It is a rare event when a reference to the mental health of a Civil War soldier turns up in primary sources. Today, I found one in the pension file of Annie Francis Kendall Freitag. She’s pictured here. The soldier to whom she described as suffering from a “distressing nervous condition” was her husband, Frederick Daniel Freitag.
Fred’s military service was notable for his three wounds. The first, at White Oak Swamp during the 1862 Peninsula Campaign, caused a bullet to be forever lodged in his thigh and imprisonment in Richmond for a month. His other two wounds happened weeks apart during the 1864 Overland Campaign—a gunshot in the hand and shell fragment in the foot.
Fred managed to recover from all this and mustered out with his comrades in the 30th Pennsylvania Infantry in the summer of 1864. he went on to become an officer in the 24th U.S. Colored Infantry and married Annie in June 1865.
Annie, who had served as a nurse and first met Fred as he recuperated from his White Oak Swamp wounding at a U.S. military hospital in Chester, Pa., marveled at his physical strength in light of his injuries.
Everything changed in 1886 after Fred suffered a breakdown. A physician diagnosed him with consumption and suffering from what Annie noted was a “distressing nervous condition”—perhaps post-traumatic stress disorder. She attributed his health issues to his war wounds and added, “he passed away two years of extreme suffering, and utter dependence and disability.” Fred was 48 years old.
Annie lived until 1905. She is buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Mass. Also buried there are other Civil War nurses, including Dorothea Dix.
Francis Bartow Beville of Savannah, Ga., suffered a severe wound that ended his combat service at the First Battle of Manassas. Still willing to serve, he joined the Confederate navy and wound up enduring great privations as a prisoner of war. His story was just published in the Civil War News. An excerpt:
On July 21, 1861, during the First Battle of Manassas, Bartow was shot and killed as he led a desperate charge against a Union battery. Casualties in the Eighth were heavy, and they included Beville. A minié bullet struck him on the right side of the chest below the collarbone. His comrades carried him from the battlefield and a surgeon operated to cut the Yankee lead out of his back. Beville recuperated from his wound in a private home in Richmond. Nerve and muscular damage limited motion to his right arm and hand, and he received a discharge from the army before the end of the year.[i]
No longer able to perform in combat but still eager to serve, Beville found a way back into the military and a return to his Savannah home: In early 1862 he received an appointment to the navy as a midshipman and was assigned to the formidable casemate ironclad Atlanta. Here he received basic training on active duty—the Confederacy would later establish a naval school ship in Richmond for this purpose.
Meanwhile, the Union blockade choked the life out of the Southern economy and slowed the flow of supplies to the Confederacy military. Savannah was no exception. Desertions by soldiers and sailors increased, including one trio that escaped into the marshes below Savannah on or about March 14.
Massachusetts-born Francis Winslow started his navy career as a midshipman in 1833 at age 15. He served aboard the brig Washington during the war with Mexico. During the Civil War he commanded two gunboats in the Gulf Blockading Squadron, the Water Witch and the R.R. Cuyler. On the latter ship he fell ill with yellow fever and succumbed to its effects on August 26, 1862, outside Key West, Fla. He is buried in New Hampshire.
Winslow sat for this portrait in the studio of J.W. Black of Boston in 1861 or 1862.
Francis Welch Crowninshield, known as “Crownie” to his friends, left Harvard during his sophomore year in 1861 and enlisted as a second lieutenant in the Second Massachusetts Infantry. Over the next four years, the regiment participated in some of the biggest battles of the war. Crowninshield suffered three wounds in action, including Winchester (May 25, 1862), Antietam (September 17, 1862), and Gettysburg (July 3, 1863). His fourth wound of the war occurred in Georgia at Raccoon Creek (June 6, 1864), when a guerilla shot him in the leg as he prepared to bathe in the stream. He barely survived his injuries, dying in 1866.
Crowninshield wears the shoulder straps of a first lieutenant and sits with a cane in this photograph taken in late 1862, when he was at home in Massachusetts recovering from a severe leg wound received during the Battle of Antietam.
His carte de visite portrait has been added to my Flickr Photostream: