Coronavirus: New Carlisle man’s diary is a window into 1918 Spanish influenza pandemic

Donald McKinney Wallace, a New Carlisle farmer, served in the Army at the University of Cincinnati in the fall of 1918 as the Spanish influenza spread globally.

He kept a diary while serving and chronicled his experience during the pandemic.

Spanish influenza was first identified in military personnel in the spring of 1918, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At least 50 million deaths occurred worldwide, with 675,000 in the United States.

Wallace survived and was honorably discharged on Nov. 26, 1918.

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These are excerpts from Wallace’s diary currently archived at the Wright State University Special Collections and Archives. The entries are reproduced as written and haven’t been corrected for spelling or grammar.

Sunday, Sept. 29, 1918

No better this morning but saw a lot of others going out on sick call so I went over to the doctors. He gave me several different kids of pills and sent me home to go to bed. The other boys went over and took their second shot. When they got back they took us sick ones around in corner by ourselves and quaranteened the whole quarters.

Credit: Donald McKinney Wallace

Credit: Donald McKinney Wallace

Monday, Sept. 30, 1918

Layed in our sick ward all day but am no better, had a fever all day. This evening the Doctor had some beef broth brought down to us which was the first I had eaten since last Fri. Our ward was fenced off from rest of the barrack by hanging blankets over a wire which they stretched clear across the ceiling.

Tuesday, Oct. 1, 1918

Still sick but they have us on a hell of a ration which goes like this for breakfast cold, soft boiled egg without salt or pepper and a piece of cold toast toasted on one side only with lukewarm coffee to wash it all down. For dinner and supper same thing over. They give us all a drink out of the same glass.

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Wednesday, Oct. 2, 1918

Doc came around pretty early this morning and said my temperature was gone and that I could move out which I did. I went upstairs at noon and got my first best meal but not good meal. This evening they took us over to the O.M.I. and got our rifles. I went up and found 2 letters for me.

Credit: Donald McKinney Wallace

Credit: Donald McKinney Wallace

Thursday, Oct. 3, 1918

Well I was feeling pretty weak this morning but I fell in anyway. After dinner we took our rifles with us for the first time and I went to the drill field later on.

Friday, Oct. 4, 1918

Not a bit well yet but anything is better than going over to the hospital. 2 men over there have Spanish Influenza bad and are not expected to live. We washed all windows and floors with creoline solution tonight.

Saturday, Oct. 5, 1918

We had inspections of bunks before dinner and they placed us under quaranteen indefinitely.

Sunday, Oct. 6, 1918

We are under quaranteen and can not do a thing. Because we are shut up they did not take us over to be shot in the arm and again there are lots of the fellows sick and in the hospital. If we miss 10 days between shots we have to start all over so I guess we’ll start all over.

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Monday, Oct. 7, 1918

Quaranteened in the barracks. We stacked all the beds and went all over the floor with creoline solution this morning. It was cold all day up here as they made us keep all windows open and the thermometer stood at 46 degrees all day.

Thursday, Oct. 10, 1918

Things still rather drowsy and lacking pep. They took us up to Eden Park entrance and let us rest on the grass for about 45 minutes…Two more of our men died this evening and they took up a collection for them.

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