Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Public Talk: “Yellow Fever in Galveston During the Civil War”

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on August 11, 2012

My colleague, Jim Schmidt, will give the final 2012 Menard Lecture tomorrow, Sunday, at 2 p.m. at Menard Hall, 33rd Street and Avenue O in Galveston. Tickets are $10 for GHF members and $12 for non-members. It’s going to be a great talk. Having read some of Jim’s work on the subject, I know it will cover a lot of new ground, and folks who are able to attend are in for a treat.

“No disease brought more fear and more deaths to Galveston’s early residents than yellow fever,” one modern historian has justly declared.  No less than seven major epidemics struck Galveston between 1837 and 1860, killing more than two thousand people.  Yet another deadly yellow fever epidemic struck Galveston in the summer and autumn of 1864 during the Civil War, striking civilians and Confederate troops that garrisoned the island.  The lecture will examine the grim – yet interesting – role that yellow fever played during the Civil War in Galveston, including misconceptions of the causes of disease, precautions that could have been taken, and heroism displayed in sick rooms, in the voices of those who lived through it.

Jim is a chemist by training and profession.  After receiving his B.S. in Chemistry from the University of Central Oklahoma, he has worked in a number of private, government, and industrial laboratories, and is currently employed as a scientist with a biotech firm in The Woodlands, Texas. He has had a life-long interest in history, with a special regard for the Civil War.  His historical writing credits include more than fifty articles for The Civil War News, North & South, Learning Through History, World War II, and Chemical Heritage magazines, and other publications.  Jim is also a popular speaker and has given lectures on the Civil War to groups around the country.

Jim’s books, Lincoln’s Labels: America’s Best Known Brands and the Civil War, Years of Change and Suffering: Modern Perspectives on Civil War Medicine co-edited with Guy Hasegawa, and Notre Dame and the Civil War: Marching Onward to Victory, have received praise from both popular and academic historians alike. His new book, Galveston and the Civil War: An Island City in the Maelstrom, is published by the History Press and is now available for pre-order.

4 Responses

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  1. Cotton Boll Conspiracy said, on August 11, 2012 at 11:04 am

    Wish I could be there to hear about it. I always appreciate modern life a bit more when I hear of the epidemics which seem to have been rife throughout much of history and swept away large swathes of the population.

    • Andy Hall said, on August 11, 2012 at 11:09 am

      Jim devotes a chapter to it in his upcoming book, and of course there’s also his blog, CW Medicine (and Writing). Finally, these talks (all except the first one) are recorded and should be set up for online video at some point soon.

      • Cotton Boll Conspiracy said, on August 11, 2012 at 11:27 am

        Thanks, Andy. I appreciate the information and look forward to learning more.

        I can only imagine the distress of a yellow fever epidemic during the latter stages of the war, when times were already likely pretty difficult. Should be a fascinating presentation.

  2. Reed said, on August 11, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    Sounds like it will be an interesting presentation.

    The effect of disease and other disasters on family history is one I like to re-assess from time to time, as it’s easy to overlook when searching for more specific information on other topics.

    I’ve been looking through early 19th-century Wisconsin and Illinois newspapers ( has some good coverage), and it’s interesting how the press would track and report on the progress of epidemics–especially yellow fever– as they spread from the Carolinas and Gulf Coast (e.g. Charleston, Mobile) to New Orleans and up the Mississippi to the Great Lakes states. Kind of like a slow-motion, low-tech version of modern hurricane tracking. No satellite images or weather radar maps, just reports from one city after another, with details of how many cases reported and how many dead so far.

    Just another example, I think, of how living in the 21st century ain’t all bad…

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