Soldier’s Heart Foreword

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Soldier’s HeartForewordWar is always, in all ways, appalling. Lives are stopped in youth, worlds are ended, andeven for those who survive and the vast majority of soldiers who go to war do survive the mentaldamage done is often permanent. What they have seen and been forced to do it frequently sohorrific and devastating that it simply cannot be tolerated by the human psyche.Now there is an attempt to understand this form of injury and deal with it. It is calledpost traumatic stress disorder by those who try to cure it. They give it a technical name in theattempt to make it something almost incomprehensible, understandable, in the hope that, bydoing this, they will make it curable.But in other times and other wars, they used more descriptive terms.In the Second World War the mental damage was called battle fatigue, and there wererudimentary efforts to help the victims. These usually involved bed rest and the use of sedativesor other drugs.In the First World War it was called shell shock, based on the damage done by theoverwhelming use, for the first time in modern war, or artillery fire against soldiers in stationarypositions (trenches). The concussion of exploding incoming rounds, thousands upon thousandsof them, often left men deaf and dazed, many of them with a symptom called the thousand yardstare. The afflicted were essentially not helped at all and simply sent home for their families tocare for. Most were irrational; many were in a vegetative state.In the Civil War the syndrome was generally not recognized at all. While the samehorrors existed as those in modern war, in some ways they were even worse because thetechnological aspect of war being born then, the wholesale killing by men using raw firepower,was so new and misunderstood. The same young men were fed into madness. But in those daysthere was no scientific knowledge of mental disorders and no effort was made to help the menwho were damaged. Some men came through combat unscathed. Most did not. These men weresomehow different from other men.They were said to have soldier’s heart.

Chapter 1June 1861He heard it all, Charley did; heard the drums and songs and slogans and knew whateverybody and his rooster was crowing.There was going to be a shooting war. They were having town meetings and nailing upposters all over Minnesota and the excitement was so high Charley had seen girls faint at themeetings, just faint from the noise and hullabaloo. It was better than a circus. Or what he thoughta circus must be like. He’d never seen one. He’d never seen anything but Winona, Minnesota,and the river five miles each way from town.There would be a shooting war. There were rebels who had violated the law and fired onFort Sumter and the only thing they’d respect was steel, it was said, and he knew they were right,and the Union was right, and one other thing they said as well if man didn’t hurry, he’d miss it.The only shooting war to come in a man’s life and if a man didn’t step right along he’d miss thewhole thing.Charley didn’t figure to miss it. The only problem was that Charley wasn’t rightly a manyet, at least not to the army. He was fifteen and while he worked as a man worked, in the fieldsall of a day and into night, and looked like a man standing tall and just a bit thin with hands sobig they covered a stove lid, he didn’t make a beard yet and his voice had only just droppedenough so he could talk with men.If they knew, he thought, if they knew he was but fifteen they wouldn’t take him at all.But Charley watched and Charley listened and Charley learned.Minnesota was forming a volunteer regiment to go off and fight. It would have near on athousand men when it was full, men from Winona and Taylor’s Falls and Mankato and as farnorth as Deerwood and from the capital, St. Paul, as well.A thousand men. And Charley had learned one thing about an army: One part of an armydidn’t always know the business of another part. The thousand men in the regiment would be inthe companies of eig

“The food is bad,” he wrote. “Beef so gamey dogs won’t eat it, and hard beans. We bile the beans and use them for a meal, then use the leftover beans for soup the next day and on the third day take any cooked beans that are left, dry them and crush them and boil them for coffee.

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