July 25, 2012

Beyond battle wounds

Soldiers faced many dangers during the War of 1812. Not only did musket and artillery fire threaten soldiers’ lives, but they also faced the greatest danger to a soldier’s life – disease.

During the war, the number one killer came in the form of disease and not from battle wounds. It is estimated that only 15 per cent of deaths during the war came from wounds sustained in battle. The majority of deaths came from infectious diseases such as dysentery, typhoid, pneumonia, malaria, measles and smallpox. Many military camps lacked strict sanitation procedures, which led to the increase in disease related deaths.

Plaque honouring 300 soldiers who died in Delaware Park
One American camp where disease was ramped occurred in the winter of 1812 at Flint Hill. The U.S. Army established a camp in preparation for an invasion that did not occur. The men suffered daily from the cold since many were under-dressed for the winter. These soldiers were plagued by poor rations as disease and sickness spread through the encampment due to improper preparations for the harsh winter.  

By November 1812, a U.S. surgeon reported that three to four men were dying each day, and that measles and dysentery were the two deadliest diseases. Today, 300 men are buried in Delaware Park who died during the winter of 1812. These men are currently recognized by a small plaque. The Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy has started a fundraiser to plant 300 weeping willow trees in memory of the 300 men that died. These trees are meant to serve as a monument to the sacrifice of these men. If you would like to get involved with this campaign, please click here.  

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