1. PTSD-Suffering Civil War Veterans Helped Make the Wild West so Wild
For a while in the 1980s and 1990s, the trope of the PTSD-suffering Vietnam War veteran was so common in movies and TV that it became a clichÃ©. Like all wars, the US Civil War must have produced its fair share of traumatized veterans. However, that was in the days before PTSD – or psychology for that matter – were well understood. As a result, Civil War veterans dealing with psychological trauma were usually on their own, left to deal with their issues as best they could – or not. The results could be seen after the war, when America relentlessly pushed its frontier westward in pursuit of Manifest Destiny.
Unsettled frontiers attract a disproportionate number of single young men, eager for adventure and new horizons. They are often rowdy, rambunctious, restless, and absent the social restraints typically imposed by families and neighbors in more established communities, frequently lawless. Many of them were Civil War veterans, still young in years although aged beyond measure by what they had witnessed and experienced. PTSD amongst their numbers accounts for at least some of what made the Wild West so wild and crazy. Indeed, some of the wilder and most famous of the West’s outlaws, such as Jesse James and his brother Frank, were molded in their early years by their wartime experience as combatants.
Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources and Further Reading