Skip to main content


The horrors of the Civil War led to madness and suicide among many soldiers and veterans, but comparisons to modern diagnoses of PTSD are difficult.

Editor's Note: David O. Stewart has published five books of American history, including studies of Presidents George Washington, James Madison, and Andrew Johnson, and is a frequent contributor to American Heritage.

It was once as big as fear of flying, and it helped show the way to psychotherapy and the modern treatment of traumatic stress

“Combat fatigue” and “post-Vietnam syndrome” lost ground to a more sophisticated understanding of the problem of PTSD.

Let’s call him Frank. “He was in the war” is how adults explained Frank’s odd behavior a generation ago. As he walked through the small town then, his gait was clumsy, his clothes disheveled, and he seemed to go nowhere in particular.

We hope you enjoy our work.

Please support this magazine of trusted historical writing, now in its 75th year, and the volunteers that sustain it with a donation to American Heritage.