Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Civil War and Left-Handed Penmanship Contests

There was a remarkable and inspiring story in the news yesterday about 7-year old Annie Clark, a first grader who won a penmanship contest. Annie doesn't have hands. You can read the story and see photos the beautiful and determined little girl here.

The story reminded me of a left-handed penmanship contest for Civil War veterans who had lost a right hand or arm in combat.

Excellent material - manuscripts and photographs - regarding the contests can be found at the Library of Congress, especially in the William Oland Bourne Papers. Bourne was editor of The Soldier's Friend, a periodical devoted to Civil War soldiers, disabled veterans, and their families. They also have an excellent online exhibit on the left-handed penmanship contest here.

Private J.S. Prendergast, Company F. 24th Massachusetts Infantry, (shown below with his his submission) won $20 for this submission describing the battle in which he lost his arm.

(Images in this blog post are from the Library of Congress)

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