ABOUT THE ABRAHAM MAN:
The mere mention of the insanity defense guarantees a lively debate. Opponents of the defense cite the loss of criminal culpability while proponents argue just as passionately that the insanity defense is the ultimate act of compassion. The protagonists would probably be quite surprised to learn that the same basic concerns consumed Americans in the nineteenth century. One factor – The Abraham Man – sowed the seeds of confusion and controversy that united the past with the present.
Some of the most celebrated civil and criminal trials in American history were argued under the shadow of the Abraham Man. The detailed stories of long forgotten legal cases bring the antics of the Abraham Man to life. Through the process, readers will follow the careers of notable Civil War era surgeons whose post-war professional development shaped the future of modern mental health care.
My take on this book:
I have always been a fan of anything that has to do with the civil war, but I can honestly say until I picked up "The Abraham Man" by R. Gregory Lande I had no idea what the term Abraham Man meant, but now feel much more educated and informed about how many soldiers during the civil war would feign whatever illness they could to get out of the war, including mental illness. The label "Abraham Man" was given to those soldiers, a term that can be traced back to 1561. The doctors during the civil war had to become much more skilled in their abilities to diagnose in order to cull the scammers from the truly sick.
The stories of mental illness that the author shares within the pages of the book are somewhat alarming, but easily show why it would have been difficult during the time period to determine whether someone was actually mentally ill or just faking it. Two of the stories that really stood out for me both involved mothers. One mother poisons two of her daughters, but doesn't really seem to know that she did it. Another story was a mother having a "fit" and putting her young daughter in the stove, which caused her death.
Overall a very well written book that shines the spotlight on the early days of the diagnosis of mental illness. Instead of being filled with medical jargon it is written in a way that anyone could easily understand. A very interesting look at a very unique time in our countries medical history.
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ABOUT R. GREGORY LANDE
R. Gregory Lande, DO is a physician and retired US Army Medical Corps Officer. Dr. Lande completed his medical education at Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine. Shortly thereafter, Dr. Lande was commissioned an officer in the US Army. During his career in the military, Dr. Lande was active in a wide variety of clinical, academic and administrative positions. Upon leaving the US Army as a full colonel, Dr. Lande was awarded the Legion of Merit recognizing his career contributions. The next phase of his career involved administrative positions in hospital management, research, and teaching at various civilian facilities. Dr. Lande is the author of numerous medical and historical works. He lectures widely on both subjects. A sampling of historical publications and presentations include:
Lande, RG: “History of Military Psychiatry”, book chapter, Principles and Practice of Military Forensic Psychiatry. Springfield, IL: C. Thomas, 1997
Lande RG: The Invalid Corp. Military Medicine, June 2008; 173(6):525-528
Lande, RG: Felo De Se: Soldier suicides in America’s Civil War. Military Medicine. 2011; 176(5):531-536
Lande, RG: The court-martial of Sergeant George W. McDonald. Maryland Historical Magazine.2011; Spring 106(1): 125-33
Lande, RG: Madness, Malingering & Malfeasance: The Transformation of Psychiatry and the Law in the Civil War Era. Washington, D.C.: Brassey’s Inc., 2003
Lande RG The Abraham Man: Growth and Development of Forensic Psychiatry. New York, NY, Algora Publisher, 2012
Speaker – 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association for the History of Medicine, Rochester, NY
Subject: Dummy Chucker
Speaker – Great Lakes History Conference, Grand Rapids, MI,
Subject: The Court-Marshall of Sgt. George McDonald
Speaker – Missouri Conference on History, Columbia MO
Subject: Civil War Execution of Private William E. Ormsby
Speaker – Florida Historical Society, Tampa, FL
Subject: PVT Lewis Payne: Madness, Malingering, or Malfeasance?