Date of Award

Summer 8-2021

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Chair

Dr. Susannah J. Ural

Committee Chair School


Committee Member 2

Dr. Andrew Wiest

Committee Member 2 School


Committee Member 3

Dr. Kyle F. Zelner

Committee Member 3 School



War is traumatic. Since the American Psychiatric Association first recognized post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in 1980, living veterans of combat have been diagnosed at an alarmingly high rate. However, mental trauma related diagnoses have existed for centuries, including several that were identified around the time of the American Civil War. This thesis argues that Civil War soldiers experienced mental trauma related to their military service. It does so through three lenses. Focused on the mental trauma among Northern veterans, this study investigates in particular the relationship between mental trauma and socioeconomic status. It analyzes the experiences of both white and African-American soldiers with mental trauma resulting from combat, and it examines the public’s perception of veterans and their mental trauma accrued during the war. This work is grounded in a rich secondary literature and contemporary personal correspondence, diaries, newspapers, periodicals, military pensions, asylum records, and medical documents. These primary sources offer an intimate examination of the struggles of Civil War soldiers to overcome the psychological impact of war. An in-depth study of the emotional suffering of Civil War combatants results in a better understanding of mental trauma as it relates to military history.