Soldier’s war preparations included a host of home remedies

Published 10:43 am Monday, August 4, 2014



Ammunition. Blanket. Plate. Hog lard, balsam and blood root.
When soldiers set off from home to fight in the Civil War, their packs were not just filled with clothing, personal mementos and battle supplies.
Often, the soldiers carried their own home remedies and medicines to be prepared for whatever medical emergencies came their way.
Sycamore Shoals State Park Interpretive Ranger Chad Bogart explained the details of medicine of the 1800s during the annual Civil War Camp at
the Carter Mansion on Friday afternoon.
Bogart said most soldiers would not have had access to commercially produced medicines. The Confederate soldiers had even less access to these items after the Union set up blockades cutting off supplies to the South.
“Most soldiers’ mothers would have made sure they had the home remedies they used in their homes to take with them,” Bogart said. “They would have made these items last.”
Most families had recipes for salves for a variety of issues. The base for salves were hog lard and beeswax, with other ingredients varying depending on what the salve was a treatment for. For example, a salve for cuts and burns would have had sulphur added to it. Salves for eye problems would have had red pepper added to them.
“Most people today would not think that red pepper is a treatment for the eye,” Bogart said.
Another salve called the “Balm of Gilead,” made from a balsam poplar tree, was used for many skin conditions and sprains and bruises.
In addition to salves, homemade teas were another treatment.
Bogart said Bone Set tea was common drink after a person broke a bone with the belief the bone would set faster. Penny Royal tea was used to help treat measles.
Bogart said the seeds from a castor plant were crushed to create castor oil, which was used as a treatment for constipation. Also, blood root snuff would be used as a treatment for lung problems.
“That is just a scratch of the surface of the home remedies that were used by the Civil War soldiers,” Bogart said.

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