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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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The Accursed Ills I Cannot Bear

The Accursed Ills I Cannot Bear

Confederate Veterans, Suicide, and Suffering in the Defeated South

(p.151) Chapter 5 The Accursed Ills I Cannot Bear
Aberration of Mind

Diane Miller Sommerville

University of North Carolina Press

Confederate veterans returned home, many of them broken physically and mentally, their manhood obliterated. They suffered from war trauma, but also from the humiliation of defeat, the destruction of the Confederacy, loss of their slaves, uncertainty about their future, financial ruin and political impotence. Many veterans, with physical and mental wounds, struggled to reintegrate into civilian life. Their identities as men had been undercut by war and defeat. This chapter traces the trek of southern veterans -- including former POWs, amputees, alcoholics, and addicts -- as they struggled to regain status in the home and in their communities. The most severe cases of veterans suffering the effects of war trauma entered insane asylums with symptoms today we know to be associated with PTSD: violence, paranoia, startle reflex, depression, anxiety, alcoholism or addiction, suicidal thoughts or behavior. Yet Southerners largely failed to grasp the causal link between mental illness and veterans’ military experiences. Struggling veterans exhibited social pathologies like marital conflict and the inability to hold a job. Suicide provided an exit from failure and suffering.

Keywords:   Confederate veterans, PTSD, defeat, POWs, prisoners of war, alcohol and alcoholism, amputees, addiction and drug abuse, asylums, suicide

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