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Shattered: The Effects Of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (Ptsd)

2009 words - 9 pages

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 encountered at some of the more notorious camps left scars on the spirits of those unfortunate enough to be taken captive and the civilians who witnessed from outside the confines that would haunt them throughout their lives.
To fully grasp the effect of the camps, one must first know the history of the camps. The prisons were never meant to turn into the barbaric camps they ultimately became. At first, life at the camps was relatively simple. Things only became complicated when the prisons began to hold more than their intended occupancy. In previous times, populations were kept down because the two sides engaged in prisoner exchange, but this practice was ultimately abandoned. This led to the overpopulation and general neglect of the prisoners. In addition to overpopulation, many prison camps lacked in sanitary measures. For example, Andersonville prison had a single stream that ran through it that functioned as both a source of drinking water and a latrine. Also, supplies were scarce during the war, so prisoners were given the lowest priority when it came to goods such as food and medicine. While life in Union camps tended to be more manageable, there were some instances in which, upon hearing stories of life in Southern...

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