Soldiers Heart —- PTSD during the Civil War.
While the term “Post Tramatic Stress Disorder” is a relatively new term, the disease itself is certainly not new. Unfortunately veterans of all wars come back home changed in many ways, with many mental wounds that have not healed. During and after the American Civil War there were thousands of soldiers who returned home different people than when they had enlisted. Often they suffered terrible emotional symptoms such as anger, depression, aloofness, disconnection, emotional outbursts, recurring nightmares, fears such as loud noise or fast movements. While today modern psychology terms such disorders “PTSD”, during the Civil War it was colloqially termed “soldiers heart”. While never detailed in the history books, many Civil War veterans suffered from soldiers heart. Many turned to alcohol or suicide to escape from their living nightmares. Others were locked away in mental institutions.
The picture above is of Pvt. Angelo Crapsey of Potter County, PA. Crapsey enlisted in the army in 1861, and served through many major battles of the war such as Fredericksburg and Gettysburg. He also spent time as a POW in the infamous Libby Confederate Prison. In 1864 Crapsey was honorably discharged from the Union Army and returned home to his family. However he was a much different person than the man who have left for the war three years earlier. He experience hallucinations, nightmares, involuntary ticks, and violent fits. During his time in Libby Prison he had developed a terrible lice infection. However even at home he itched his scalp obsessively.
On August 4th, 1864 Crapsey said he was going out to hunt but instead stuck a gun in his mouth and shot himself.
If you are a veteran, retired or active, and are suffering from soldiers heart, please do not be ashamed to seek help immediately. Some resources;
Veterans Crises Hotline
Veterans Self Check Quiz
VFW Veterans Assistance
American Legion Veterans Help