Extraordinary Stories

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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The "The Little Bottle That Meant So Much To So Many" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Turned on the TV and found a show on the Travel Channel that I find interesting.  Show called "Mysteries at the Museum" which takes you to museums around the United States and picks unusual items in the museum and tells a tale  about them.  
Front door of the National Museum Of Civil War Medicine
located in Frederick, Maryland I visited with my granddaughter.
One of the museums visited on the particular show I was watching was the National Civil War Museum of Medicine in Frederick, Maryland.  Same museum that my Granddaughter Camille and I visited this past summer when Carol and I made a weekend visit to see them in Urbana, Maryland.  Frederick is about fifteen minutes from Urbana and I talked Camille into making the visit with me.  
The little bottle that meant so much to so many.
On Wednesday, August 31 I posted a story about our journey to the museum and what we found interesting.  One item that I found interesting was the "Mystery" that was talked about on the TV show today.  The item was a minute bottle housed in a small display case that was highlighted with a spotlight. The bottle displayed an old label that read "Nitrate of Silver".  As I listened to the show, it told the story of the bottle and how it saved so many lives during the Civil War.  Not at all what I had imagined when the show started, but still rather interesting.  The story dealt with battles near the city of Nashville, Tennessee.  Seems that Nashville had legalized prostitution before the war and when the Union troops began to arrive they found their way to the infamous Smokey Row where more than 200 prostitutes were housed.
Major General William Rosecrans
In February of 1852 Major General William Rosecrans' army seized Nashville and the prostitutes rose to over 1,500.  And with that, so did the rise in "private diseases." Nearly one in ten Union soldiers contracted either syphilis or gonorrhea and many of them died.  Rosecrans enlisted the help of Union Lt. Col. George Spalding to help with the problem and he suggested they load all the prostitutes on a steamboat and take them upriver to Louisville, Kentucky.  The steamboat "Idahoe" was requisitioned and loaded with all the prostitutes much to the dismay of the boat Capt. John Newcomb.  The boat soon became known as the "Floating Whorehouse" and the boat's name seemed to fit it well (I-da-hoe).  
A license that was needed to practice prostitution.
Armed guards in Louisville, and later Cincinnati, refused to allow the passengers to disembark so they returned to Nashville.  Rosecrans once again asked Spalding for help and he suggested they license all the prostitutes and require them to have medical exams every week to make sure they were free of venereal diseases.  There would be a weekly fee of 50 cents and if they were healthy, they would be given a license to practice their trade.  
The field hospital that was built to help infected prostitutes.
With the money they collected they opened a field hospital and treated the infected women at no charge.  And, this is where the small bottle I saw at the museum comes into play.  The bottle contained Silver Nitrate which was used to treat venereal disease during the civil war by injection or intravenously.  Of the approximately 620,000 soldiers who died in the Civil War, two-thirds of those deaths were from disease.  Having already visited the Civil War Museum of Medicine made the story on "Mysteries at the Museum" seem more real.  And now I understand the reason why that small bottle with the light to attract your attention was so important.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.     

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