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History of Medicine

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Life and Limb: The Toll of the American Civil War home

Sacrifices Forgotten Banner Header with backdrop of illustrations of prosthetic hands

Color illustration of a uniformed man with many arms, dipping spoons into a bowl of coins that represents government pension funds.

Detail from 'The Insatiable Glutton,' Puck magazine cartoon, December 1882.
Courtesy National Library of Medicine

The selflessness of soldiers fostered great respect in the years after the war. Pension payments were increased regularly, and men pursuing political office often found that their obvious injury proved useful in attracting voters. Yet as Americans sought to put the memory of the conflict behind them, they increasingly ignored the plight of aging, disabled, impoverished veterans. Instead, memorializing the dead and asserting national patriotism became the focus of Civil War remembrances, and the image of the disabled soldier became one of a money-grabbing dependent.

Decorative dividing line

Arrowing pointing to the left BACK | NEXT Arrowing pointing to the right