In his two most recent books, Paul Steiner illustrates the thesis that history is much more than high level maneuvering by kings and generals. Mundane occurrences such as diarrhea or fever played a decisive role in the activities of specific officers1 and in the outcome of battle2 in the Civil War.
In Medical-Military Portraits Steiner studied senior generals in important commands, and indicates that their pathological conditions influenced the course of military affairs and thus of American history. He discusses ten officers, five Federal, five Confederate. Before, during, and after the war, these officers suffered an appalling succession of diseases: At least seven had malaria; "bilious fever," Liiolera, typhus, and a variety of other conditions are also recorded; four of the men may have had neuropsychiatric illness.
It is futile but intriguing to speculate what might have happened if, for example, an "important" person had not died when he