John T. Sutton - Civil War Veteran

Attached to the 11th Regiment, Michigan Cavalry, Co. H, John was assigned to Lexington and then Louisa, Kentucky. Their job was to scout and patrol throughout eastern Kentucky. Like many of the young men who joined the Union forces during the Civil War, John thought that his greatest danger would come from artillery. He was wrong. Three out of every five deaths in the fighting men were due to disease.

The army camps - in both the North and the South - were shockingly filthy. Sanitary practices and hygiene were unknown. Their poor diet and exposure to the elements added to the threat to health.

Both the Confederate and Union governments struggled to improve the level of  care for their soldiers. Doctors kept more detailed records of their medical and surgical procedures. Anesthesia provided a safer means of operating on wounded men. The relationship of cleanliness, diet and disease emerged, and the general public as well as the army surgeons benefited. The Civil War, with all the deaths that resulted, can also be hailed as the precursor of modern medicine.

The improvements that evolved in health care didn't benefit John though. He died of typhoid fever just after his nineteenth birthday. Seeking to comfort his grieving family, Captain H. Bowen wrote that John "never forgot himself as a man and a gentleman. He forgot not that he had a character and well did he maintain it."

JoAnne P. Miller