Book Review: Psychological Consequences of the American Civil War


by R. Gregory Lande

Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2016. Pp. vi. 248. Notes, biblio., index. $35.00 paper. ISBN: 1476667373

PTSD and Other Fallout of the Civil War

Dr. Lande is the Director of the staff Psychiatry Continuity Service at Walter Reed Military Medical Center. He has written several works on the history of military psychiatry , and here takes a look at the psychological fallout of the Civil War.

Lande uses a narrative approach, avoiding technical language, to describe the many ways in which the war affected not only the veterans, but also their families and society as a whole. He demonstrates that at the time there was a serious lack of understanding of what we now call “post traumatic stress disorder”, and no idea of how to deal with it. Lande goes on to discuss the problems many veterans’ had with suicide, criminal activity, and a general decline in religiosity, spiritualism and medical quackery, and more.

Lande spends some time discussing the postwar increase in substance abuse, alcohol of course, but more importantly opiates, a consequence of the rather free use of morphine and other opiates by medical personnel, since their addictive nature was not understood

Lande frequently notes unusual developments, such as increased crime by women during the war, a period in which crime otherwise tended to decrease. Oddly, he doesn’t mention the dramatic rise of the divorce rate in the post-war period nor the suggestion by some scholars that the “wildness” of the “Wild West” was a result of psychological problems among veterans, and he makes no attempt to address the rise of the “Lost Cause” school of Civil War history as a psychological response to defeat and disaster.

Lande’s work is a useful read for the layman interested in the effects of the Civil War on the veteran and society.

Note: Psychological Consequences of the American Civil War is also available in several e-editions.


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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