May 27, 1862: Yellow fever not as bad as expected

Yellow Jack

As we’ve seen, the threat of yellow fever was touted repeatedly by Southerners as the likely nemesis of the Yankee invaders to New Orleans. It was even suggested that bringing in large numbers of “unacclimated” Yankees would prompt an epidemic that would be dangerous to the locals as well.

In fact, only 2 yellow fever deaths were reported that summer in New Orleans. Whether Butler’s efforts to clean up the streets may have helped (perhaps by reducing breeding places for mosquitoes), or whether the union just had the good luck to invade in a year with lower disease incidence is hard to tell. Nevertheless, the expected epidemic never materialized.

From the Official Record:


SAINT JAMES HOSPITAL, May 27, 1862.
Major General BENJAMIN F. BUTLER,
Commanding Department of the Gulf:

GENERAL: It affords me pleasure to report to you the state of health of the Federal troops since their landing in Ne Orleans on the 1st instant.

Agreeably to your orders this general hospital was immediately opened for the reception of all who by sickness or casualties had been or would be disabled from the performance of duty. Since that time the admissions to the hospital have been 546, and the deaths from among that number up to to-day (including 2, 1 of whom was assassinated in the street, and 1 who died from accidental strangulation) amount to 13. Eleven deaths from disease occurring in this general hospital for your whole department here is a condition of health as gratifying as it was unexpected.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Robt. K. Smith,
Surgeon in Charge.

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