Saturday, January 7, 2012

Douglas County's Spanish American War Story

There are many ways to define history, but it can be described as a study of how things change over time. Many historians examine the different ways land is used over time, and it is something that I find fascinating.

Take any spot in Douglas County and that spot -- that plot of land has a history. More than likely it was first used by the Creek or Cherokee Nations as hunting grounds, and later by this area's first settlers as farmland. Later, sections of the land would become community areas like Dark Corner, Mt. Carmel or the town of Douglasville.

Let's take a plot of land and trace its history a little. The plot in question is near the intersection of Veterans Memorial Parkway (Bankhead Highway) and Baker Drive. The street is east of Lithia Springs Church of God and next to Pro Body Shop. Today the land down Baker Drive is dotted with homes. Hundreds of cars travel through the area daily passing Baker Drive. The occupants of the cars driving through heading to work, to school, to run various errands never consider what might have been going on in the area fifty years ago or even a hundred years ago.

Would you ever consider there was a military camp located there?

There was....

I would imagine that when most people think of Douglas County the last thing that comes to mind is the Spanish-American War, but like any American towns that existed in those few weeks during the Spring and Summer of 1898 the events of the war were first and foremost in everyone's mind, and that patch of land located at Baker Drive was very important to some of the troops who were undergoing training for the conflict with Spain. That plot of land might very well have been the ingredient that saved their life.

The state of Georgia played a very important role in training soldiers. Georgia had more camps than any other state with twenty-five different facilities. Some of the camps were located in Albany, Athens and Augusta to name a few. Camp Thomas was one of the more notorious camps. It was located on the Civil War battlefield at Chickamauga and had a population of 7,000 regular soldiers and more than sixty regiments of state troops. Todd Womack's article at New Georgia Encyclopedia correctly advises "overcrowding and poor sanitation led to a serious outbreak of typhoid" during those months. There were more than 752 deaths at Camp Thomas from typhoid.

Douglas County was important in the war effort as well. Typhoid is the key here that brings us to the Douglas County connection. Disease, mainly typhoid, was the number one killer during the Spanish-American War rather than actual warfare. In fact, Vincent J. Girillo advises in his book, Bullets and Bacilli, "for every soldier killed during the Spanish-American War, more than seven died from diseases such as typhoid."

Typhoid was nothing new to Douglas County. Fannie Mae Davis' book, Douglas County, Georgia: From Indian Trial to I-20, advises there were constant outbreaks of typhoid every summer in the 1880s and 1890s leaving doctors and citizens baffled because a cause had not been isolated. Folks called it the 'putrid fever" or "the sickness", and thought the illness was "brought here from other places."

At one point Douglasville doctors pointed to a constant mud puddle that stood at the intersection of Broad and Campbellton as a possible cause of the sickness. It seems the puddle was such a permanent fixture of foul water in town that citizens had given it a name....."Hog Wallow". It was finally filled in and eradicated, but "the sickness" kept coming back.

Finally, doctors across the world finally began to understand typhoid was caused by poor sanitation and close quarters. They began to understand the role flies played in carrying the disease as well. While a vaccination had been created in 1897, it wasn't until the 1930s that typhoid would finally be under control.

Getting back to that plot of land near Veterans Memorial and Baker it seems Fort McPherson created a camp there in 1898 mainly to move soldiers away from an outbreak of typhoid. Fannie Mae Davis as well as other historical sources indicates the land was used as a sub-post for Fort McPherson....

THANK YOU for visiting “Every Now and Then” and reading the first few paragraphs of “Douglas County’s Spanish American War Story“ which is now one of the 140 chapters in my book “Every Now and Then: The Amazing Tales of Douglas County, Volume I”. 

Visit the Amazon link by clicking the book cover below where you can explore the table of contents and read a few pages of the book…plus make a purchase if you choose!

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