from August through November 1843

Adressed to :Messrs. Editors.
Signed "Physician Second"
Messrs.  Gales  &  Seaton:    "It is also known that there
are numerous positions on the very margins of the rivers
where even intermittents are unknown, and where no en-  demic of any description prevails. Of these, Pilatka, on the St. Johns, is celebrated for its salubrity, presents a striking instance.
    "A Physician" uses the above language in his first num-
ber.  It seems singular, to judge by the country around Pilatka, that "even intermittent fevers are unknown,' and
perhaps it may be as well to look at the testimony of others in retalialtaton to this matter.
   "Pilatka (says the medical officer of 1840) is situated on the west bank of the St. Johns River, about one hundred miles from its mouth, in latitude 29 deg. 38 min. N., and longitude 4 deg. 52 min, W.  Its location is on a plain or table, fourteen feet above the level of the sea, and about sixteen miles in a direct line west of it."
    "The country in the immediate vicinity of Pilatka (says
another medical officer who was stationed here) is wet, and on the river, both above and below, consists in a great measure of hammock.  The wet hammock below extends within half a mile of the wharf, and within about half that distance of the barracks.  This hammock is large, and extends for miles down the St. Johns.  The country immediately back of the place is a wet pine barren  for about a mile towards the west, where it terminates in an uneven country of sand hills, which has been covered with a heavy growth of pine timber, most of which is now removed.  Beyond this ridge, and within about two miles of Pilatka, the country assumes the general character of the whole of East Florida, so far as my knowledge extends ─ low swamps, praries and ponds, with here and there sand hills covered with pine, and sometimes oak timber.  The hammock above Pilatka is more dry, and has a small stream running through it, which discharges itself into the river a short distance above the place; this hammock is connected with another of much greater extent, through which runs a small stream to the St. Johns.
 Is it probable that a country so near the tropic presenting such a medical topography as the above,can be as healthy as has been represnted, where "even intermittent fevers are unknown?"When the country around has been cleared of its dense forests, and the soil laid open to the burning sun, will Pilatka be "so celebrated for its salubrity?"   
   In connection with the medical topography, let us look at the diary of the weather for 1840 and 1841, as published by Assistant Surgeon Hitchcock in the New York Medical Gazette:
  1840:  Highest degree during the year                  102
             Lowest     "          "      "     "                       28
             Mean Temperature  "   "    "                       71¾
             Mean temperature of summer                     80
             Mean temperature of spring & winter         63½
  The prevailing wind S. E.; number of days on which rain fell 108.  The summer months here are May, June, July, August and Septermber.  The mean of June, July and Au- gust and September is 82 degrees.
      1841: Highest degree during the year.   "    :      104
                Lowest  "              "     "     "                     27
                Mean temperature,(in round numbers)      70
                Mean      "              summer                     78    
                Mean      "           in winter and spring       62
                Prevailing wind                                       N. E.
                Number of days on which rain fell           114
                Quantity of rain, inches                           48.94
                Average strength of garrison                    229
                Number of deaths                                     14
   "The thermometer, at noon, stands higher during the summer months at Pilatka than in Jamaica, and the mean temperature is the same; during the year, however,the average is 8½ deg. greater in the latter place."
  Now, with a "wet hammock below" and one "more dry" above,"wet pine barren"in the rear, the mean summer heat about 80 degrees and that of a summer afternoon over 100 degrees─ more than the summer heat of  Jamaica─ can say person expect to be credited when he asserts that "even intermittent favors are unknown."  Let us see what the medical officers say on the subject.  The following has been received from the medical officer of the station in 1841, than whom there is no better authority :
   "Pilatka, in comparison with many other places in East Florida, is tolerably healthy, but, like every other part of the country, is subject to intermittents of a severe form, and remittent fever, which occur at all seasons, but particularly in the fall.  Congestive fever also occurred in   the summer of 1841.  I speak of the troops stationed
 here and the inhabitants, independent of these whose diseases originated elsewhere, but were treated at this place.  Those troops that formed the permanent garrison were quite as sickly as those who, having their  head- quarters here, were operating in the country around.
  "I do not hesitate to say that Pilatka will become more sickly if it should be opened and cultivated than it has ever been before." 
   The mortality of this post in 1841 was 6.1 per cent.  At this rate, a village of 1,000 inhabitants would lose 61 of its numbers per annum by death. Even if the deaths really be- longing here were only 8, the mortality is 3.5 per cent.  It may be said that the mortality is unprecedented. Granted : but what has once occured may take place again, and the medical officer has given it as his opinion that it "will be- come more sickly, if it should be opened and cultivaed, than it has ever been before."
   This is the place "so celebrated for its salubrity," where, according to "A Physican" "even intermittent fevers are unknown.!"
   "Pilatka," says" A Physician, " in his first number, " is probably one of the most favorable positions in the peninsula for persons laboring under pulmonary affections; and it is understood  that preparations are already being made there, on an extensive scale, to afford comfortable accomodations to invalids during the ensuing fall."
   The invalid and the immigrant seem to have numerous friends, all over-anxious to afford assistance.What renders this assistance the more valuable is, that it comes unsolicit-
ed ─ the sponteneous offering of a noble soul. No one thinks of benefiting himself; it is all for the good of the new-comer, and there are no lots to sell or doctor's bills to be thought of.  Such friends are not to be found in every place.
   It may be doubted, I think, if Pilatka is the best position for persons with pulmonary affections. It feels certain spring and fall winds, which sweep over the whole country, as much as any place in the peninsula.  No competent medical assistance which every invalid is more or less in need of,  is to be procured; if any can be had, it will most probably be rendered by some adventurer, whose bill will be as long as his conscience is elastic. At best, physician's bills in this country are not trifles.
   Suitable accomodations are not provided for invalids, and it will be some years before they can be erected.  "The only houses there,"says our attentive correspondent,
"are those built by the Government for stores, &c., of rough boards, with large cracks, neither lashed nor plastered, and many have no glass windows.  I would strongly recommend to all Northerners who go there to carry a good supply of provisions, or famine will ensue. Let them not forget their snow shoes, for they will need them in the sands of Pilatka."With the best accomodations Pilatka is no place for the invalid.
   When speaking of the salubrity of the place, I forgot to mention that Surgeon Elwes died of congestive fever in the summer of 1842.
   Picolati was for a considerable time the site of the General Hospital. It was removed to the mouth of the St. Johns, this not being considered a very healthy position. One of the surgeons of the hospital informed me that bowel affections were very prevalent, owing to the low, flat, wet country around. In the sickly season of 1841 severe intermittent and remittant fevers were quite common.
   Jacksonville has been already noticed, the mortality being 3.6 per cent ─ a pretty high ration for a section that "can compete with the healthiest portion of the globe.:
   St. Johns Bluff was the position of the General Hospital up the eastern coast, after its removal from Picolati.  I am indebted to one of the surgeons of this hospital for the following:
   "The soil at the St. Johns Bluff is a calcareous sandy soil, with a substratum of clay. The country around, on the right bank of the river, so far as I had an opportunity of seeing, is scrub-oak and pine barren, interspersed with ponds, and live oak hammocks. On the left bank are extensive  marshes as there are on the right, about a mile below the hospital/"
   "As to health, it was like other points on the coast of Florida. We had, generated there, intermittent and remittent fevers.  All places on the St. Johns (that I am acquanted with) are subject to the same fevers in the summer and autumn." 
                                   PHYSICIAN SECOND.
Thanks to  Ann & Blair Huddard who copied this on 31 October 1996.

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