Aberration of Mind
249 pages
English

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249 pages
English
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More than 150 years after its end, we still struggle to understand the full extent of the human toll of the Civil War and the psychological crisis it created. In Aberration of Mind, Diane Miller Sommerville offers the first book-length treatment of suicide in the South during the Civil War era, giving us insight into both white and black communities, Confederate soldiers and their families, as well as the enslaved and newly freed. With a thorough examination of the dynamics of both racial and gendered dimensions of psychological distress, Sommerville reveals how the suffering experienced by Southerners living in a war zone generated trauma that, in extreme cases, led some Southerners to contemplate or act on suicidal thoughts.

Sommerville recovers previously hidden stories of individuals exhibiting suicidal activity or aberrant psychological behavior she links to the war and its aftermath. This work adds crucial nuance to our understanding of how personal suffering shaped the way southerners viewed themselves in the Civil War era and underscores the full human costs of war.


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Publié par
Date de parution 25 septembre 2018
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9781469643571
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 20 Mo

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Aberration of Mind
Aberration of Mind Suicide and Suffering in the Civil War–Era South DIANE MILLER SOMMERVILLE
University of North Carolina Press Chapel Hill
This book was published with the assistance of the Fred W. Morrison Fund of the University of North Carolina Press. Open access edition funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. © 2018 The University of North Carolina Press The text of this book is licensed under a Creative Commons AttributionNonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/. Set in Adobe Text Pro by Westchester Publishing Services Manufactured in the United States of America The University of North Carolina Press has been a member of the Green Press Initiative since 2003. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Sommerville, Diane Miller, author. Title: Aberration of mind : suicide and suffering in the Civil War-era South / Diane Miller Sommerville. Description: Chapel Hill : University of North Carolina Press, [2018] | Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: LCCN 2018005196 | ISBN 9781469643564 (cloth : alk. paper) | ISBN 9781469643304 (pbk : alk. paper) | ISBN 9781469643571 (ebook) Subjects: LCSH: Suicide—Southern States—History—19th century. | Suicide—Social aspects— Southern States—History—19th century. | United States—History—Civil War, 1861–1865— Psychological aspects. | Southern States—Social conditions—History—19th century. Classification: LCC HV6548.U52 S66 2018 | DDC 362.280975/09034—dc23 LC record available athttps://lccn.loc.gov/2018005196
Cover illustration from “Rescue of a Would-Be Suicide, in Vicksburg, Miss.,”Sporting Times and Theatrical News, 2 October 1869, 5. Courtesy, American Antiquarian Society.
Portions of this book were previously published in a different form and used here with permission. Portions of chapter 1 appeared as “ ‘A Burden Too Heavy to Bear’: War Trauma, Suicide, and Confederate Soldiers,”Civil War History59:4 (December 2013): 453–91. Portions of chapters 5 and 6 appeared as “ ‘Will They Ever Be Able to Forget?’: Confederate Soldiers and Mental Illness in the Defeated South,” inWeirding the War: Stories from the Civil War’s Ragged Edges, edited by Stephen Berry (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2011), 321–39. Portions of chapter 8 appeared as “ ‘Cumberer of the Earth’: Suffering and Suicide among the Faithful in the Civil War South,” inDeath and the American South, edited by Craig Thompson Friend and Lorri Glover (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015), 153–80.
For my family, Donny, Shannon, and Jackson, with love and gratitude.
Contents
Acknowledgments
Introduction
PART I Confederate Men and Women during the Civil War Chapter 1 A Burden Too Heavy to Bear War Trauma, Suicide, and Confederate Soldiers Chapter 2 A Dark Doom to Dread Women, Suicide, and Suffering on the Confederate Homefront
PART II African American Southerners in Slavery and Freedom Chapter 3 De Lan’ of Sweet Dreams Suffering and Suicide among the Enslaved Chapter 4 Somethin’ Went Hard agin Her Mind Suffering, Suicide, and Emancipation
PART III Confederate Men and Women in the Aftermath of War Chapter 5 The Accursed Ills I Cannot Bear Confederate Veterans, Suicide, and Suffering in the Defeated South Chapter 6 The Distressed State of the Country Confederate Men and the Navigation of Economic, Political, and Emotional Ruin in the Postwar South Chapter 7 All Is Dark before Me Confederate Women and the Postwar Landscape of Suffering and Suicide Chapter 8 Cumberer of the Earth The Secularization of Suffering and Suicide Conclusion
Notes Bibliography Index
Figures
Leslie, “The Art of Inspiring Courage” (1863),1. Frank 29 2. “Drumming A Coward out of the Ranks,”Harper’s Weekly(1862), 32 St. George Cocke,3. Philip 39 4. Nathaniel Southard,The American Anti-Slavery Almanac for 1838,92 5. Dion Boucicault,The Octoroon(1859),95 6. Jesse Torrey,A Portraiture of Domestic Slavery, in the United States(1817),96 Steward,7. Austin Twenty-Two Years a Slave, and Forty Years a Freeman(1857),105 Wells Brown,8. William Clotel(1853),107 Beecher Stowe,9. Harriet Uncle Tom’s Cabin(1852),111 10. South Carolina Asylum Admission Form,143 11. “The Last Relic,”Harper’s Weekly(1868),203 12. Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup (1886),222 13. Edmund Ruffin,237 14.The Birth of a Nation(1915),258 15. Thomas Dixon,The Clansman(1905),259
Acknowledgments
Having spent over a decade living with and working on death and dying, the backing and good humor of friends, family, and colleagues has been critical in keeping me grounded in life and living. It is a pleasure to thank publicly the many individuals and institutions that provided support to me and this research project. I have enjoyed financial support from a number of institutions that was vital to the completion of this book. The dean of Harpur College of Arts and Sciences and now provost at Binghamton University, Donald Nieman, made available research funds and endorsed leaves that allowed me to travel, research, and write. I was the recipient of a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship that permitted me to step away from my teaching obligations for a year to focus entirely on this work. I received research fellowships from the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives, the North Caroliniana Society, and the Virginia Historical Society that facilitated travel to crucial repositories, for which I am thankful. I am exceedingly grateful to the anonymous readers of this book in manuscript form who shared incredibly smart and insightful suggestions that helped me to rethink my approach and strengthen my argument, but who also gently nudged me to sharpen my analysis and clarify my thinking. They also were terrific boosters. The editorial and production team at the University of North Carolina Press —Chuck Grench, Jad Adkins, Cate Hodorowicz, and Jay Mazzocchi—was great at every stage of the process and provided much-needed assistance at critical junctures, most notably when a family health crisis materialized during copyediting and threatened the production schedule. Beatrice Burton provided expert indexing support. I had critical last-minute help securing images from Terri L. Snyder, Beth Kilmarx, Liz Argentieri, and Andrew Fagal. Portions of this book appear in previously published works, and I am grateful for the permission to reprint some of that repurposed material here. Lesley Gordon, the editor atCivil War History, encouraged me to submit my work on Confederate soldiers for consideration. I am glad she did. Two anonymous readers provided helpful critiques that made the article better. I received invitations to participate in two conferences that resulted in publications. In 2009, Stephen Berry ran a conference at the University of Georgia at which I presented a paper that eventually appeared as a chapter in a book he edited,Weirding the War: Stories from the Civil War’s Ragged Edges. Portions of that essay appear in chapters 5 and 6 in this book. Two years later, I attended a conference at North Carolina State University that resulted in the publication of a chapter inDeath and the American South, edited by Craig Thompson Friend and Lorri Glover. That piece is reworked as chapter 8. I appreciate the opportunity to have my work appear in these fine anthologies shepherded by such talented and mindful editors and for the feedback of the participants of the conferences they convened. I thank the University of Georgia Press and Cambridge University Press for allowing me to reprint portions of those chapters in this book. Much of the material presented here was vetted at professional conferences and workshops at which I received valuable feedback from audiences, co-panelists, and commentators including Victor Bailey, Rick Bell, Jane Turner Censer, Doug Egerton, Michael Kral, Chandra Manning, Christopher Phillips, David Silkenat, Terri L. Snyder, and Sasha Turner. I am pleased to have been part of the programs sponsored by the following professional organizations and gatherings: the British American Nineteenth-Century Historians, Society for Historians of the Early American Republic, Social Sciences History Association, Southern Historical Association, Society for Civil War Historians, Organization of American Historians, Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College, Southern Association for Women Historians, Kentucky Civil War Governors Symposium, and Upstate Early American History Workshop at Binghamton University.
I have learned that in the academy there is nothing more valued than time. So it is with deep appreciation that I acknowledge the extraordinary generosity of professional friends and colleagues who have provided much-needed critiques and suggestions over the years. The club of suicide historians in the United States is a small but supportive group. Terri L. Snyder, David Silkenat, Alison Efford, and Rick Bell graciously offered their ideas on my work without an iota of territorial jealousy. They are the embodiment of collegiality. A number of historian friends and acquaintances took time away from their own busy lives to read portions of my work, for which I am grateful and I promise to repay in kind: Jane Turner Censer, Doug Egerton, Carole Emberton, Lorri Glover, Lesley Gordon, Matt Hulbert, J. David Hacker, Earl Hess, Sean Kelley, Howard I. Kushner, Megan Kate Nelson, Rob Parkinson, Anne Sarah Rubin, Jeff Strickland, and Mitchell Snay. I also owe a debt to those who read my work, sang my praises, and wrote letters on my behalf. Thank you Jane Turner Censer, John Inscoe, and Jan Lewis. I was fortified intellectually, and frankly entertained, by a number of my current and former colleagues, whose company and friendship over the years I cherish: Douglas Bradburn, Howard Brown, J. David Hacker, RobParkinson, and Stephen Ortiz. And of course, the Southern wouldn’t be the Southern without my annual dinner date with Mitchell Snay. I am one lucky girl to have these amazing men in my orbit. When word spread that I was working on suicide, I received research nuggets from a number of scholars from all quarters of Southern archives, many of which are embedded in these pages. Thank you for thinking of me Pete Carmichael, Sarah Gardner, Jonathan Jones, Jim Lothian, Brian Craig Miller, Peter Moore, John Riley, David Silkenat, David Smoot, Antoinette G. van Zelm, and Jonathan White. Jeff Strickland and Douglas Eckberg generously shared their Charleston death databases with me. “Bigly” research assistance came by way of Jesslyn Graham and Andrew Menfi; Christopher Pearl, Daniel Pearson, and Kevin Murphy built amazing databases of my asylum patients, while enabling my Excel phobia. Jan Lewis, who served as my dissertation adviser and was central in shaping my first book, provided me with the skills, and confidence, to go without the adviser training wheels this time around. She continues to be my biggest cheerleader, and I will always cherish our friendship. I lecture my graduate students on the importance of wooing archivists while on their research trips. I’ve taken my own advice for years and with terrific results. Librarians and archival staff from a number of Southern archival sites were enormously helpful during my research trips. Thanks to the staffs at the Virginia Historical Society (now the Virginia Museum for History and Culture), especially the lovely Frances Pollard, the Library of Virginia, the Georgia Archives, the South Carolina Department of Archives and History, the Museum of the Confederacy (now the American Civil War Museum), Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina, Perkins Library at Duke University, the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives, and the Louise Pettus Archives, Dacus Library, Winthrop University. The Interlibrary Loan staff at the Binghamton University Library has utterly spoiled me with their quick and efficient responses to my voluminous requests. I have also benefited enormously from the dogged research of the army of genealogists whose labor tracking down ancestors from their past make those findings available to the likes of me. When I launched this project, my daughter, Shannon, was in high school, my son, Jackson, was in elementary school, and my husband, Don, had not a gray hair on his head. Today, my daughter is a hotshot sports reporter and my son is a newly minted college graduate. My husband, and I, have more gray hair than we care to admit, though my stylist is so good I don’t have to. Point being, I’ve been working on this book for a very, very long time, which has required oodles of patience from those I love. I thank my husband for stepping up this past year especially when the book took over my life and left time for little else: he cooked dinner, grocery shopped, and kept the wine fridge fully stocked with pinot grigio, though he drew the line at grooming the dogs. Even when cancer intruded and made an ugly, unwelcome appearance and threatened to upend our lives, our routines, our work, and our peace, he made it easy to be his caregiver. Without my family, my journey would not have been nearly as fun or rewarding. My endeavor surely has struck them as interminably long. If they remember anything about me and my efforts, I hope it is that “she persisted.” I lovingly dedicate this book to them.
Aberration of Mind
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