Shattered: The Effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

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In regards to the Civil War veterans he saw, Rev. J.L. Burrows once said, "It is not in human nature to be contented under physical restraints." This quote perfectly describes the feelings of soldiers taken prisoner during the Civil War. Many of these captives harbored feelings of resentment towards their captors, despite relatively mild prison camp conditions. However, these feelings of resentment soon turned to animosity as conditions went from mildly inconvenient to hellish nightmares. This will become apparent when given the history of the prison camps and examples of two of the worst offenders - Confederate led Andersonville in the South and Union run Elmira to the North. These fiendish prisons and their practices would leave a wound as catastrophic to the soul as the Minie ball was to the body. This invisible wound is known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and it comes with a variety of symptoms. Although PTSD was most common among inmates, there are instances in which outsiders recalled painful details that might have led them to experience similar symptoms. These symptoms did not end with discharge from the camps, but instead last throughout a lifetime. This effect can easily be seen through the life of Angelo Crapsey. However, not all prisoners suffered the way Crapsey did, as there are examples of prison camps that remained satisfactory through the duration of the war. Although anybody involved in the Civil War was at risk of developing PTSD, those who were taken prisoner were exposed to circumstances that could greatly increase those chances. It can be argued that while conditions at some camps remained humane throughout the entirety of the war, the irreversible psychological damage from the tragedies encounte... ... middle of paper ... ...sembling "patients laboring under cretinism" certainly seem to point to a resounding "yes." Hearing accounts of the horrors put them in a frazzled state before battles even began. If they were unlucky enough to be taken to one of the more notorious camps, they would be exposed to such terrors that could leave even the strongest mind in shambles. An account of freed Union surgeons reads, "The ambulances brought sixteen to the hospital, and during the night seven of them died. Again, eighteen were brought, and eleven of them died in twenty-four hours. At another time fourteen were admitted, and in a single day ten of them died," demonstrates how prisoners lived in the constant shadow of death. This, coupled with the lack of proper nutrition and exposure to various means of torture meant that these captives continuously lived millimeters away from the breaking point.

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