I have studied military history for many years – obviously the further back in history one goes, the less ‘personal detail’ is involved in the writing.....its all about Kings & commanders (OK there are some examples, such as the letter from Hadrian’s wall – a soldier writing home asking for some socks from his family)
One thing I am fascinated by, is when society became more literate (mainly during the early 19th Century), ordinary soldiers started to write letters home, keep diary’s and give interviews to papers etc
It’s the minutiae of the accounts of Isandlwana (for example) that I find most interesting, which have no bearing on the military situation :-
Brickhill loosing and looking for his glasses, a NMP Trooper going hunting for (and dying for) a horse’s bit because his NCO (who may have been dead at that time) would give him a wigging. The NMP (?) trooper trying to nick his dead mate’s spurs (the day after the battle), the British officer (maybe) writing a letter in his tent during the battle....even Wood insisting that an officer was buried during Hlobane.
I often wonder, if these (to my mind) irrational actions were caused by the people being in (quite rightly given the situation) ‘shock’ and acting irrationally.
We always say that the drummer boy watching the ammo wagon would not leave (with the NNMC) because he was following orders but was he in shock.
Shell shock/battle fatigue or PTSD whatever you wish to call it was not recognised at the time but it must always have existed – even back to times when men were hitting each other with branches.....