Deeper Dimensions

In 1861, most of the nation’s 31 million people lived in relative peace and prosperity, scattered in cities and small towns all across America.  By 1865, everything had changed.  The nation had paradoxically torn itself in two, in order to become one.  Approximately 624,511 men had died in a devastating Civil War.  Roughly two percent of the population.  Killed by the arithmetic of war.  A number so huge, that the real figure may never be fully known.  As many as the combined total of every American war combined.  For those left behind, one war was over and another was just beginning.  The survivors, particularly in the South, went home and had the difficult task of, not only struggling to get on with the business of living, but also, having to learn to cope with the trauma of their war experience; and with a new world that was being shaped by forces that seemed as complicated as they were new.  The changes were political, social, economic, and psychological.  The psyche of the nation had its consciousness altered profoundly having experienced wholesale carnage and slaughter on level that no one had known, nor could have imagined before this moment.  Consequently, many public service institutions and relief societies were pushed to their limit and found themselves drowning in the desperate needs of many.  And certainly this was true of Lunatic Asylums.  The problems that they faced were not just a matter of resources, but also the problems of space.  In “The Linear Plan for Insane Asylums in the United States before 1866, by Carla Yanni and “Public Welfare in the South during the Reconstruction Era, 1865-80 by John Hope Franklin we get a clearer portrait of what forces shaped the effectiveness of these institutions during this period.;

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