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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/397

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385
INVENTION AND INDUSTRY AT THE SOUTH.

scanty supply of medicines and hospital stores made him fertile in expedients of every kind. I have seen him search field and forest for plants and flowers whose medicinal virtues he understood and could use. The pliant bark of a tree made for him a good tourniquet; the piece of a green persimmon, a styptic; a knitting needle, with its point sharply bent, a tenaculum, and a penknife in his hand, a scalpel and bistoury. I have seen him break off one prong of a common table fork, bend the point of the other prong, and with it elevate the bone in depressed fracture of the skull and save life. Long before he knew the use of the porcelain-tipped probe for finding bullets I have seen him use a piece of soft pine wood and bring it out of the wound marked by the leaden ball. Years before we were formally told of NĂ©laton's method of inverting the body in chloroform narcosis, I have seen it practiced by the Confederate surgeon. Many a time I have seen the foot of the operating table raised to let the blood go by gravitation to the patient's head when death from chloroform was imminent, and I will add that in the corps to which I was attached chloroform was given over twenty-eight thousand times, and no death was ever ascribed to its use." The talents which the stern necessities of war called forth in medical science were exhibited in every other department by the Southern people. It has been said that "one of the compensations of war is a swift ensuing excitation of the mental faculties," and in this instance it would seem to have been so. The outbreak of the civil war in 1861 found the seceding States with a population of eight millions, about one half of whom were negro slaves, as against twenty-four millions in the non-seceding States. The disparity in population between the two sections, however, great as it was, was not greater than that of their equipment in the implements of warfare. A widely separated, almost exclusively agricultural people, without manufactories or skilled labor, were to contend with a people accustomed to the handling of machinery of all sorts, operated by the highest class of trained mechanics, and in whom the inventive faculties had been developed to their utmost. One of the greatest curses of negro slavery was not only that it was in itself an inefficient labor for the higher classes of work, but it also served to drive out white labor of the better sort, which invariably shunned the black districts. A striking instance of the scarcity of skilled labor in the South was furnished in the matter of making gunpowder with which to carry on the war. In the spring of 1861 Mr. Davis authorized Colonel George W. Rains to undertake the construction of powder works for the Confederacy. These mills, begun in September of that year at Augusta, Ga., were finished the following April. For the first year of the war the Confederates were almost entirely dependent upon the powder captured from