Bodies in Blue

Disability in the Civil War North

Title Details

Pages: 204

Formats

Hardcover

Pub Date: 07/01/2019

ISBN: 9-780-8203-5518-4

List Price: $39.95

Bodies in Blue

Disability in the Civil War North

How mental and physical disabilities influenced ideas of masculinity in the Union Army

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  • Description
  • Reviews

In the popular imagination, Civil War disability is virtually synonymous with amputation. But war affects the body in countless ways, many of them understudied by historians. In Bodies in Blue, Sarah Handley-Cousins expands and complicates our understanding of wartime disability by examining a variety of bodies and ailments, ranging from the temporary to the chronic, from disease to injury, and encompassing both physical and mental conditions. She studies the cases of well-known individuals, such as Union general Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, alongside many cases drawn from the ranks to provide a more comprehensive view of how soldiers, civilians, and institutions grappled with war-related disability in the Civil War-era North.

During the Civil War and long after, the bodies of Union soldiers and veterans were sites of powerful cultural beliefs about duty and sacrifice. However, the realities of living with a disability were ever at odds with the expectations of manhood. As a consequence, men who failed to perform the role of wounded warrior properly could be scrutinized for failing to live up to standards of martial masculinity. Under the gaze of surgeons, officers, bureaucrats, and civilians, disabled soldiers made difficult negotiations in their attempts to accommodate impaired bodies and please observers. Some managed this process with ease; others struggled and suffered. Embracing and exploring this apparent contradiction, Bodies in Blue pushes Civil War history in a new direction.

When we think of Civil War disabilities, our thoughts commonly turn to legions of brave amputees, navigating life with the highly visible marker of their wartime sacrifice. In this deeply researched and theoretically sophisticated book, Sarah Handley-Cousins tells a much more complex story of the illnesses and injuries that Civil War soldiers and veterans endured. . . . This is a story about how individuals and institutions battled over how bodies should be defined and categorized and treated by the state. This is a very important book.

—J. Matthew Gallman, author of The North Fights the Civil War

About the Author/Editor

SARAH HANDLEY-COUSINS is a clinical assistant professor of history and associate director of the Center for Disability Studies at the University at Buffalo. She is the author of numerous print and digital publications, including articles in the Journal of the Civil War Era and the New York Times DisUnion series. She is an editor of the popular history blog Nursing Clio, as well as producer of Dig: A History Podcast.