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NOSTALGIA AND MALINGERING IN THE MILITARY DURING THE CIVIL WAR DONALD LEE ANDERSON* and GODFREY TRYGGVE ANDERSONt Nostalgia The American Civil War witnessed a revival of nostalgia, a mental disorder that had created problems for armies for centuries. It is not within the scope of this study to trace the origins of nostalgia in detail. Ifwe were to attempt this we might begin in early biblical times and consider the words ofthe psalmist: "By the waters ofBabylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion" [I]. As early as 1569, a Swiss officer reported that one of his cadets had succumbed to homesickness. References to this problem can also be found in the first half of the seventeenth century. In 1688 Johannes Hofer, a medical student in Germany, wrote a dissertation on the subject. He was the first to use the term "nostalgia" and to identify it as a disease. He described the symptoms as anorexia, insomnia , slow fever, irritability, anxiety, and a general wasting away of the organism. Hofer pointed out that separation from the homeland was the basis ofthis ailment and that an "afflicted imagination" was an important cause of this malady. In the course of his description of this "wasting disease" he used such expressions as "nervous fluid" and "the animal spirits" [2]. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, this malady attracted the attention of German physicians. Prominent also in the consideration of nostalgia were the Swiss, who seemed to have particular problems with this malady. It was believed, incorrectly, that those from the vicinity of Bern were especially susceptible to homesickness when they left their native habitat. However, at various times people of Scot- *Associate professor of psychiatry, Loma Linda University School of Medicine, Loma Linda, California 92354. tProfessor ofhistory and archivist, Loma Linda University library, Loma Linda, California 92354.© 1984 by The University of Chicago. AU rights reserved. 0031-5982/85/2801-041 1$01 .00 156 I Donald Lee Anderson and Godfrey Tryggve Anderson · Nostalgia and Malingering land, Wales, Ireland, Lapland, and almost every country showed symptoms ofthis problem. Beginning at about the time ofthe French Revolution and extending into the nineteenth century, the French physicians became very concerned with problems of nostalgia in their military ranks. Nostalgia was of epidemic proportions in the French army of the Rhine in 1793 [S]. The official records ofnoninfectious diseases in the federal army during the American Civil War reveal 5,213 cases ofnostalgia and 58 deaths from this malady among white troops from May 1861 toJune 30, 1866. The record for "colored troops" reveals 334 cases of nostalgia and 16 deaths [4]. The number of cases of nostalgia is relatively small when compared with such diseases as rheumatism and typhoid, yet the cases which were labeled nostalgia posed a perplexing problem in some areas for the army during the entire duration of the war. During the early years of the conflict the number of cases of nostalgia among Northern troops increased. In the year that ended June 30, 1863, 2,057 cases and 12 deaths were reported. The next year the number ofcases decreased by 800, and the last year ofthe war the number of cases dropped markedly, although deaths continued to increase slowly but steadily. The year following the war brought a drastic drop to less than 200 cases [4]. The decline after 1863 was due in part to the type of men being taken into the service and the more realistic view of the duration of the war at this time. It was generally felt that nostalgia was most prevalent among the young recruits, and pardy for this reason the surgeon general favored increasing the age for induction from 18 to 20 years. Early in 1863, the assistant surgeon general, Dr. Dewitt C. Peters, described nostalgia as found in the military at this time: "... a species of melancholy, or mild type of insanity, caused by disappointment and a continuous longing for the home . . . and is daily met with in its worst form in our military hospitals and prisons, and is especially marked in young subjects" [5]. Dr. Peters then elaborated on the symptoms of this disorder: "First, great mental dejection, loss...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-8795
Print ISSN
0031-5982
Pages
pp. 156-166
Launched on MUSE
2015-01-07
Open Access
No
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