The lengthening war and the terrible casualties sustained by both sides in battles such as Antietam (Sharpsburg) on September 17, 1862, (some 23,000 men ended the day either dead, wounded or missing) put a tremendous strain on the already overstretched medical resources of the Union and Confederacy.
Confederate and Union medical personnel required tremendous amounts of alcohol to treat the wounded. Although chloroform was often available for surgery, alcohol was considered to be a key restorative and pain reliever for wounded and exhausted soldiers.
On October 3, 1862, E. W. Johns, the Confederate Medical Purveyor, wrote to Governor Milton requesting that the state allow distilling for the use of the Confederate military. Milton complied with Johns’ request. He allowed distilling for military needs if the distiller had a contract with the Confederate government and the contract met with his approval. In December 1862, the Florida General Assembly passed a law approving these restrictions.
Confederate States of America
Richmond Va Octr 3d. 1862
I have the honor to represent that a large amount of Alcoholic Stimulants are indispensible in the treatment of the sick and wounded of the Army; and that the duty of providing the said stimulants is devolved upon this Department. Of the required amount according to an estimate made in this office, a considerable portion has been contracted for, but there still remains a large quantity to be provided.
I therefore respectfully request that authority be granted this Department, to contract for the manufacture and delivery of as much Whiskey and Alcohol as may be required for the armies Confederate States for Medical and Hospital purposes, and that the parties contracting for the delivery of the said Whiskey and Alcohol to this Department for the purposes aforesaid be exempted from the operation of any Statute or order prohibiting the distillation of grain in the State of Florida.
I have the honor to be
Your obt St
E. W. Johns P. M. G.
To His Excellency
Gov of Florida
Tallahassee Octr 20th. 1862
E. W. Johns Esq
Yours of the 3rd inst has been received in which you request that authority may be granted your Department to contract for the manufacture and delivery of as much Whiskey and Alcohol as may be required for the army of the Confederate States for Medical and Hospital purposes.
The authority is granted upon the condition, that, the parties to be contracted with shall be restrained in the contracts from distilling, selling and delivering for other purposes, and to parties not authorized by the Confederate Government to contract for the distilling, purchase or delivery of Whiskey, Alcohol or other spirituous liquors.
I have the honor to be
Governor of Florida
As 1862 came to an end, Florida had become an important source of supply for the Confederacy. Although little fighting would occur in the state in 1863, Floridians endured more hardships at home while Florida’s regiments fought and died on the battlefields of Virginia, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.