We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
- T.S. Eliot

Welcome to Ten Roads! This blog is intended to be a place for me to share my (generally Civil War-related) thoughts and experiences. I try to update once a week at the very least. All comments and readers are greatly appreciated!

Saturday, January 19, 2008


The Internet - or internets, as I lovingly call this series of tubes - makes me very mad sometimes. Fairly often I will not post to here for a while due to lack of anything interesting to post about and then I will decide to actively pursue something interesting so that I am forced to write and not abandon my blog. So I turn to sites with databases of letters, newspaper articles, magazine articles and read around a bit until something somewhat obscure catches my eye. And then I will read all that the source has to offer on the topic and then search for more information. Well, today, I came across something that piqued my interest while reading "A Trip To The South" by the famous Alan Pinkerton:

...Here [in Nashville, Tennessee] also I came in contact with an army surgeon whose head was full of wild quixotic schemes for destroying the northern armies by other processes than that of legitimate warfare.
One of his plans I remembered was to fill a commissary wagon with whiskey, in which had been previously mixed a generous quantity of strychnine. The wagon was then to be broken and abandoned and left upon the road so as to fall into the hands of the Union soldiers. Of course the liquor would be consumed by the finders, and the valiant doctor with evident satisfaction to himself, but to the equally evident disgust of his companions, loudly vaunted his death-dealing and barbarous scheme...

Pinkerton's article goes on to say that later this doctor "fled in terror at the first fire" and was dishonorably discharged from the service.

So I was very curious as to who this man was and other information about him. But a Google search turned up nothing except an excerpt from a book that I do not have access to on an online database. This happens to me quite often; I find something that I want to explore further but there is no more information online about the subject. So I am just forever wondering about details.

I did, however, learn much about strychnine. My newfound love for organic chemistry is keeping me entranced.


Brian Downey said...

Post the Surgeon's name, will you? You're in a large community of researchers out here on the interwebs. Someone will have the book, access to it, or more ...

Sarah said...

That's the problem; Pinkerton names no names. If he did, it wouldn't be very difficult to track the fellow down at all.

Brian Downey said...

ah ... sorry. Thought you had another source for that. I misunderstood. NM

Daniel Sauerwein said...


I found almost the whole book. What you read was merely an excerpt from Pinkerton's memoir The Spy of the Rebellion, which was published in 1883. I found the excerpt that you mentioned in this online version of the book when I typed the book's title into Google Scholar, so just do that and you should be able to read most of the book online, and it is available from Amazon.com. As for who the doctor is, that is still a mystery, but do not get frustrated. As a future historian, you will discover that it is these unanswered questions that are the source of your enjoyment, as they force you to dig deeper in your research to try and find the answer. In order for you to find this Doctor, you will likely need to do some archival research, which will take much time and effort. You will have to first find any and all records relating to Confederate army medical personnel and cross reference that data with the possible time of Pinkerton's trip to Nashville. Given the other clues that he [Pinkerton] mentions McClellan in charge of the Army of the Potomac and General Pillow fortifying Memphis, I would have to say that his trip took place sometime in the first half of 1862. You would then look at who was dishonorably discharged, as this person, according to Pinkerton, fled under fire and was dishonorably discharged for this. This may lead you to your doctor, but it depends on the records. Remember, the internet is a wonderful tool, but it is not a democracy of sources and does not compare to the value of books and archives. I hope that the above helps you in your search.