A Life-Giving Beverage
The Diary of Mrs. Judith Brockenbrough McGuire, 1862-1863 includes the following entry which notes the “dangerously wounded” condition of her nephew, identified only as “Major B.” She devoted herself to “B’s” care until his parents arrived, living on little sleep with pitchers of water, bowls and baskets readied for more wounded coming on the trains. Mrs. McGuire wrote of herself and other ladies caring for the wounded: “We cannot yield to private feelings now; they may surge up and rush through our hearts until they almost burst them, but they must not overwhelm us. We must do our duty to our country, and it can’t be done by nursing our own sorrows.”
A Life-Giving Beverage
“February 11, 1863: For ten days past I have been at the bedside of my patient in Richmond. The physicians for the third time despaired of his life; by the goodness of God he is again convalescent. Our wounded are suffering excessively for tonics, and I believe that many valuable lives are lost for the want of a few bottles of porter.
One day a surgeon standing by Mr. B’s bedside said to me, “He must sink in a day or two; he retains neither brandy nor milk, and his life is passing away for want of nourishment.”
In a state bordering on despair, I went out to houses and stores, to beg or buy porter; not a bottle was in town. At last a lady told me that a blockade runner, it was said, had brought ale, and it was at the medical purveyor’s. I went back to Mr. P’s instantly, and told my brother (B.’s father) of the rumor. To get a surgeon’s requisition and go off to the purveyor’s was the work of a moment.
In a short time he returned with a dozen bottles of India ale. It was administered cautiously at first, and when I found that he retained it, and feebly asked for more, tears of joy and thankfulness ran down my cheeks.
“Give him as much as he will take during the night,” was the order of the physician. The order was obeyed, and life seemed to return to his system; in twenty-four hours he had drunk four bottles; he began then to take milk, and I never witnessed anything like the reanimation of the whole man, physical and mental.
Our hospitals are now supplied with this life-giving beverage, and all have it who “absolutely require it” though great care is taken of it, for the supply is limited. Oh, how cruel it is that the Northern Government should have made medicines and the necessaries of life to the sick and wounded, contraband articles!”
(Diary of Mrs. McGuire; The Women of the South in War Times, Matthew Page Andrews, editor, The Norman Remington Company, 1920, pp. 174-175)