Monday, September 29, 2014

Did Stonewall Jackson Have Hypochondria?


General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson was one of the most gifted commanders in U.S. History. But he has a dubious distinction that had haunted his legacy since the 1850’s; Jackson has been accused of being a hypochondriac.

Jackson had some strange distinctions:

1 He thought he was “out of balance” in battle if he didn’t raise one arm while on his horse. He said he wanted to, “Keep the blood balanced.”

2.He refused to have pepper on his food, stating it made his left leg weak.

3.Despite wartime shortage, Jackson would constantly suck on lemons because he felt it helped his “dyspepsia.”

4.His staff noticed his strange diet, some of his meals consisted of only raspberries, bread, and milk.

5.Jackson was only comfortable when he was in an upright position, and I mean standing straight up. He felt it helped his organs stand “naturally” one atop each other. For this reason he had no chairs in his study at Lexington, Virginia. He spent long hours reading the Bible or memorizing Virginia’s laws.

6.While on honeymoon with his second wife (seeing how his first wife had died) he took her to Eastern America so he could bath in the mineral spas to “improve my sagging bad health.”

7.Even while he was a plebe West Point, first classman Ulysses S. Grant called him a “fanatic” whose “delusions took strange forms- hypochondria, fancies that evil spirits had taken possession of him.”

8.Jackson offered some dietary advice to his sister Laura, “If you commence on this diet, remember it is like a man joining a temperance society, if he afterwards tastes liquor he is gone.”

9.His complaints listed almost endlessly through his young manhood: rheumatism, chilblains, poor eyesight (witch he treated by dipping his head in a vat of cold water, eyes open, for as long as he could hold his breath), cold feet, nervousness, neuralgia, impaired hearing, tonsillitis (which required surgery), biliousness and “slight distortion of the spine” as Jackson stated in the late 1840’s.

Because of these things it is now said Jackson was a hypochondriac. But modern physicians have stated that Jackson may have suffered from the fairly common and most uncomfortable diaphragmatic hernia. This is the theory of Dr. E.R. MacLennan of Opp, Alabama. He states that this hernia caused Jackson to suffer from his many body ailments.

Ironically Jackson’s habit of draping his abdomen with cold towels to heal his “dyspepsia” may have caused his death. Soon after the amputation of his left arm at Chancellorsville, cold towels were laid on his abdomen as Jackson did everyday. This may have led to his contraction of pneumonia that killed him.


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