Thursday, October 27, 2011

Water with a Whiskey Chaser

Sure, everyone's heard of smallpox, but who knows what bigpox was?

Aha! And neither did I before today's Banner Lecture at the Virginia Historical Society.

Former Army Surgeon Adrian Wheat gave a thoroughly entertaining and informative lecture on Civil War Medicine amusing himself and his audience with his wealth of knowledge and dry wit

He began the lecture with a sepia-toned photograph of two Civil War-era looking doctors titled "The Confederate Paradox."

Turns out the photo was of him and a friend as re-enactors, you know, a "pair of docs."

Hey, the audience laughed.

When speaking of homeopathic and botanical medicines used during the Civil War, Wheat said that they're all available at Ellwood-Thompson.

There's a new advertising tactic for E-T.

He talked about ether originally being a recreational drug.

At "ether follies," the users would end up cavorting which sounds to me a lot like what happens when anyone uses recreational drugs.

Another major medicine was whiskey, always administered to an injured man after he was given water ("Injured men were always thirsty"), but before the morphine and chloroform.

Booze was clearly a popular cure-all as evidenced in a quote Wheat read from a Civil War-era doctor who, when brought some moonshine and asked how to use it, advised, "I want you to take it internally, externally and eternally."

Wheat didn't say how much whiskey and moonshine helped with the scourge of the war, venereal disease, but he did quote a soldier's letter home.

"I've had the mumps for a week and it's settled in my secrets."

I would guess his mother reading that at home was scandalized at the thought of her sweet son's bad behavior.

Because, yes, bigpox, that unheard of disease? Syphilis.

And I guarantee you there's nothing at Ellwood-Thompson that could cure that.

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