Hearts Torn Asunder, Trauma in the Civil War’s Final Campaign in North Carolina

By Ernest A. Dollar, Jr. Savas Beatie Publishing, 2022, 264 pages

a Tennessee Valley Civil War Roundtable Review

by Robert Hennessee


   This book recounts the events of the Civil War’s final days and focuses attention to the suffering it caused the impacted civilians and soldiers of both armies. It was well researched providing pages of footnotes citing its sources.

   Gen. Sherman’s final campaign into North Carolina began shortly after Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox. Because of that, civilians had to guard against not only Sherman’s army, but alsofrom plundering by surrendered Confederates returning from Virginia along with atrocities committed by Union soldiers that went beyond Sherman’s concept of total war.

   It provides examples of soldiers who suffered from what is now called Past Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) and the addictions, alcoholism and mental illness suffered by soldiers, civilians and former slaves in the war’s aftermath, citing the creation of asylums and their overcrowding after the war.

   The book starts by citing an incident during the surrender of Raleigh, NC. Some of Confederate Gen. Wheeler’s cavalry (referred to as the “Debris of the Confederacy”) were looting a jewelry store. The former governor, who was present to surrender Raleigh to Union Gen. Fitzpatrick, warned them to leave because Union troops were approaching.  One man stayed and fired into the Union column. He was captured and questioned by Gen Fitzpatrick, who he told he did it because he, “Hated the Yankees.” When Fitzpatrick sentenced him to be hung, he replied, “Kind of you sir.”; then laughed maniacally until his neck broke from the hanging.

   I found the book fascinating and well written and easy to read. Rate it as 3 on the scale of 5. Maybe it deserves to be rated higher, but its focus on suffering and mental illness prevented it from being enjoyable to read.

   If the subject of PTSD from the Civil War interests you, another book on that topic is “Mental Illness and Civil War Soldiers” by Dillon J. Carroll.