Life and Limb

BookLife and Limb

Life and Limb

Perspectives on the American Civil War


June 19th, 2015

Access Token


Other Formats



The contemporary perspectives – fiction, first-hand accounts, reportage and photographs - found in the pages of this collection give a unique insight into the experiences and suffering of those affected by the American Civil War. The essays and recollections detail some of the earliest attempts by medical professionals to understand and help the wounded, and look at how writers and poets were influenced by their own involvement as nurses, combatants and observers. So alongside the medical observations of figures such as Silas Weir Mitchell and William Keen, you’ll find memoirs of writers including Louisa May Alcott, Ambrose Bierce and Walt Whitman. By presenting the wide range of frequently traumatic experiences by writers, medical staff, and of course the often ignored common foot soldiers on both sides, this volume will complement the older emphasis on military history and will appeal to readers of the evolution of medicine, of the literature the time, of social anthropology, and of the whole complex issue of how the war was represented and debated from many different perspectives. While a century and a half of developments in medicine, social care and science mean that the level of support and technology available to amputees is now incomparable to that in the mid-nineteenth century, the insights into the lives and thoughts of those devastated by psychological traumas, complex emotions and difficulties in adjusting to life after limb loss remain just as relevant today. Phenomena explored in the book, such as ‘Phantom Limb Syndrome’, continue to be the subject of medical and academic research in the twenty-first century.


'The book is nicely presented and handsomely illustrated with both figures and plates. It bears similarities in form with David Seed’s earlier edited anthology onAmerican Travellers in Liverpool (Liverpool University Press, 2008) with which local readers may already be familiar. Life and Limb may find a welcome niche in the library of anyone with an interest in medical history and of the Civil War in particular.
A. J. Larner, Medical Historian, Issue 26

'This volume should prove a very good classroom companion for teaching the Civil War’s medical history at ground level, and for understanding how the war took shape in written word and visual image, as suffering morphed into memory.'
Steven M. Stowe, Social History of Medicine

'A short and accessible primary source reader on the medical history of the American Civil War.'
Handley-Cousins, H-Disability

Author Information

David Seed is Professor of English at the University of Liverpool. Stephen C. Kenny is Lecturer in 19th and 20th century North American History at the University of Liverpool. Chris Williams is Research and KE Impact Officer at the University of Liverpool.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
List of Illustrations9
Introduction: Civil War Voices and Views13
Early Experiences in the Field23
Case 27525
With the US Sanitary Commission: On the Hospital Boat Wilson Small31
Evacuation from Virginia, 186233
Hospital Routine34
A Death in the Ward38
Nurse and Spy45
Front-line Nursing48
‘The Mute Look that Rolls and Moves’: Walt Whitman’s Civil War51
Specimen Days & Collect59
Jonathan Letterman on the Medical Corps69
The Confederate Military Prison Hospital at Andersonville, Georgia71
Field Hospitals: A Glimpse74
Field Hospitals: The Need76
Plea for an Ambulance Service78
Hospital Broadside81
Hospitals in Richmond, Virginia82
Roberts Bartholomew on Nostalgia86
Medical Welfare Begins88
(Dis)embodied Identities: Civil War Soldiers, Surgeons, and the Medical Memories of Combat92
Painful Looks: Reading Civil War Photographs107
Mathew Brady’s Photographs: Pictures of the Dead at Antietam118
‘The Invalid Corps’ (song)123
The Case of Napoleon Perkins126
The First Amputee132
Testimonial Letter135
The Salem Leg (brochure)137
Testimony of Wearers139
The Human Wheel140
The Case of George Dedlow143
Phantom Limbs159
Diary: October 29, 1862163
The Battle of Shiloh: Aftermath166
The Battle of Ellyson’s Mills168
Aftermath of Battle, Cedar Mountain, Virginia169
After the Battle of Winchester171
Christian Fleetwood, The Negro as a Soldier173
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Army Life in a Black Regiment175
‘What I Saw of Shiloh’179
‘The Coup de Grace’181
‘A Resumed Identity’187
‘Recollections of a Private’191
The Red Badge of Courage195
The Aftermath200
Select Bibliography207
Plates 225