Re: "Shell" shock and the War of 1812
- 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.
--- 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 recentlyâ¦ were there any reports of PTSD-like behavior during and after the War of 1812?Â Throughout history,Â it seems to be that some people are more effected, emotionally and physically, by war than others.Â Logic would suggest that there must have been some such cases in the War of 1812.Â Are there reports of "insubordination" or "cowardice", or just plain "insanity," that could be explained byÂ what was actuallyÂ PTSD?Â Any examples in literature of the time?
> [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
- 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
Respectfully submitted for consideration,
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
- 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.