March, when preparing to take the field, 132 men of that regiment were reported unfit for duty.
Another cause of disease was the heavy details for labor in the field works and the severe nature of the labor; another, the exposure incident to picket duty. Regular officers and soldiers know how to make themselves comfortable on picket duty; volunteers do not. The frequent alarms in some portions of our lines were considered by some of the medical officers as a cause of disease. This was particularly the case in front of some of the Vermont troops in Brooks' brigade. It is possible this may have had an unfavorable effect upon men predisposed to disease from other causes.
The principal causes of disease, however, in our camps were the same that we have always to deplore and find it so difficult to remedy, simply because citizens suddenly called to the field cannot comprehend that men in masses require the attention of their officers to enforce certain hygienic conditions without which health cannot be preserved. The individual man at home finds his meals well cooked and punctually served, his bed made, his quarters policed and ventilated, his clothing washed and kept in order without any agency of his own, and without his every having bestowed a thought upon the matter. The officer in ninety-nine cases in a hundred has given no more reflection than the private to these important subjects. When the necessity for looking after these things is forced upon his attention, he is at a loss how to proceed. Too frequently he lacks the moral courage and the energy to make his men do what neither he nor they stipulated for or understood when they entered the service. To bad cooking, bad police, bad ventilation of tents, inattention to personal cleanliness, and unnecessarily irregular habits we are to attribute the greater proportion of the diseases that actually occurred in the army.
My attention was given to these evils from the beginning. By precept and by orders the necessity and the methods of correcting them were urged upon the commanders and the medical officers of the several regiments. When the brigade surgeons were assigned, the first paragraph of the order defining their duties impressed the paramount importance of hygienic morality upon their consciences, and no occasion was let slip by me of urging upon both commanders and surgeons their obligations in this respect. Some of the regimental surgeons I know faithfully performed this duty. Copies of reports made to their commanding officers, creditable alike to their intelligence and their zeal, were sent to me. The attention of commanding officers is earnestly called in these reports to the drainage of their camps, the clothing and cleanliness of their men, to the situation of their sinks, and the like. One surgeon reports that he cannot strike the tents as I had enjoined, because they were too old, and urges his colonel to get new ones, if possible.
The prophylactic use of quinine and whisky having been suggested as a means of preventing malarial disease, I determined to try its efficacy. There being no warrant for such an issue in the Regulations of the Army, I procured a small quantity from the Sanitary Commission, and received favorable reports of its effects. Upon representing this to the Surgeon-General, I was authorized to issue it in reasonable quantities to regiments whose condition seemed most to demand it. I required reports as to the effect. These reports were generally favorable; so much so, that I was induced to keep it constantly on hand afterwards in the purveyor's store. The surgeon of the Cameron Dragoons reported that by its use he had reduced his sick report from 126.