Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

Re: "Shell" shock and the War of 1812

Expand Messages
  • nappingcrow
    Hello, I m also not an expert on this (not by any means) but there are two books I d like to pass along for consideration. Neither of them pertain directly to
    Message 1 of 25 , Dec 2, 2009
    • 0 Attachment
      Hello,

      I'm also not an expert on this (not by any means) but there are two books I'd like to pass along for consideration. Neither of them pertain directly to the War of 1812, but they may offer some insight into the question at hand.

      For an interesting general take on the psychology of killing and the toll it takes on the military, I'd recommend "On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society" by David Grossman, who is if IRC a psychologist and a former Lt. Colonel in the US Rangers. He feels that much of what we call "shell shock" or PTSD (I believe he lumps them together) is due not merely to the stress of being subject to imminent violence, but also to the stress of having to be ready to COMMIT violent acts. He backs up his thesis with a fair amount of historical research, though none pertaining directly to the War of 1812.

      For a study closer to our period of interest I still want to read "Shook over Hell: Post-Traumatic Stress, Vietnam, and the Civil War" by Eric T. Dean Jr. "Digging through the pension records of Civil War vets, Dean documents the great number who, suffering from severe psychological problems triggered by intense combat experience, were dutifully provided with disability pensions by the U.S. government."

      Casual brutality of daily existance aside, I do believe that we have much in common with our forebears psychologically. If we believe that they were unmoved (or much less moved) by violence, then we run the risk of turning them into something 'other', instead of coming to the understanding that we are basically the same, only with more technology today. I do not believe human nature has changed that much, and when I try to talk with people about history I usually try to show them parallels rather than differences.

      Regards,
      Brian Smith
    • idasr4us
      I realize that posting beyond our 1812 era takes us past the scope of our group postings but this item is interesting as it does seem give direction of how
      Message 2 of 25 , Dec 2, 2009
      • 0 Attachment
        I realize that posting beyond our "1812" era takes us past the scope of our group postings but this item is interesting as it does seem give direction of how the face of war has changed from our smooth bores to mechanized warefare.

        A recent publication by a good friend, "This Carnival of Hell
        German Combat Experience on the Somme 1916" (Rick Baumgartner, Blue Acorn Press) who has examined excerpts from German WW1 accounts. Its a fascinating example of first hand descriptions of the trauma of the western front.

        One such survivor, a Bavarian non-commissioned officer, offered this epithetical summation of his comrades' ordeals: "As long as those of us who fought on the Somme live, our days there cannot be forgotten. Smeared with mud and armed with rifle, gas mask, steel helmet and hand grenades, the frontline soldier faced difficult, super-human tasks. It mattered little what duty he performed: ammunition, supply or food carrier, telephonist, runner, guide, medic, stretcher bearer, doctor, fighter, commander, utilizing all sorts of weapons -- none was spared the battle's horrors. Relentless bad weather, hunger and thirst, viscous mud, water contaminated by gas and corpses, iron hail, the nerve-deadening noise of combat. Death grinned at him with a thousand faces."

        CFisher
        1st Regt.
        Vols
        US





        --- In WarOf1812@yahoogroups.com, "petemonahan" <petemonahan@...> wrote:
        >
        > Sadly, Dr Hobbs is correct about the reluctance of soldiers to admit to fear and trauma and the refusal of their leaders to allow them to address it. During the Second World War the RAF's Bomber Command lost 80,000 men, yet air crew who tried to get off flying duties due to stress and mental breakdowns were deemed - and identified in their records - as showing "LMF" (lack of moral fibre).
        >
        > Today, some of the men and women in our Armed Forces coming back from missions in places like Bosnia and Afghanistan and pretty clearly suffering from PTS are still being told to "suck it up" by some of the more senior members of the Forces. Happily, I believe that our senior commanders are aware of and addressing the problem.
        >
      • Victor Suthren
        For 1812 what moves me most is the thought of lines of young men---British, American, Canadian---approaching one another in formations so close they could see
        Message 3 of 25 , Dec 2, 2009
        • 0 Attachment
          For 1812 what moves me most is the thought of lines of young men---British, American, Canadian---approaching one another in formations so close they could see each other's features; young men who would have enjoyed a beer together or laughed over a common joke. Approaching one another and inflicting death, dismemberment, mutilation and agony on each other; being splattered wiuth the blood and brains of comrades or knocked down by flying severed limbs---all the horror of it all. Its choreography is fascinating, but the war's ultimate reality of appalling conflict between men who should have been unshakeable friends (as they are now) is so tragic. Hard, sometimes, to think of much honor/honour in it all, actually....

          Vic Suthren
          ----- Original Message -----
          From: nappingcrow
          To: WarOf1812@yahoogroups.com
          Sent: Wednesday, December 02, 2009 9:36 AM
          Subject: Re: "Shell" shock and the War of 1812





          Hello,

          I'm also not an expert on this (not by any means) but there are two books I'd like to pass along for consideration. Neither of them pertain directly to the War of 1812, but they may offer some insight into the question at hand.

          For an interesting general take on the psychology of killing and the toll it takes on the military, I'd recommend "On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society" by David Grossman, who is if IRC a psychologist and a former Lt. Colonel in the US Rangers. He feels that much of what we call "shell shock" or PTSD (I believe he lumps them together) is due not merely to the stress of being subject to imminent violence, but also to the stress of having to be ready to COMMIT violent acts. He backs up his thesis with a fair amount of historical research, though none pertaining directly to the War of 1812.

          For a study closer to our period of interest I still want to read "Shook over Hell: Post-Traumatic Stress, Vietnam, and the Civil War" by Eric T. Dean Jr. "Digging through the pension records of Civil War vets, Dean documents the great number who, suffering from severe psychological problems triggered by intense combat experience, were dutifully provided with disability pensions by the U.S. government."

          Casual brutality of daily existance aside, I do believe that we have much in common with our forebears psychologically. If we believe that they were unmoved (or much less moved) by violence, then we run the risk of turning them into something 'other', instead of coming to the understanding that we are basically the same, only with more technology today. I do not believe human nature has changed that much, and when I try to talk with people about history I usually try to show them parallels rather than differences.

          Regards,
          Brian Smith





          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        • John Ogden
          In thinking of the horrors of war (and there are plenty), the best image I have comes to me from the music of *The Pogues* in their song A Pair of Brown
          Message 4 of 25 , Dec 2, 2009
          • 0 Attachment
            In thinking of the horrors of war (and there are plenty), the best image I
            have comes to me from the music of *The Pogues* in their song "A Pair of
            Brown Eyes". There are essentially two narrators, sitting in a pub each
            dealing with his own demons in the traditional Celtic fashion. One of them
            an old man, perhaps, considering when the song was written and the preceding
            inspirational incident, a veteran of World War One who is recalling
            standing/lying on a battlefield:

            *"...In blood and death 'neath a screaming sky
            I lay down on the ground
            And the arms and legs of other men
            Were scattered all around
            Some cursed, some prayed, some prayed then cursed
            Then prayed and bled some more
            And the only thing that I could see
            Was a pair of brown eyes that was looking at me
            But when we got back, labeled parts one to three
            There was no pair of brown eyes waiting for me... "
            *
            Here we have a man who came home from the bloodletting physically
            intact and still living some sixty-odd years on, but still unable to ever
            let go of the trauma. Alternatively, Eric Bogle wrote his masterpiece "And
            the Band Played Waltzing Matilda" as his effort to make the point, in clear
            and unambiguous terms, that war is a dirty, nasty business. I sometimes
            wonder if we, as reenactors, don't sometimes do the public a disservice in
            our portrayal of war, specifically in regards to the brutality of the
            experience. I'm not advocating that we should give up this alternative
            lifestyle, but I sometimes think that a few more well-executed post-battle
            scenarios and displays of the surgeon's art wouldn't be amiss in conveying a
            full picture.

            Incidentally, one of the reasons that it will be a few years yet before
            I bring my son (age 3) with me to events (aside from the immediate safety
            issues such as abundant campfires, sharp objects and the ability to wander
            off while Dad is playing soldier) is that I want to be sure that he
            understands that we're just pretending and that in the real world people
            don't stand up, march off and become friends again all around after getting
            shot.

            My apologies if I have strayed too far from the intended subject
            matter.

            On 12/2/09, Victor Suthren <suthren@...> wrote:
            >
            >
            >
            > For 1812 what moves me most is the thought of lines of young men---British,
            > American, Canadian---approaching one another in formations so close they
            > could see each other's features; young men who would have enjoyed a beer
            > together or laughed over a common joke. Approaching one another and
            > inflicting death, dismemberment, mutilation and agony on each other; being
            > splattered wiuth the blood and brains of comrades or knocked down by flying
            > severed limbs---all the horror of it all. Its choreography is fascinating,
            > but the war's ultimate reality of appalling conflict between men who should
            > have been unshakeable friends (as they are now) is so tragic. Hard,
            > sometimes, to think of much honor/honour in it all, actually....
            >
            > Vic Suthren
            > ----- Original Message -----
            > From: nappingcrow
            > To: WarOf1812@yahoogroups.com <WarOf1812%40yahoogroups.com>
            > Sent: Wednesday, December 02, 2009 9:36 AM
            > Subject: Re: "Shell" shock and the War of 1812
            >
            > Hello,
            >
            > I'm also not an expert on this (not by any means) but there are two books
            > I'd like to pass along for consideration. Neither of them pertain directly
            > to the War of 1812, but they may offer some insight into the question at
            > hand.
            >
            > For an interesting general take on the psychology of killing and the toll
            > it takes on the military, I'd recommend "On Killing: The Psychological Cost
            > of Learning to Kill in War and Society" by David Grossman, who is if IRC a
            > psychologist and a former Lt. Colonel in the US Rangers. He feels that much
            > of what we call "shell shock" or PTSD (I believe he lumps them together) is
            > due not merely to the stress of being subject to imminent violence, but also
            > to the stress of having to be ready to COMMIT violent acts. He backs up his
            > thesis with a fair amount of historical research, though none pertaining
            > directly to the War of 1812.
            >
            > For a study closer to our period of interest I still want to read "Shook
            > over Hell: Post-Traumatic Stress, Vietnam, and the Civil War" by Eric T.
            > Dean Jr. "Digging through the pension records of Civil War vets, Dean
            > documents the great number who, suffering from severe psychological problems
            > triggered by intense combat experience, were dutifully provided with
            > disability pensions by the U.S. government."
            >
            > Casual brutality of daily existance aside, I do believe that we have much
            > in common with our forebears psychologically. If we believe that they were
            > unmoved (or much less moved) by violence, then we run the risk of turning
            > them into something 'other', instead of coming to the understanding that we
            > are basically the same, only with more technology today. I do not believe
            > human nature has changed that much, and when I try to talk with people about
            > history I usually try to show them parallels rather than differences.
            >
            > Regards,
            > Brian Smith
            >
            > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
            >
            >
            >



            --
            John J. Ogden


            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          • lenthecooper
            Hello Anna, I ve been looking through a number of old medical texts and cannot find a mention of anything close to worry or stress related diseases other than
            Message 5 of 25 , Dec 4, 2009
            • 0 Attachment
              Hello Anna,
              I've been looking through a number of old medical texts and cannot find a mention of anything close to worry or stress related diseases other than the overuse of alcohol and occassional suicide.
              John Douglas, Asst Surgeon of the Kings Regt in 'Medical Topograhy of Upper Canada' (1819) writes about a number of diseases; cholera morbis, venereal, catarrh etc but nothing which sounds to me as an upset or excited mind. The one fear he mentions is of the lancet by some individuals.
              Dr John Davy Inspector General of Army Hospitals in 'Diseases of the Army'(1862) makes no mention of excited or disturbed minds except in cases of suicide or as part of a disease.
              Perhaps if you go through pension applications and punishment reports you might be able to find more information.
              Cheers,
              Len

              --- In WarOf1812@yahoogroups.com, Anna Snipes <annasnipes@...> wrote:
              >
              > I know that it is getting into murky territory whenever one speaks of modern medical conditions in a historical context, but I wondered recently… were there any reports of PTSD-like behavior during and after the War of 1812?  Throughout history, it seems to be that some people are more effected, emotionally and physically, by war than others.  Logic would suggest that there must have been some such cases in the War of 1812.  Are there reports of "insubordination" or "cowardice", or just plain "insanity," that could be explained by what was actually PTSD?  Any examples in literature of the time?
              >  
              > Thanks,
              > Anna
              >
              > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
              >
            • Charlie Quesenberry
              I have been searching the literature also. There s an anecdotal reference here and there about a soldier verbally chastising another occasionally (one fellow
              Message 6 of 25 , Dec 4, 2009
              • 0 Attachment
                I have been searching the literature also. There's an anecdotal reference
                here and there about a soldier verbally chastising another occasionally (one
                fellow who had a limb removed do so stoically and was admonishing another
                for crying out and threatening him to bear up like a man or he'd beat him),
                but so far I haven't found anything remotely resembling a clinical diagnosis
                for shell shock, battle fatigue or PTSD (even if not named for it).

                In my limited understanding, I believe the lack of such documentation is
                reflective of the culture of the times and a general lack of understanding
                pursuant to psychology/psychiatry. Even internal medicine didn't exist as a
                discrete discipline, and most treatments were superficial (as well as
                largely ineffective).

                Respectfully submitted for consideration,

                Charlie Q
                Surgeon,
                Ships Company


                [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
              • MasterAtArms
                Of course, when a British soldier was declared worn out , it might also mean that his dental state had finally deteriorated to where he no longer had an upper
                Message 7 of 25 , Dec 4, 2009
                • 0 Attachment
                  Of course, when a British soldier was declared "worn out", it might also mean that his dental state had finally deteriorated to where he no longer had an upper and lower tooth that would meet to tear open his cartridges anymore.....

                  IMHO, we need to be EXTREMELY careful in attempting to decipher the quasi-medical vernacular of the period. Not all "medical" judgements in the military would have been made by qualified medical personnel, but often by superior officers or perhaps even NCOs! And, even when we strive not to allow it, our modern knowledge of PTSD and other combat-related psychological disorders will colour our perspective and understanding of what we read. An interesting discussion, to be certain... but one in which we must be very cautious with regard to our assumptions.

                  Dale
                Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.