Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Terrific New Civil War Book (!) - Mending Broken Soldiers

The only thing I enjoy more than writing myself is seeing my friends' excellent work in print!

Readers of this blog should be familiar with my dear friend Guy Hasegawa, Pharm. D.  He was a contributor and co-editor of our book Years of Change and Suffering: Modern Perspectives on Civil War Medicine (Edinborough Press, 2009), and his research and writing has been featured in several of my "Medical Department" columns for The Civil War News:

Civil War Chemical Weapons (here)
Civil War Medical Cadets (here)
Quinine Substitutes in the Confederacy (here)
Civil War Pharmacy (here)

I am SO EXCITED, then, to announce the publication of Guy's new book, Mending Broken Soldiers: The Union and Confederate Programs to Supply Artificial Limbs (Southern Illinois University Press, 2012).

From the publisher:

The four years of the Civil War saw bloodshed on a scale unprecedented in the history of the United States. Thousands of soldiers and sailors from both sides who survived the horrors of the war faced hardship for the rest of their lives as amputees. Now Guy R. Hasegawa presents the first volume to explore the wartime provisions made for amputees in need of artificial limbs—programs that, while they revealed stark differences between the resources and capabilities of the North and the South, were the forebears of modern government efforts to assist in the rehabilitation of wounded service members.

Hasegawa draws upon numerous sources of archival information to offer a comprehensive look at the artificial limb industry as a whole, including accounts of the ingenious designs employed by manufacturers and the rapid advancement of medical technology during the Civil War; illustrations and photographs of period prosthetics; and in-depth examinations of the companies that manufactured limbs for soldiers and bid for contracts, including at least one still in existence today. An intriguing account of innovation, determination, humanitarianism, and the devastating toll of battle, Mending Broken Soldiers shares the never-before-told story of the artificial-limb industry of the Civil War and provides a fascinating glimpse into groundbreaking military health programs during the most tumultuous years in American history.

As with all of Guy's research and writing, the Bibliography is evidence of thorough archival research; the illustrations in the book are outstanding!

But wait, THERE'S MORE!!!!  In his research, Guy also prepared supplementary material which is freely available as a PDF on the SIU Press website that will be of great benefit to historians and genealogists (PDF here): United States Soldiers Furnished with Artificial Limbs and Confederate Soldiers for Whom Orders  for Artificial Limbs Were Given Through the Association for the Relief of Maimed Soldiers:

Presented here are two lists, one Union and the other Confederate, of Civil War soldiers who either received or applied for artificial limbs owing to injuries sustained during the war. One list, presented in 1866 by Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, appears in the United States Congressional Serial Set; it gives the names of more than 6,000 Union recipients of artificial limbs. The other, compiled by Guy R. Hasegawa, names 739 Southerners who applied for artificial limbs through the Association for the Relief of Maimed Soldiers.

I had the great pleasure of reading the manuscript as it was being prepared and the even greater privilege of being invited to write the Foreword, which I happily provide below as witness to my feeling that this is an EXCELLENT book!

Foreword to Mending Broken Soldiers
James M. Schmidt
Copyright 2012

Though separated in their writing by almost 150 years, Oliver Goldsmith's "Deserted Village" (1770) and Katharine Tynan's "The Broken Soldier" (1916) share important imagery.  In his poem, Goldsmith writes of "The broken soldier, kindly bid to stay...Shoulder'd his crutch and show'd how fields were won."  Tynan's, in title and verse, refers to "The broken soldier...maimed and half-blind...One hand is but a stump and his face a pitted mask."  Note the word they use to describe the soldier: not "crippled"; not "wounded" or "injured." Broken.

The choice is both poignant and fitting: wars do break things, especially the men and wwomen who fight them.  From ancient times to the modern day, humankind has devoted itself to perfecting the art and science of destruction.  At the same time, people have devoted themselves to "fixing" broken soldiers by crafting artificial legs, arms, eyes, and other prosthetics.  Pliny's Natural History recounts the exploits of Marcus Sergius, a Roman general in the Second Punic War, who - having lost his right hand in battle - "had a right hand made of iron for him" and returned to the battlefield.  Medieval knights wore artificial limbs designed by the blacksmiths who had built their armor.  Modern war amputees benefit from light composites and advanced electronics that make prosthetics ever more realistic and comfortable.

At its heart, this book is about attempts to fix the "broken soldiers" of the American Civil War.  The unprecedented scale of that conflict - in terms of armies raised, battles fought, technologies employed, and soldiers wounded - resulted in no less than 60,000 amputations.  Not coincidentally, there was a large increase in inventive activity in prosthetics: patents for artificial limbs increased from less than thirty in the previous decade to more than a hundred in the 1860s.  "The havoc of war has begotten a multitude of inventions to supply the place of amputated arms and legs," T. C. Theaker, the commissioner of patents, wrote in his annual report of 1865, adding a poignant note of a soldier who "sent a letter to the office written by an artificial arms and hand of his own invention."

Still, the book is about much more than just the appendages themselves, and that is what makes it all the more original, interesting, and important.  The author describes the political considerations of providing veterans with prosthetics at government expense; the continued professionalization of medicine as boards of experts examined and passed judgment on what limbs would be used and paid for; recriminations among inventors over patent infringement; the ethics of providing artificial limbs for prisoners of war; the lack of a native artificial limbs industry in the Confederacy - symptomatic of other industrial shortcomings - that handicapped its ability to provide for its own amputees; the inevitable encroachment of the "middle man"; and much more.

Allow me to say a word or two about the author: in regard to our shared interests in Civil War medicine and surgery, Guy Hasegawa has been a faithful correspondent and frequent collaborator, and my own research and writing have benefited from his generosity and expertise.  I'm honored that he asked me to write this foreword because he is also a dear friend.  To any readers who might be inclined to discount what I say about him, I would ask that they take me all the more seriously because I know him; but read him for yourself: you will be treated to the results of thorough research backed by expert knowledge of archival material, an entertaining narrative from his ever-able pen, and a refreshing economy of words owing to his eye as a professional editor.

In the end, it is not the empty sleeves of broken soldiers that define them, but -as Tynan wrote - "the soul they could not harm," which "goes singling like the lark."


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