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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: 05 July 2022

The Distressed State of the Country

The Distressed State of the Country

Confederate Men and the Navigation of Economic, Political, and Emotional Ruin in the Postwar South

(p.179) Chapter 6 The Distressed State of the Country
Aberration of Mind

Diane Miller Sommerville

University of North Carolina Press

White men, veterans and non-veterans alike, faced financial ruin and political emasculation in the postwar South. With the southern economy in shambles, men faced business failures and joblessness. The resulting ‘pecuniary embarrassment’ drove some to suicide. Men’s identities were closely tied to their work and their ability to provide for their families. Unemployment thus undercut one’s manhood. Further taxing masculine identity was a rise in indebtedness, endemic after the war, that signalled a man’s dependency, marred his reputation, and made financial recovery difficult. The volatile political climate also taxed southern white men creating a bleak future of life under Yankee rule. Unable to imagine a better, improved life, suicide offered men relief from embarrassment, humiliation and emotional suffering, even if the self-inflicted death of a male head of household further endangered his family dependents and jeopardize their futures.

Keywords:   Confederate men, economic ruin, postwar South, suicide, unemployment, business failure, manhood, indebtedness

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