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Civil War History: Archive

December 2013, Volume 59, No. 4

Aug 28th, 2013


By: Matthew Warshauer and Michael Sturges

“Difficult Hunting” is the story of fight for patient records to determine if Connecticut Civil War soldiers suffered war trauma that today we recognize as Post Traumatic Stress. The research led to the Connecticut Hospital for the Insane, located in Middletown, CT and founded in 1868. A two-year battle for access to the records ensued, resulting in a victory before the Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission. The article is also a window into the continuing stigma of mental health and the rather remarkable fact that the agency within the state most devoted to aiding people with psychological disorders and of de-stigmatizing mental health – became the worst roadblock in the authors’ attempt to better understand the psychological toll of the Civil War.

By: Diane Miller Sommerville

This essay explores the impact of war trauma on Confederate soldiers during the Civil War, especially its role in contributing to a rash of suicidal episodes among southern enlisted men and officers. Antebellum southern white men and boys had been steeped in a gendered culture of honor that demanded bravery and martial participation during war. Some soldiers, though, became gripped with anxiety and fear when faced with their imminent involvement in battle and so turned to killing themselves rather than risk being labeled cowards. The bevy of Confederate, wartime suicides emerged out of a larger swath of psychological and emotional suffering among soldiers and civilians alike that contributed to a reconsideration of the meaning of cowardice and an increased tolerance for victims of suicide, which had long been regarded as taboo.

By: Christopher Walsh

Drawing on two main sources, Henry Morford’s 1864 novel The Coward and Union court-martial cases, this essay explores the overlooked importance of the charged and vexed idea of cowardice. The deep shame of cowardice reflected the categorical belief that a cowardly act betrayed a cowardly character and required severe punishment, yet both civilians and soldiers could be quite sophisticated about applying the idea of cowardice. The court-martial cases sometimes reveal a nuanced approach to alleged cowardice, as well as evidence of a diagnostic approach that attributed some apparently cowardly behaviors to a man’s “constitution” or to the combat trauma he may have suffered. Morford’s novel ultimately reveals that the alleged coward of the title was actually suffering from a medical problem. He even presents the preoccupation with cowardice as a problem as bad as cowardice itself. But the final thrust of the novel confirms the deep shame of cowardice, and as the court-martial cases show, the shame of cowardice remained deep throughout the Civil War as well.


Eric T. Dean Jr. received his BA from Swarthmore College, his JD from Indi- ana University-Bloomington, his MA in history from Purdue University, and his PhD in history from Yale University. He practices law in Hamden, Connecticut.

Diane Miller Sommerville is associate professor at Binghamton University, SUNY. She is currently finishing up a book manuscript called “Aberration of Mind: Suicide, Civil War, and the American South,” made possible in large part by a fellowship provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Michael Sturges is a U.S. History teacher at Nonnewaug High School in Woodbury, Connecticut. He hopes to one day gain access to the records in question in his article to complete his research.

Chris Walsh is the associate director of the Arts and Sciences Writing Program at Boston University and has also taught at Emerson College, the Harvard Extension School, and the University of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. His book about cowardice is forthcoming from Princeton University Press in 2014.

Matthew Warshauer is professor of history at Central Connecticut State University and author of Connecticut in the American Civil War: Slavery, Sacrifice, and Survival.


Book Reviews:

Cooper, William J. We Have the War Upon Us: The Onset of the Civil War, November 1860-April 1861. Reviewed by Marc Egnal.

Perman, Michael. The Southern Political Tradition. Reviewed by James J. Broomall.

Horwitz, Tony. Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid that Sparked the Civil War. Reviewed by J. Brent Morris.

Gilpin, R. Blakeslee. John Brown Still Lives! America’s Long Reckoning with Violence, Equality, and Change. Reviewed by Robert E. McGlone.

Gudmestad, Robert. Steamboats and the Rise of the Cotton Kingdom. Reviewed by Ian Binnington.

Delbanco, Andrew. The Abolitionist Imagination. Reviewed by David Thomson.

Brady, Lisa M. War Upon the Land: Military Strategy and the Transformation of Southern Landscapes during the America Civil War. Reviewed by Matthew M. Stith.

Thomas, William G. The Iron Way: Railroads, the Civil War, and the Making of Modern America. Reviewed by Scott Reynolds Nelson.

Harris, William C. Lincoln and the Border States: Preserving the Union. Reviewed by Aaron Astor.

Dunkelman, Mark H. Marching with Sherman: Through Georgia and the Carolinas with the 154th New York. Reviewed by Joseph G. Dawson III.

Astor, Aaron. Rebels on the Border: Civil War, Emancipation, and the Reconstruction of Kentucky and Missouri. Reviewed by Matthew C. Hulbert.

McWhirter, Christian. Battle Hymns: The Power and Popularity of Music in the Civil War. Reviewed by Steven Cornelius.

Wills, Brian Steel. George Henry Thomas: As True as Steel. Reviewed by Ben H. Severance.

Weinfeld, Daniel R. The Jackson County War: Reconstruction and Resistance in Post-Civil War Florida. Reviewed by Learotha Williams Jr.

Miller, Brian Craig. Ed. A Punishment on the Nation: An Iowa Soldier Endures the Civil War. Reviewed by Kathryn Shively Meier.

Hettle, Wallace. Inventing Stonewall Jackson: A Civil War Hero in History and Memory. Reviewed by Steven E. Nash.

Book Notes:

Dyson, Gary L. A Civil War Correspondent in New Orleans: The Journals and Reports of Albert Gaius Hills of the Boston Journal.

Harvey, Eleanor Jones. The Civil War and American Art.

Johnson, Abby Arthur and Ronald Maberry Johnson. In the Shadow of the United States Capitol: Congressional Cemetery and the Memory of the Nation.

Melton, Maurice. The Best Station of Them All: The Savannah Squadron, 1861-1865.

Books Received:

Allgor, Catherine. Dolley Madison: The Problem of National Unity.

Ashworth, John. The Republic in Crisis, 1848-1861.

Berg, Scott W. Thirty-Eight Nooses: Lincoln, Little Crow, and the Beginning of the Frontier’s End.

Brasseaux, Carl A. and Katherine C. Mooney. Ed. Ruined by this Miserable War: The Dispatches of Charles Prosper Fauconnet, a French Diplomat in New Orleans, 1863-1868.

Burke, James C. The Wilmington and Weldon Railroad in the Civil War.

Bush, David R. I Fear I Shall Never Leave this Island: Life in a Civil War Prison.

Coddington, Ronald S. African American Faces of the Civil War: An Album.

Cooper, Edward S. Louis Trezevant Wigfall: The Disintegration of the Union and Collapse of the Confederacy.

Dull, Jonathan R. American Naval History, 1607-1865.

Faller, Phillip E. The Indiana Jackass Regiment in the Civil War: A History of the 21st Infantry/1st Heavy Artillery Regiment, with a Roster.

Fanebust, Wayne. Major General Alexander M. McCook, USA: A Civil War Biography.

Field, Ron. Avenging Angel: John Brown’s Raid on Harpers Ferry.

Fisher, Lewis F. No Cause of Offence: A Virginia Family of Union Loyalists Confront the Civil War.

Flood, Bracelen Charles. Grant’s Final Victory: Ulysses S. Grant’s Heroic Last Year.

Fricke, Pierre. Confederate Currency.

Fritsch, James T. The Untried Life: The 29th Ohio Volunteer Infantry in the Civil War.

Gagnon, Michael J. Transition to an Industrial South: Athens, Georgia, 1830-1870.

Grandchamp, Robert. Colonel Edward E. Cross, New Hampshire Fighting Fifth: A Civil War Biography.

Guntzelman, John C. The Civil War in Color: A Photographic Reenactment of the War between the States.

Hager, Christopher. Word by Word: Emancipation and the Act of Writing.

Hayes-Bautista, David E. El Cinco de Mayo: An American Tradition.

Hearn, Chester G. Lincoln and McClellan at War.

Junne Jr., George H. A History of the Fifty-Fourth Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Colored Infantry in the Civil War: The Real Story behind the Movie Glory.

Kalasky, Robert J. Shadows of Antietam.

Kelbaugh, Ross J. Maryland’s Civil War Photographs: The Sesquicentennial Collection.

Kurtz, Peter. Bluejackets in the Blubber Room: A Biography of the William Badger, 1828-1865.

Lardas, Mark. Ulysses S. Grant: Leadership, Strategy, Conflict.

LaRocca, Charles J. The 124th New York State Volunteers in the Civil War: A History and Roster.

Leonard, Elizabeth D. Men of Color to Arms! Black Soldiers, Indian Wars, and the Quest for Equality.

Lundstrom, John B. One Drop in a Sea of Blue: The Liberators of the Ninth Minnesota.

Luraghi, Raimondo. Five Lectures on the American Civil War (1861-1865).

Mackey, Thomas C. A Documentary History of the American Civil War Era, Volume 1: Legislative Achievements.

Mahood, Wayne. Fight All Day, March All Night: A Medal of Honor Recipient’s Story.

McKinney, Gordon B. Henry W. Blair’s Campaign to Reform America: From the Civil War to the U.S. Senate.

McMichael, Kelly. Sacred Memories: The Civil War Monument Movement in Texas.

McQuiston, Julian R. William B. Cushing in the Far East: A Civil War Naval Hero Abroad, 1865-1869.

Moody, Wesley and Adrienne Sachse. Ed. The Diary of a Civil War Marine: Private Josiah Gregg.

Moss, Marissa. A Soldier’s Secret: The Incredible True Story of Sarah Edmonds, a Civil War Hero.

Munson, E.B. Ed. Confederate Incognito: The Civil War Reports of “Long Grabs,” a.k.a. Murdoch John McSween, 26th and 35t North Carolina Infantry.

Pfanz, Donald C. Ed. The Letters of General Richard S. Ewell: Stonewall’s Successor.

Samuels, Shirley. Ed. The Cambridge Companion to Abraham Lincoln.

Sauers, Richard A. The Fishing Creek Confederacy: A Story of Civil War Draft Resistance.

Shaw, Madelyn and Lynne Zacek Bassett. Home Front and Battlefield: Quilts and Context in the Civil War.

Schumacher, Ryan R. The Great Hanging at Gainesville, 1862: The Accounts of Thomas Barrett and George Washington Diamond.

Smith, Diane Monroe. Command Conflicts in Grant’s Overland Campaign: Ambition and Animosity in the Army of the Potomac.

Smith Jr., Myron J. The Fight for the Yazoo, August 1862-July 1864: Swamps, Forts, and Fleets on Vicksburg’s Northern Flank.

Stauffer, John and Zoe Trodd. Ed. The Tribunal: Responses to John Brown and the Harpers Ferry Raid.

Stephens, John Richard. Commanding the Storm: Civil War Battles in the Words of the Generals Who Fought Them.

Teed, Paul E. A Revolutionary Conscience: Theodor Parker and Antebellum America.

Vansant, Wayne. The Graphic History of Gettysburg: America’s Most Famous Battle and the Turning Point of the Civil War.

Wetta, Frank J. The Louisiana Scalawags: Politics, Race, and Terrorism during the Civil War and Reconstruction.

Witt, John Fabian. Lincoln’s Code: The Laws of War in American History.