Life and Limb

Of the three million soldiers who fought during the civil war, nearly half a million were injured but survived. The U.S  National Libary of Medicine has assembled a beautiful new exhibit dedicated to these men, their experiences, and the medicine of the times. Check out the online content, and find out when Life and Limb: The Toll of the American Civil War is traveling near you.  Here, the exhibit describes the empty sleeve commonly seen in photographs from the era:

A large proportion of disabled veterans in both the North and the South did not wear artificial limbs. Many did not even apply for the money they were eligible to collect because of negative attitudes to the idea of charity. Moreover, pinning up an empty sleeve or trouser leg, instead of hiding the injury with a prosthesis, made their sacrifice visible. Displaying an “honorable scar” in this way, especially during and immediately after the war, helped amputees to assert their contribution to the cause.

Image: NLM (h/t Medical Humanities Blog)

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1 Comment

Filed under History of Medicine

One Response to Life and Limb

  1. Manon Parry

    Many thanks for your interest in the Life and Limb exhibition. It is one of several NLM projects related to Civil War medicine that you can explore online at: