The Civil War and Prosthetic Limbs: 1/2

I’m so pleased to host author Jocelyn Green again. She’s an amazing woman and author of inspirational fiction surrounding the Civil War.  Jocelyn will be here over the next three weeks sharing wonderful information about her research. Often times, during war, there is a lot of advancement in medical technology which is why I’m giving her so many days.

Plus, I just love her.

As an added bonus, Jocelyn has graciously offered to give away a personalized copy of her latest novel, Widow of Gettysburg, to one commentor. To enter, leave a comment on any of her posts over the next three weeks WITH your e-mail address. Must live in the USA. Winner drawn midnight, Saturday, May 11th, 2013 and announced here at Redwood’s on May 12th, 2013.

Jocelyn has also graciously said she’ll send you a signed bookplate if you have any of her novels and would like one. Again, MUST have your e-mail. 

Good Luck!

Jocelyn appeared before at Redwood’s and you can read those posts here and here.

Welcome back, Jocelyn!


“It is not two years since the sight of a person who had lost one of his lower limbs was an infrequent occurrence. Now, alas! There are few of us who have not a cripple among our friends, if not in our own families. A mechanical art which provided for an occasional and exceptional want has become a great and active branch of industry. War unmakes legs, and human skill must supply their places as it best may.”
~Oliver Wendell Holms, M.D., “The Human Wheel, Its Spokes and Felloes,” 1863
If necessity is the mother of invention, it should come as no surprise that the Civil War, which produced some 45,000 amputee veterans, also prompted major progress in the development and production of artificial limbs. One of the characters in my novel Widow of Gettysburg is the recipient of one of these limbs. Let’s take a closer look at what was involved in this rehabilitation of amputee veterans. (You can see more on amputations from a previous blog I wrote for Jordyn, here: http://jordynredwood.blogspot.com/2012/08/civil-war-amputations-and-anesthesia_31.html
Double Amputees of the Civil War
Once the stump was healed after amputation and the patient able to do without dressings, the surgeons’ work was finished, and the patient was left to shift for himself in securing the best apparatus. But not everyone was a good candidate for a prosthetic. If the limb was taken off at the joint, such as the hip or shoulder, there was no stump to which an artificial limb could be attached. The surgeon may have performed the operation too high or too low on the limb for a good fit to be possible. Also, if the stump was prone to frequent infection, it would have been too painful to attach an artificial limb to it.
For those who could pursue a prosthetic, in the North, the most popular artificial leg was a “Palmer” leg, named for Benjamin Franklin Palmer, who patented the design. A previous design by James Potts was made of wood, leather, and cat-gut tendons hinging the knee and ankle joints, and dubbed “The Clapper” for the clicking sound of its motion. Palmer improved upon this design with a heel spring in 1846, and his “American leg” was produced continuously through World War 1.
Palmer’s leg cost about $150, a prohibitive amount for the average private, whose pay was about $13 per month. Add to that the cost of travel and lodging expenses to see a specialist, and the number of amputees who could afford it went down even further. The cost of an artificial limb for Confederate veterans was between $300-$500, due to the soaring inflation.
Since the majority of veterans had been farmers, planters, or skilled laborers before the war, the need for artificial limbs was, indeed, a crippling problem. To help address it, the U.S. government appropriated $15,000 in 1862 to pay for limbs for maimed soldiers and sailors. In January 1864, a civilian association in Richmond was established to pay for artificial limbs for Confederate amputees.
After the war in 1866, North Carolina became the first state to start a program for thousands
of amputees to receive artificial limbs. The program offered veterans free accommodations and transportation by rail; 1,550 veterans contacted the program by mail. During the same year, the State of Mississippi spent more than half its yearly budget providing veterans with artificial limbs.
 Return for Part II on Friday.
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 A former military wife, Jocelyn Green authored, along with contributing writers, the award-winning Faith Deployed: Daily Encouragement for Military Wives and Faith Deployed . . . Again. Jocelyn also co-authored Stories of Faith and Couragefrom the Home Front, which inspired her first novel: Wedded to War. She loves Mexican food, Broadway musicals, Toblerone chocolate bars, the color red, and reading on her patio. Jocelyn lives with her husband Rob and two small children in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

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