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Aberration of MindSuicide and Suffering in the Civil War-Era South$
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Diane Miller Sommerville

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781469643304

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469643304.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA PRESS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.northcarolina.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of North Carolina Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in NCSO for personal use.date: 24 May 2022

A Burden Too Heavy to Bear

A Burden Too Heavy to Bear

War Trauma, Suicide, and Confederate Soldiers

(p.23) Chapter 1 A Burden Too Heavy to Bear
Aberration of Mind

Diane Miller Sommerville

University of North Carolina Press

Examines the psychological impact of the Civil War on Confederate soldiers who suffered debilitating psychological and emotional wounds that sometimes resulted in institutionalization in insane asylums, or in suicidal behavior. Historians have not focused on Civil War participants as victims of war trauma until recently. This chapter deepens our understanding of these experiences by asserting that external war-related pressures like witnessing death and mayhem combined with internal pressures like fear of masculine failure or being called a coward heavily taxed soldiers and their psyches. Factors that contributed to psychological distress among Confederate servicemen include: exposure to battle, fear of being called a coward, fear of failure, youthfulness, homesickness, and depression.Suicide offered southern white men a way to maintain mastery and control over their deaths in war zones where chaos and disorder prevailed. Attitudes toward Confederates who killed themselves during the war were more supportive and less stigmatizing than one might think. Many soldiers also ended up institutionalized in asylums after being diagnosed as insane. Caregivers and family members rarely connected signs of mental distress with wartime experiences.

Keywords:   suicide, war trauma, courage, coward, psychological impact, failure, masculinity, Confederate soldiers, insane asylums

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