I am afraid there will be a good many hearts pierced in this war that will have no bulletmark to show. – Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., “My Hunt after ‘The Captain'”
I blogged lately about the visible legacy of the war – the amputees whose physical scars were easily seen and understood. Less easy to process was the less visible legacy – the psychological damage that was caused to men who’d seen so much blood, pain and death. This article discusses how this mental trauma was an underdocumented, widespread problem in the postbellum South.
The pressures of war in the 19th century is an area that historically has seen little study. Most historians began to note the mental stress of war during World War I, when troops were said to be shell shocked. And any notion of post-traumatic stress disorder did not come along until the Vietnam War. The first look at this trend came less than 20 years ago, with Eric Dean’s book “Shook Over Hell,” a treatment of PTSD in the Civil War.
Sommerville said that a study of asylum records, diaries and newspapers of the day reveal “a virtual epidemic of emotional and psychiatric trauma among Confederate soldiers and veterans.”