American Civil War Quinine Tin

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A Civil War quinine tin prepared by the U.S.A. Medical Purveying Depot, Astoria, Long Island.

One of the bloodiest conflicts recorded in American history, the Civil War accounted for 750,000 deaths, the majority of which were attributed to disease as from battlefield injury.  Malarial fever or “Marsh Miasm” as known by both the Union and Confederacy, was one of such diseases, described as “autumnal fevers, whose fatal effects were relied upon by enemies of the country (the South) to destroy our forces, which have been rendered comparatively innoxious by the liberal administration of the salts of quinia (Woodward, 1863, p.29).”

Nearly impossible to obtain in the South, U.S. Surgeon General William Hammond organized a developing supply of the drug, manufactured at Union Army laboratories in Astoria, Long Island, and Philadelphia. In the field, Union officials equipped barrels of whiskey with quinine, which served as a prophylactic measure against the malarial diseases of the southern landscape. Each soldier took a daily morning dose of the medicated whiskey; a practice that was coined the “quinine call” or the “Q-call.”

Resources

Woodward, J. J. (1863). Outlines of the chief camp diseases of the United States armies as observed during the present war: A practical contribution to military medicine. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & Co.

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