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Unit 3: Set 6: Section 1: Scurvy in the Frontier Army - Martha Wales

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Martha Gray [Wales] was a small girl in 1867 when she lived at Forts Buford and Stevenson. Her father, Charles C. Gray, was a military surgeon, or physician, who was responsible for the health of the soldiers stationed at the fort, then under command of General Regis de Trobriand. In her memoir, Wales described the difficulty of keeping enlisted men supplied with vegetables and fruits necessary for preventing diseases, the most prominent of which was scurvy:

Our men had been suffering from scurvy in increasing numbers. The officers managed better as they had private stocks of canned goods. Game was plentiful for the shooting, and the government tried to maintain herds of beef cattle, but these were sometimes shot by Indians and a good deal of the meat for the enlisted men was necessarily salted. My father remembering that old Fort Berthold had been established by a Frenchman years ago, that where a Frenchman had lived, there must be a kitchen garden and so given a guard he started out as early as the frost was out of the ground to see what he could find. To his delight there were wild onions and Jerusalem artichokes which greatly helped the men’s diet with the canned goods and fresh vegetables which came to the Post by steam boat.

Source: Mrs. G. W. (Martha) Wales. Page 9, Memoir written for State Historical Society of North Dakota, MSS 20046. See also: “When I was a Little Girl: Things I Remember from Living at Frontier Military Posts” by Martha Gray Wales, ed by Willard B. Pope in North Dakota History vol 50, No. 2 (Spring 1983): 12 – 22.

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