Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Mending Broken Soldiers: The Union and Confederate Programs to Supply Artificial Limbs

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Mending Broken Soldiers: The Union and Confederate Programs to Supply Artificial Limbs

Article excerpt

Mending Broken Soldiers: The Union and Confederate Programs to Supply Artificial Limbs. By Guy R. Hasegawa. Foreword by James M. Schmidt. (Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 2012. Pp. [xvi], 126. $24.95, ISBN 978-0-8093-3130-7.)

Nearly a century and a half after the Civil War's end, the soldier-amputee remains one of that conflict's most persistent icons. At roughly 45,000 in number, amputees represented a minority of the war's wounded survivors. Nevertheless, the visual and literary tropes of amputation--piles of discarded limbs, ex-soldiers hobbling on crutches, peg legs, and "empty sleeves"--are central to the war's popular memory (p. x). And yet scholars have paid surprisingly little attention to the ways Civil War-era governments attempted to re-limb their most visible casualties.

In Mending Broken Soldiers: The Union and Confederate Programs to Supply Artificial Limbs, Guy R. Hasegawa offers the first comparative history of the wartime programs designed to outfit Civil War amputees with artificial limbs. When the war began, the U.S. prosthetics industry was relatively small, and there was no established policy for providing amputees with wooden limbs. In July 1862 Congress appropriated $15,000 to purchase prosthetics for military amputees, and later that year, a panel led by military surgeons assembled in New York City to determine which manufacturers would receive federal contracts. From the start, the Union program was beset by numerous problems, including squabbling between rival limb manufacturers and a "lack of approved artificial arms and hands" (p. 34). The Confederate counterpart, the Association for the Relief of Maimed Soldiers (ARMS), confronted even greater challenges. …

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