of the diagnostic data I have (admittedly severely limited so far) it seems to pattern like this.


Reproductive Constraint

 Disorder and The Cow

Basic measure of free status in early medieval society = the owner ship of one cow.

This situation implies you have the land on which to feed it, which is not inconsiderable.

Its not a recipe for reproductive successes.

Children need to inherit that land. So within a generation territory fragments.

More land, more cows one solution the other is to simply fail to reproduce offspring.

Fragmentation/ predatory expansion of early medieval kingdoms is the norm and a significant issue.

Range of cognitive skill sets used by the warrior cast  in these circumstances.

Basic thievery, cattle raiding, fast moving, small mobile force, which can cover large distances.

Pitched battle, co-ordinate phalanx based.


Primary tool of territorial expansion, ravaging. The destruction of crops, livestock and homesteads, on mass.

Targeted and it demands its own forms of discipline. Controlling the movement and flow of fleeing civilian population for example.

I can’t help but make comparisons with the 19th century. Skill set has altered but their are some basic comparisons to be made.

The cow is also a notable presence in both examples. That demands controlling and policing the flow of a potentially hostile civilian population, seeking to encroach and expand its grazing capacity.

The Reality of Things: Kapkap Ponmi (The Noise of Running Feet)

“In 1878, a group of 29 Nez Perce led by Wottolen left Canada. With the group was Kapkap Ponmi (the daughter of Chief Joseph), Yellow Wolf (who was a member of Joseph’s band), Peopeo Tholekt, and Black Eagle (Wottolen’s son). There were only five warriors in the group, each of whom had about 10 cartridges for his weapon. This small band made their way through Montana by killing livestock here and there for subsistence. At the Middle Clearwater River, soldiers from Fort Missoula attempted to block the Nez Perce passage to Idaho. A detachment under the command of First Lieutenant Thomas Wallace engaged the Indians in battle and claimed to have killed six and wounded three.”


Nez Perce, refugees who had sought asylum in Canada used the eclipse and the darkness (slow moving family- group) to re-enter the U.S.A in attempt to return home to Idho.

To re-establish the connection and kinship they had with things.

Plunge Into Darkness

This day there was as far as the eye could reach a singular appearance of nature, owing to a partial eclipse of the sun. For a while everything appeared very much as when the heavens are obscured by the smoke of forest fires, only now the air was pure and the sky was clear. It seemed to the officers and men as if they had been suddenly ushered into another world, conceivably like that in Bulwer’s ‘Coming Age.’ In a few hours, however, the realities of things were re-established.


Colonel O.O. Howard, camped at Lake Malheur

Every Time A Coconut

On the March

As far as my personal observation extends the disease occurs more frequently in robust, plethoric (ed. Excesses of bodily fluid most notably blood) persons than in those of lax and feeble habit.

The proposed predictive sign of nyetalopia (night blindness). The other factor.

the irritability of the nervous centers which characterizes nostalgia is in some instances a predisposing cause of nyetalopia

In Camp

This tendency may originate from blood poisoning induced by the crowding together of men in close and illy ventilated quarters, from fatigue occasioned by excessive drilling, from over-exertion from too protracted a tour of duty, from nostalgia and from want of attention to personal cleanliness.

Blood borne, environmental (poor living conditions/ lack of hygiene) or nostalgia.

Dis-ordered camp and symptoms of nostalgia diagnostic features ‘lesser symptoms of disease. Blood poisoning and nostalgia “the low forms that they have lately assumed”

Typhoid/ malaria the ‘greater’ forms of endemic disease and mortality.

Lesser and greater forms seem to viewed as feeding off each other.

Nostalgia/ lack of attention to personal cleanliness + poorly ventilated/ crowded quarters = blood poisoning = Typhoid/ Malaria

Disordered environment = disordered body/ disordered body = disordered environment.


My very limited exposure to the medical sources for the civil war has been surprising. I am enjoying it as I an entirely ignorant of the subject and it is proving to be entirely unpredictable.

I did read a couple of contemporary secondary sources but these used a modern system of classification, ‘nostalgia was a a killer but typhus was greater killer.’

Got no sense of the order and relationship between things the sources seem to be describing.

No idea what the system of classification is, I could at this point reach out find and read from a historical expert.

I prefer to work blind from the subject and the source. Resolve any error at a later date.

Some years ago I asked Micheal Hunter an expert on the chemist Robert Boyle what Boyle’s perspective was on the four humors (an ancient medical theory) was. His response was interesting. Publicly supportive, privately skeptical.

Boyle’s public reporting on Medicine to a degree supported institutional opinion. He was not himself a medical doctor and had high ranking friends who were.

His private papers deploy a much more skeptical attitude.

Here I am dealing in large degree with an internal hierarchy. I would expect to find some tension within it as medical theories are altering.

The old aerial germ theory seems to be at the core of at least one of the sources.

Blood wither poisoned or to be found in excesses a key explanatory factor so far.

Descriptions of camp so far less on combat conditions. The criticism expressed in regard to excessive drill. That’s the point I would expect the subject is starting to step on the toes outside that of the medical department.

What does seem clear in these descriptive reports is that the Doctors themselves are not certain what they are dealing with.

Working in a highly stressful environment with a high degree of urgency in regard to solutions. The nature of the reports must have been highly alarming.

Wondering here if the tendency in these circumstances is to arrive at a set of factors you know you have control over and can exert authority and expertise.

In this case the environmental factors ( a focus on camp conditions, hygiene, food logistics) and in regard to diagnostics, blood.

The situation here is also a flow of  1000’s of descriptive accounts from medical personal of all ranks and stations.

If their is an environmental tendency to reach towards traditional forms of understanding under stress, the flow here creates a somewhat more fluid set of circumstances and responses.

The Blindingly Obvious (Do Communists Glow in the Dark?)

Dark adaptation is an independent processes in each eye. It develops slowly in the dark, but is quickly lost in the light. Dark adaptations depends on adequate amounts of vitamins A, B and C in the diet, and is cut down by fatigue, excessive alcohol or tobacco, increasing age, and poor condition.

Fatigue, the constant lot of the combat soldier, reduces his night vision. Night operations of all kinds are associated with much emotional tension, often as tiring as physical strain. Adequate rest, including the use of the foxhole ” buddy” system, and frequent rotation to quieter sectors, pays huge dividends in combat efficiency and lives saved. Physical fitness improves night vision along with  other physiological processes……..

True night blindness (nyctalopia) is very rare among military personnel. No given race has a better potential for night vision than any other. During World War II, it was found Negro soldiers seemed to be able to see better at night than white soldiers. This is not due to any organic differences, but rather to the fact that Negro personnel, often from rural areas, learned to use their eyes at night. Men from the country possess better night vision than city men because they have used their eyes more in the dark. The Advantage of our Communist adversaries on this point is obvious.


Lieutenant Colonel Surgeon H. Neel, Jr. Night Vision in Ground Combat


From Ringgold To Buzzards Roost


Neyralopia (Night Blindness) & Nostalgia

As far as my personal observation extends the disease occurs more frequently in robust, plethoric persons than in those of  lax and feeble habit. The first case I saw occurred in the 19th U.S Inf. May 8, 1864, after a hard day’s march from Ringgold to Buzzard’s Roost, Ga.. in the hot sun. It came on suddenly. After this several other cases occurred, and as the campaign advanced the disease appeared to rage as an epidemic. Some regiments had to lead thirty or forty blind every night………. That mental influences have much to do with the production of disease there can be no doubt as chorea has often been caused by witnessing the convulsive movements of the patient, and it is likely that the expectation of and attention to any disease act as a predisposing causes of the disease itself. Nostalgia manifests itself in a variety of ways; but there is no doubt that the nervous system is primarily affected, and it is not unreasonable to suppose that the irritability of the nervous centers which characterizes nostalgia is in some instances a predisposing cause of nyetalopia…….