Civil War Insanity History

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Insane Asylums and Insanity
American Civil War and Reconstruction

During the American Civil War there was no shell shock, battle fatigue, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to help explain and legitimize a mysterious condition. Mental illnesses pervaded many veterans and their families. As a result of the Civil War, there were tens-of-thousands of widows, single mothers and, consequently, "the fatherless." (Highly recommended reading: Shook over Hell: Post-Traumatic Stress, Vietnam, and the Civil War.)
 
ANNUAL REPORT OF THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS AND THE SUPERINTENDENT OF THE NORTH CAROLINA INSANE ASYLUM, FOR THE YEAR ENDING NOVEMBER 30, 1884

The below table reflects the diagnosis/circumstances for each individual admitted to the North Carolina Insane Asylum. Question: How many patients were admitted for syphilis? Please review number 91, since it is very specific. (Regarding Colonel William Holland Thomas, if he was admitted to the insane asylum for syphilis and insanity, then why hasn't any author, writer or editor provided said fact or document? A supposition is not a fact. Thomas, however, was admitted into the asylum for Dementia.)

Since many of the patients are diagnosed with "Mania," a definition is warranted:
 
Mania: An abnormally elevated mood state characterized by such symptoms as inappropriate elation, increased irritability, severe insomnia, grandiose notions, increased speed and/or volume of speech, disconnected and racing thoughts, increased sexual desire, markedly increased energy and activity level, poor judgment, and inappropriate social behavior. A mild form in mania that does not require hospitalization is termed hypomania. Mania that also features symptoms of depression ("agitated depression") is called mixed mania. The reader can clearly see that Mania defines and covers a broad spectrum of possible maladies.

DATE OF ADMISSION. SEX.   SOCIAL RELATION. DISEASE.        
Number. Year. Month. Day. Male. Female. Age. Single. Married. Widowed. No. Attack. Supposed Cause DURATION BEFORE ADMISSION. FORM. Suicidal. Hereditary. RESIDENCE. No. Admissions.
                        Year. Mos. Days.          
1 1883 December 2 ..... Female. 26 ..... Married. ..... 3 Heredity ..... 3 ..... Mania Suicidal. Hereditary. Nash 2
2 1883 December 6 ..... Female. 28 Single. ..... ..... 1 Ill Health ..... 8 ..... Melancholia ..... ..... Montgomery 1
3 1883 December 6 Male. ..... 19 Single. ..... ..... 3 Heredity and injury 5 ..... ..... Mania ..... Hereditary. Montgomery 1
4 1883 December 7 Male. ..... 40 ..... Married. ..... 1 Unknown 10 ..... ..... Mania ..... ..... Brunswick 1
5 1883 December 11 Male. ..... 27 Single. ..... ..... 1 Masturbation 7 ..... ..... Imbecility ..... ..... Washington 1
6 1883 December 12 ..... Female. 50 ..... Married. ..... 1 Unknown ..... 3 ..... Melancholia ..... ..... Richmond 1
7 1883 December 13 ..... Female. 39 ..... Married. ..... 1 Domestic trouble 5 ..... ..... Mania ..... ..... Hyde 1
8 1883 December 14 Male. ..... 60 ..... Married. ..... 1 Unknown ..... 1 ..... Mania ..... ..... Richmond 1
9 1883 December 14 Male. ..... 31 Single. ..... ..... 1 Disappointment ..... 8 ..... Mania ..... ..... Johnston 1
10 1883 December 19 ..... Female. 66 Single. ..... ..... 1 Disappointment 2 ..... ..... Mania ..... ..... Jones 1
11 1883 December 22 ..... Female. 66 ..... ..... Widowed. 4 Unknown ..... 3 ..... Mania ..... ..... Moore 2
12 1883 December 23 ..... Female. 22 Single. ..... ..... 1 Disappointment 2 ..... ..... Mania ..... ..... Durham 1
13 1883 December 23 Male. ..... 23 ..... Married. ..... 1 Religious excitement 1 ..... ..... Melancholia ..... ..... Columbus 1
14 1883 December 26 Male. ..... 43 ..... Married. ..... 1 Unknown ..... ..... 6 Mania ..... ..... Johnston 1
15 1883 December 27 Male. ..... 22 Single. ..... ..... 1 Attack of fever 10 ..... ..... Mania ..... ..... Columbus 1
16 1883 December 28 Male. ..... 42 ..... Married. ..... 5 Mental shock ..... 1 ..... Mania ..... Hereditary. Pitt 1
17 1884 January 10 ..... Female. 27 Single. ..... ..... 1 Religious excitement ..... 4 ..... Mania ..... ..... Pitt 1
18 1884 January 11 ..... Female. 40 ..... Married. ..... 1 Exhaustion and sorrow ..... 11 ..... Melancholia Suicidal. Hereditary. Richmond 1
19 1884 January 11 Male. ..... 28 Single. ..... ..... 2 Epilepsy 2 ..... ..... Epileptic Mania ..... ..... Orange 1
20 1884 January 11 Male. ..... 38 ..... Married. ..... 1 Business trouble ..... ..... 10 Mania ..... ..... Wilson 1
21 1884 January 15 Male. ..... 34 Single. ..... ..... 1 1 ..... 4 ..... Dipsomania ..... ..... Robeson 1
22 1884 January 24 ..... Female. 44 ..... Married. ..... 1 Loss of sleep ..... 6 ..... Mania Suicidal. ..... New Hanover 1
23 1884 January 27 ..... Female. 30 Single. ..... ..... 1 Unknown 5 ..... ..... Mania ..... ..... Moore 1
24 1884 January 31 ..... Female. 56 ..... Married. ..... Unk. Heredity 8 ..... ..... Mania ..... Hereditary. Guilford 1
25 1884 February 4 Male. ..... 28 ..... Married. ..... 1 Heredity ..... 4 ..... Melancholia ..... Hereditary. Randolph 1
26 1884 February 4 ..... Female. 42 Single. ..... ..... 1 Unknown 7 ..... ..... Mania ..... ..... Durham 1
27 1884 February 5 Male. ..... 31 ..... Married. ..... 1 Religious excitement 3 1 ..... Mania ..... ..... Duplin 1
28 1884 February 8 ..... Female. 23 Single. ..... ..... 1 Heredity ..... 1 ..... Mania ..... Hereditary. Onslow 1
29 1884 February 8 ..... Female. 22 Single. ..... ..... 3 Menstrual trouble ..... 2 ..... Mania ..... ..... Guilford 1
30 1884 February 8 ..... Female. 42 Single. ..... ..... 2 Uterine disease ..... ..... 21 Mania ..... ..... Wayne 2

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  DATE OF ADMISSION. SEX.   SOCIAL RELATION. DISEASE.        
Number. Year. Month. Day. Male. Female. Age. Single. Married. Widowed. No. Attack. Supposed Cause DURATION BEFORE ADMISSION. FORM. Suicidal. Hereditary. RESIDENCE. No. Admissions.
                        Year. Mos. Days.          
31 1884 February 13 Male. ..... 60 ..... Married. ..... 1 Intemperance 2 ..... ..... Mania ..... ..... Rockingham 1
32 1884 February 13 ..... Female. 19 Single. ..... ..... 1 Ammenorrhoea 5 ..... ..... Mania ..... ..... Carteret 1
33 1884 February 15 ..... Female. 47 ..... Married. ..... 1 Unknown ..... 8 ..... Mania ..... ..... Moore 1
34 1884 February 20 Male. ..... 28 ..... Married. ..... 1 Religious excitement ..... ..... 10 Melancholia ..... ..... Alamance 1
35 1884 February 20 ..... Female. 50 ..... Married. ..... 1 Loss of property 13 ..... ..... Melancholia ..... ..... Granville 1
36 1884 February 21 Male. ..... 38 Single. ..... ..... 1 Unknown several years. ..... ..... Unknown ..... ..... Randolph 1
37 1884 February 25 Male. ..... 36 Single. ..... ..... 1 Unknown 10 ..... ..... Mania ..... ..... Pitt 1
38 1884 March 5 Male. ..... 24 Single. ..... ..... 1 Unknown 12 ..... ..... Dementia ..... Hereditary. Nash 1
39 1884 March 5 ..... Female. 24 Single. ..... ..... 1 Heredity ..... 7 ..... Melancholia Suicidal. Hereditary. Granville 1
40 1884 March 8 Male. ..... 34 ..... Married. ..... Unk. Intemperance ..... 3 ..... Mania ..... ..... Johnston 2
41 1884 March 15 ..... Female. 27 ..... Married. ..... 1 Heredity ..... 1 ..... Melancholia ..... Hereditary. Wake 1
42 1884 March 15 ..... Female. 27 Single. ..... ..... 1 Epilepsy 12 ..... ..... Mania ..... ..... Granville 1
43 1884 March 18 ..... Female. 22 Single. ..... ..... 1 Congestive fever 2 ..... ..... Melancholia ..... ..... Randolph 1
44 1884 March 25 Male. ..... 40 ..... Married. ..... 5 Sun-stroke ..... ..... 14 Mania ..... ..... Chatham 3
45 1884 March 27 ..... Female. 37 ..... Married. ..... 5 or 6 Uterine disease 10 ..... ..... Mania ..... ..... Wake 1
46 1884 March 29 ..... Female. 37 ..... Married. ..... 1 Unknown ..... 4 ..... Mania ..... ..... Harnett 1
47 1884 April 9 Male. ..... 28 Single. ..... ..... 2 Scarlet fever 6 ..... ..... Melancholia ..... Hereditary. Hertford 1
48 1884 April 11 Male. ..... 40 ..... Married. ..... 1 Exposure to sun 1 ..... ..... Unknown ..... ..... Cumberland 1
49 1884 April 15 Male. ..... 63 ..... ..... Widowed 3 Grief ..... 3 ..... Melancholia Suicidal. ..... Cumberland 2
50 1884 April 16 ..... Female. 25 Single. ..... ..... 1 Disappointment ..... 11 ..... Mania ..... Hereditary. Pender 1
51 1884 April 17 Male. ..... 57 ..... Married. ..... 1 Heredity ..... 4 ..... Melancholia Suicidal. Hereditary. Randolph 1
52 1884 April 17 ..... Female. 34 Single. ..... ..... 2 Religious excitement ..... 1 ..... Mania ..... ..... Edgecombe 1
53 1884 April 18 Male. ..... 58 ..... Married. ..... 4 Over-work ..... ..... 15 Melancholia ..... Hereditary. Franklin 4
54 1884 April 18 ..... Female. 45 Single. ..... ..... 1 Heredity 26 ..... ..... Mania ..... Hereditary. Guilford 3
55 1884 April 26 Male. ..... 49 ..... Married. ..... 1 Intemperance 3 ..... ..... Mania ..... ..... Granville 1
56 1884 April 28 ..... Female. 29 ..... Married. ..... 1 Ill health ..... 13 ..... Mania Suicidal. Hereditary. Wake 1
57 1884 May 2 Male. ..... 24 Single. ..... ..... 1 Unknown ..... 4 ..... Melancholia ..... ..... Vance 1
58 1884 May 6 Male. ..... 34 Single. ..... ..... 1 Fall on head 6 ..... ..... Dementia ..... ..... Northampton 1
59 1884 May 9 Male. ..... 32 Single. ..... ..... 1 Religious excitement ..... ..... 6 Mania ..... Hereditary. Duplin 1
60 1884 May 10 ..... Female. 50 ..... Married. ..... 1 Jealousy 4 ..... ..... Mania ..... ..... Cumberland 1
61 1884 May 10 ..... Female. 55 ..... ..... Widowed 2 Family trouble ..... 1 ..... Unknown ..... ..... Cumberland 1
62 1884 May 15 Male. ..... 33 ..... Married. ..... 1 Unknown ..... 2 ..... Melancholia ..... ..... Columbus 1


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  DATE OF ADMISSION. SEX.   SOCIAL RELATION. DISEASE.        
Number. Year. Month. Day. Male. Female. Age. Single. Married. Widowed. No. Attack. Supposed Cause DURATION BEFORE ADMISSION. FORM. Suicidal. Hereditary. RESIDENCE. No. Admissions.
                        Year. Mos. Days.          
63 1884 May 27 Male. ..... 24 ..... Married. ..... 1 Intemperance ..... 5 ..... Dementia ..... ..... Wake 1
64 1884 June 10 ..... Female. 30 Single. ..... ..... 1 Religious excitement ..... 8 ..... Melancholia ..... ..... Guilford 1
65 1884 June 11 Male. ..... 23 Single. ..... ..... 1 Heredity 2 ..... ..... Mania ..... Hereditary. Richmond 1
66 1884 June 11 ..... Female. 44 Single. ..... ..... several Heredity 5 ..... ..... Mania ..... Hereditary. Halifax 1
67 1884 June 11 ..... Female. 35 ..... Married. ..... several Uterine disease 4 ..... ..... Mania ..... ..... Wake 1
68 1884 June 14 Male. ..... 31 Single. ..... ..... 1 Inflammation of brain 7 ..... ..... Mania ..... ..... Wake 1
69 1884 June 17 Male. ..... 16 Single. ..... ..... 1 Sun-stroke 3 ..... ..... Mania ..... Hereditary. Columbus 1
70 1884 July 2 ..... Female. 25 Single. ..... ..... 1 Ill health ..... 10 ..... Mania Suicidal. ..... Duplin 1
71 1884 July 10 ..... Female. 48 ..... Married. ..... 3 Unknown ..... 2 ..... Mania ..... ..... Wake 1
72 1884 July 10 ..... Female. 29 ..... Married. ..... 1 Religious excitement ..... 2 ..... Mania ..... Hereditary. Beaufort 1
73 1884 July 24 Male. ..... 32 Single. ..... ..... 1 Over-heat ..... 1 ..... Mania ..... Hereditary. Orange 1
74 1884 July 30 ..... Female. 29 Single. ..... ..... 1 Disappointment ..... 1 7 Mania ..... Hereditary. Alamance 1
75 1884 August 2 ..... Female. 51 ..... ..... Widowed 1 Sorrow and neglect 2 ..... ..... Mania ..... ..... Johnston 1
76 1884 August 4 ..... Female. 36 ..... Married. ..... 1 Puerperal state ..... 3 ..... Mania ..... Hereditary. Vance 1
77 1884 August 5 Male. ..... 18 Single. ..... ..... 3 Heredity 1 6 ..... Mania ..... Hereditary. Caswell 1
78 1884 August 6 ..... Female. 29 ..... Married. ..... 1 Unknown 3 ..... ..... Melancholia ..... ..... Johnston 1
79 1884 August 11 Male. ..... 55 ..... Married. ..... 1 Family trouble 1 2 ..... Mania ..... Hereditary. Orange 1
80 1884 August 12 Male. ..... 48 ..... ..... Widowed 1 Over-work ..... 3 ..... Mania ..... Hereditary. New Hanover 1
81 1884 August 13 Male. ..... 31 Single. ..... ..... 2 Ill health ..... 2 ..... Mania ..... ..... Robeson 1
82 1884 August 21 Male. ..... 55 ..... Married. ..... 1 Injury to head ..... 1 14 Dementia ..... ..... Wake 1
83 1884 August 25 ..... Female. 57 ..... Married. ..... 1 Domestic trouble ..... 3 ..... Melancholia ..... ..... Edgecombe 1
84 1884 September 15 Male. ..... 38 ..... Married. ..... 3 Mental strain ..... ..... 14 Melancholia ..... Hereditary. Guilford 2
85 1884 September 16 ..... Female. 32 Single. ..... ..... 2 Unknown ..... 2 ..... Mania ..... ..... Duplin 2
86 1884 September 17 ..... Female. 33 ..... Married. ..... 1 Epilepsy 6 ..... ..... Mania ..... ..... Wayne 1
87 1884 September 17 Male. ..... 65 ..... Married. ..... 1 Wound on head 2 ..... ..... Dementia ..... ..... Wayne 1
88 1884 September 18 ..... Female. 44 ..... Married. ..... 2 Religious excitement ..... ..... 10 Mania ..... ..... Wake 1
89 1884 September 27 Male. ..... 51 ..... ..... Widowed 1 Apoplexy 1 9 ..... Melancholia ..... Hereditary. Camden 1
90 1884 September 29 ..... Female. 45 ..... Married. ..... 1 Child-birth 5 ..... ..... Mania ..... Hereditary. New Hanover 1
91 1884 October 1 Male. ..... 39 Single. ..... ..... 1 Syphelis and Drink ..... ..... 14 Mania ..... ..... Guilford 1
92 1884 October 12 Male. ..... 48 ..... Married. ..... 1 Domestic trouble ..... 2 ..... Melancholia ..... ..... Wake 1
93 1884 October 14 Male. ..... 24 Single. ..... ..... 1 Unknown ..... 1 ..... Mania ..... ..... Columbus 1
94 1884 October 15 ..... Female. 40 Single. ..... ..... 1 Unknown 1 6 ..... Melancholia ..... Hereditary. Northampton 1
95 1884 October 16 Male. ..... 53 ..... ..... Widowed 2 Heredity 1 ..... ..... Melancholia ..... Hereditary. Brunswick 1
96 1884 October 20 ..... Female. 62 Single. ..... ..... 1 Anxiety 1 ..... ..... Mania Suicidal. Hereditary. Granville 2
97 1884 November 8 ..... Female. 30 ..... Married. ..... 1 Religious excitement ..... ..... 10 Mania ..... Hereditary. Pitt 1
98 1884 November 10 ..... Female. 51 ..... ..... Widowed 2 Heredity ..... 3 ..... Mania ..... Hereditary. Sampson 1
99 1884 November 13 Male. ..... 23 Single. ..... ..... 2 Unknown 10 ..... ..... Melancholia ..... ..... Moore 2
100 1884 November 17 ..... Female. 43 ..... Married. ..... 2 Ill health 1 ..... ..... Mania ..... ..... Wake 1
101 1884 November 17 Male. ..... 40 Single. ..... ..... 2 Drinking ..... 3 ..... Mania ..... ..... Person 1
102 1884 November 18 ..... Female. 55 Single. ..... ..... 1 Financial trouble 1 ..... ..... Mania ..... Hereditary. Wake 1
103 1884 November 20 Male. ..... 26 Single. ..... ..... 1 Masturbation 1 ..... ..... Melancholia ..... Hereditary. Franklin 1
104 1884 November 21 Male. ..... 58 ..... Married. ..... 4 Over-work ..... 8 ..... Mania ..... Hereditary. Franklin 5
105 1884 November 26 ..... Female. 50 Single. ..... ..... 1 Family trouble 2 ..... ..... Mania ..... Hereditary. Wake 2
106 1884 November 27 Male. ..... 44 ..... Married. ..... 1 Onanism 1 6 ..... Mania ..... Hereditary. Beaufort 1

DATE. POPUL'N U. S. NO. INSANE. RATIO.
1860 31,443,221 20,042 1 to 1,308
1870 38,558,371 37,432 1 to 1,030
1880 50,155,783 91,997 1 to 545

Referring to the exponential increase and conflicting data in the United States' insanity cases, the Board of Directors and Superintendent of the North Carolina Insane Asylum state: "If we could believe that these figures absolutely represented the increment of disease, unmodified by qualifications, we might well despair of a future so burdened by ever increasing liabilities for succeeding generations to discharge. But it is justly remarked by the collector of statistics of the "defective classes" (Rev. F. H. Wines), that "it is not possible to believe that there has in fact been any such increase of the defective classes as are indicated by the figures given in tables above. The inference is irresistible that either the enumeration in 1880 is excessive, or else it was incomplete in 1870 and the years previous."

 

Unfortunately, as Civil War veterans, spouses and widows aged, insane asylums experienced a "patient boom." This is perhaps the major reason for the exponential patient increases in asylums nationwide. Why the Board of Directors and Superintendent of the North Carolina Insane Asylum didn't address this subject is unknown. After the Vietnam War, America experienced a similar experience  with the majority of veterans being diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, commonly referred to as PTSD (See: European Medicine and Scientific Advances, the American Civil War.)

Source for Chart Statistics: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University Library: Annual Report of the Board of Directors and the Superintendent of the North Carolina Insane Asylum, for the Year Ending November 30, 1884.

Asylum synonyms through the ages:
 
  • Lunatic Hospital
  • Lunatic Asylum
  • Asylum for the Insane
  • Insane Asylum
  • State Hospital
  • Mental Health Center
  • Psychiatric Hospital
  • Regional Center
  • Retreat
  • Developmental Center
  • Center
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    Recommended Reading: Shook over Hell: Post-Traumatic Stress, Vietnam, and the Civil War. Description: Eric T. Dean Jr., a lawyer whose interest in the Civil War prompted him to return to school to obtain a Ph.D. in history, makes a unique contribution to Civil War studies with his research on the psychological effects of the war on its veterans. 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. Continued...

    Dean's central thesis--that these veterans provide a mirror for the experiences of their counterparts in Vietnam a century later--is supported with lucid reasoning. Of particular interest are the many stories of intense Civil War combat and its psychological aftereffects, including many cases of Civil War veterans committed to asylums well into the 1890s--case studies seldom found in standard histories which offer painful testimony to the war's enormous impact on the nation.

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