Discussion I Wonder How Civil War Soldiers Managed This

Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!
Joined
Jul 12, 2007
Messages
4,397
Location
Aledo, IL
Did the GAR and other veteran groups, both North and South aid in recovery? I do know the veterans got together and there must have been some therapeutic value in meeting with your fellow veterans. One of the complaints of those suffering PTSD is they are different from everyone else and not longer fit in. With the very large number of fellow veterans post Civil War I am not sure this was as much of an issue. I do think some of the raising of monuments to the dead was as much about justifying your suffering during the war as it was honoring of the dead.

I do wonder if returning Vietnam veterans would have seen nearly every town putting up statues and memorials to them and been able to return to battlefields they fought in and see how their sacrifices were honored, if they would have suffered as much as they did and still are.
There were Soldiers & Sailors homes established for Veterans to live in.
 

Cavalier

Corporal
Joined
Jul 20, 2019
Messages
286
An interesting thread posted here not long ago concerned the last recorded words of men just before they died on the battlefield. One thing that impressed me was the number who expressed concern that their loved ones, friends, and comrades should know that they died doing their duty. "Tell my mother I died with face to the enemy", sort of thing. I am not sure that the typical Victorian mindset would admit to any kind of PTSD. It was a different time in so many ways.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

kholland

Captain
Retired Moderator
Joined
Feb 13, 2011
Messages
6,331
Location
Howard County, Maryland
Hard to say. Vietnam was an ugly war, and I don't mean that to characterize US tactics - just that all the horrors were in full display.

From my reading so far on PTSD, it seems like the brain just plain goes into self-destruct mode. Not necessarily suicide - just that it gets trapped in a situation where you can't just "let go" and "move on". Instead of how someone without might remember the trauma, someone with it seems to relive the trauma - and we humans are simply not set up to cope with being under enormous amounts of stress for prolonged periods. We need to be able to pull away from that and relax in order to function.

Without that, every snapping twig really is an enemy about to ambush you, and the only difference between "then" and "now' is that "now" is that "now" is it happening twice. Or three times. Or fifty.

That might be slightly exaggerated, but that is the impression I get. And dear Lord does it scare me.
And we will never know the consequences of this war eg: PTSD related symptoms, suicide and other mental health issues. In this modern era we read daily about "studies" relating to all kind of health and mental issues relating to all kind of groups and professions. The Civil War era in dealing with medical and mental health issues was comparatively the stone age in relation to modern era advances.

We will never know what effect the war had on the psyches of Civil War veterans as there were no in depth writings on the subject and if a veteran showed signs of post war stress the feeling may just have been "oh, that is sad - I guess the war did that" and that was that.
 

wbull1

First Sergeant
Official Vendor
Joined
Jul 26, 2018
Messages
1,098
PTSD under a variety of names existed whenever there were wars. You can see it in Homer's poems. All the comments in this thread are correct. Some men, and women too, went to mental hospitals and stayed there. Many drank and some used opium. In a rural society, a person could choose to stay by themselves for long periods of time. People were more accepting of those changed by the war, in my opinion back then when such a large number of people were effected.

Many many people just did the best they could.
 

NH Civil War Gal

1st Lieutenant
Forum Host
Joined
Feb 5, 2017
Messages
3,654
I think it is no coincidence that after the Civil War, the roads of America were suddenly filled with rootless men ... wandering, homeless, unable to settle down or cope with 'normal' social interactions. It was the beginning of the era of the Tramp and Hobo. Continued up until the post-WWII era, and to a much lesser degree survives today.
I never saw this thread before. If you remember the old version of Yankee magazine, they ran articles of the old-time hobos and wandering men of New England. I'm just old enough (but at the younger fringes of it) to barely remember them, but remember them I do.

Growing up, there used to be a man that walked very purposefully every single day, unless there was incredibly bad weather, from Manchester out towards our town and back again. So at least a distance a round trip of 10 miles. He was groomed and well-dressed. For some reason I was a little afraid of him, though he never noticed me nor talked to me (I would have been about 7-years-old) and this would have been about 18 years after WWII. My mother knew of him and told me to not be afraid and that it was "from the War." She said he did this every day and was his way of coping. There was another man in Concord, NH and apparently he would walk the length of the business district everyday multiple times and check doors but not interact either.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

Cavalier

Corporal
Joined
Jul 20, 2019
Messages
286
I had always thought that the hobos on trains was more the result of economic downturns than any kind of ptsd? My parents related it in their time to the great depression. Just wondering?
 
Joined
Jun 20, 2012
Messages
1,695
Location
Pacific Northwest
One other consideration, based on new studies of combat-related trauma, is the concept of 'Moral Injury'- the notion that a conflict in the individual's psyche from the rules of war and the rules of peace/civilian life results in many of the symptoms and behaviors commonly listed as PTSD. Men who expected to fight other men in uniforms and formations, just as they did, found themselves fighting irregulars- often civilians, often quite young- and/or engaging in acts of arson and destruction of property; while this may have been a military necessity- even justified- it doesn't prevent the individual from internalizing their actions as 'wrong' and inflicting a self-punishment.

If war is Hell, PTS/Moral Injury is the Purgatory survivors endure.
 
Last edited:
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!
Top