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.