PTSD During The Civil War


Jul 12, 2017
Pisgah Forest, North Carolina
I suspect that one of my Confederate ancestors had PTSD. He saw heavy action in the Seven Days Battles, then 2nd Manassas and probably the Cornfield at Antietem. After that he was constantly "Absent-sick," in and out of several Confederate hospitals, and even sent home of a period. His illnesses? Chronic diahoerra (or however you spell it), alternating with rheumatism. This went on for two years until November, 1864 when his company's records cease to exist. It appears that he was "Absent-sick" for over two years, if not close to three. Kinda makes me wonder....

I have no indication that he had problems after the war, but those kind of things were probably kept secret back then.

Andy Cardinal

1st Lieutenant
Forum Host
Feb 27, 2017
Some soldiers suffered from what nineteenth century doctors called "soldier's heart" or " irritable heart," with symptoms similar to a cardiac condition. The incidence of " soldier's heart" increased dramatically in the spring and summer of 1862. Symptoms included an abnormally fast heart rate, heart palpitations, and breathing problems. Doctors concluded that the condition was caused by "a state of extreme exhaustion, especially when produced by prolonged and violent muscular effort."

Doctors also diagnosed "nostalgia," a condition doctors identified with "acute homesickness."

I am not sure how or if these relate to what we call PTSD today.

Trooper "D"

May 20, 2018
Rufus Dawes, of Gettysburg fame, and who wrote the excellent book, "Service With The Sixth Wisconsin Volunteers," was said to suffer from PTSD, but he mentions the support of his wife and her encouragement to write down all his experiences. Getting stuff on paper is actually a good way to get it out of your mind sometimes. They offered to make Dawes a General if he would reenlist when his time was up, but he makes clear in his book why he was done.
Writing and talking it out are both good ways to vent off the trauma.