Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 33.djvu/183

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Confederate Drug Conditions. 179

"I never heard of but one physician who was promoted on the field. The army once encamped at Tullahoma, Tenn., and ob- tained their water from a small stream which flowed as well as it could through a dense wood, where the leaves were as thick as in the 'vale of Vallambrosa. ' The eddying pools were crystal, bright and clear, but disease and death lurked in their beautiful eddies, for bowel diseases were produced, unusually, among officers and men, and, in the abscence of any pharmaceutical attachment to the army, it was without remedy until Dr. Cowan, attached as a physician to a Tennessee regiment, adopted the use of what is now the famous tablespoon remedy, consisting of a tablespoon of Epsom salts, and equal quantities of bicarbonate soda and laudanum, this dissolved in water and taken a tablespoonful at a dose. This remedy acted magi- cally, and being so widely adopted, attracted the notice of General Forrest, who, out of admiration and gratitude, promoted Dr. Cowan to his personal staff with rank of major. There was another doctor who ought to have been promoted for this same sort of service, for dis- eases of the bowels, during long encampments, became pestilential. The food, especially the bread, when prepared by the ordinary mess soldier, seemed to be especially invented for the production of irri- tation. Such camp-made biscuit would these days prove a success- ful rival and threaten the 'rubber trust.'

"An Alabama surgeon named Langhorne, with his hospital assistant, a good-natured fellow called 'Sonk,' grieving over these miseries, determined to find a remedy in his total lack of drugs for these multiplied woes, characterized under the synonyms 'diree' and 'diseremus.' After drawing largely on all their genius, they invented a pill composed of equal parts of red pepper and crude rosin, the latter of which they gathered from the nearby trees, and which they consigned to immortality under the name of the 'Diseremus Pill.' It was amusing, despite the sadness of the scene, to watch the doctor and his assistant, each with their cup full of their invention, going out to meet the weak and melancholy throng, who, in answer to the surgeon's call, emerged from their tents, morn- ing after morning, and in single file marched wearily and languidly' along, each in turn receiving in his feverish palm a dozen or more of 'Diseremus Pill,' with the laconic instructions to 'take two after each loose operation' ; and even these instructions, when the tongue of the doctor grew weary with their constant repetition, was shortened into a sort of ejaculation as the pills were dropped, 'two after each loose,' this grew into a sort of by-word about the camp."