An anonymous reader commented on the blog post, A Few Followups, stating that it was possible my ancestor John Clay McMichael could have been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Anon could very well be right. His/her comment reminded me of a very sad story that happened in neighboring McDuffie County, Georgia in 1897 that illustrates that PTSD is nothing new.
Wright Smith enlisted in Company F, 10th Regiment of the Georgia Infantry on 11 May 1861.1 On 01 May 1864, he was admitted to Chimborazo Hospital No. 3 in Richmond, Virginia with a gunshot wound to his left leg. His service record ends here with no specifics about his wounds or when he was discharged, however, his story is well-known and frequently told in the community where he lived, even to this day. I was unable to find any records to substantiate this part of the story but it makes sense. The story goes that he came home with his leg intact but festering with infection. The doctors treated it for quite some time before his leg had to be amputated. After he lost his leg, Wright was never the same.
Fast forward to 10 Mar 1897. The Augusta paper didn't carry the story but the Times-Picayune (New Orleans) did:
AN OLD VETERAN
Killed His Two Boys and Shot Himself.
Atlanta, Ga., March 10, -- A special from Harell [sic, Harlem], Ga., tells of a horrible tragedy committed eight miles south of that place yesterday afternoon. Wright Smith, a one-legged confederate veteran, went to Thompson [sic, Thomson] yesterday, drew his pension and went home. He paid some debts in the neighborhood and then asked his three children to go with him to feed some hogs. For some reason, his oldest, a girl of about 8, refused to go. He carried the two youngest, both boys, aged 2 and 4 years, to a cotton-house, where he crushed their brains out with his crutch, and then sent a pistol ball through his own brains. He lived for several hours, but never spoke. An empty laudanum bottle was found near, and the supposition is that he took the contents before shooting himself. No cause has been assigned for his committing this awful deed. He was not a drinking man. He was about 50 years old.2
Wright Smith, 1839 - 1897
Thomas Edwin Wright Smith, 1892 - 1897
Samuel Drury Smith, 1894 - 1897
The three are buried on the old homestead.
1Compiled service record, Wright Smith, Pvt., Co. F, 10th Regiment, Georgia Infantry, Carded records, Volunteer Organizations, Civil War; Records of the Adjutant General's Office, 1780s-1917; Record Group 94.
2"An old Veteran," Times-Picayune, 20 Mar 1897, p. 2, col. 5.
Copyright © 2012 Michele Simmons Lewis