An Olfactory Follow-Up

On Thursday, I stirred up a big stink in Atlanta from July 1864. That wasn’t the only one:

COMPLAINTS.–Some of the inmates of the Gate City Hospital complain that an old building near the hospital is filled with hides, which omit an intolerable stench, permeating and infecting the atmosphere of the hospital, to the detriment of its inmates. Will not the authorities have the nuisance abated?

–Atlanta Intelligencer, June 28, 1864.

4 Responses to An Olfactory Follow-Up

  1. Some things never change! :>) Although I suspect that the 1860 version of Snopes might label this false! Newspapers did make up fillers!

    1. Hey, Bob! I’m not sure I get the “Snopes” allusion, unless you’re meaning the Snopes family in the Faulkner novels. Anyway, Confederate newspapers did not make this stuff up. In 1863 a prominent Atlanta army hospital, the Gate City, was administered by Surgeon in Charge Paul F. Eve. Dr. Eve had been a star faculty member of the Medical College of Georgia and was the first Georgian to serve as president of the American Medical Association (1857-58). Dr. Eve did not prove to be a capable hospital administrator, however. Samuel H. Stout, hospital director for the Army of Tennessee, toured the Gate City Hospital in ’63 and found it to be a “veritable Augean stable”: he personally “had often to tiptoe, to keep from stepping in filth, sputa, excrement, & urine.” Dr. Eve was transferred from the Gate City in the fall of ’63. (Steve Davis, “Another Look at Civil War Medical Care: Atlanta’s Confederate Hospitals,” Journal of the Medical Association of Georgia, vol. 88, no. 2 [April 1999], 15).

  2. One of my favorite “facts” concerns the theory of disease popular before such things as microbes, bacteria and viruses were discovered: Miasmas! When folks said that an odor was making them sick, they meant it literally! The smell of rotting vegetation and stale water from swamps and rivers was thought to cause malaria. I’d hate to think what a cat box might be blamed for!

  3. You are so right, Meg. “Miasmatic effluvia” is more than once named as the cause of soldiers’ sickness or death! Thanks for this!

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