Life and Limb: The Toll of the Civil War explores the experiences of disabled Civil War veterans who served as a symbol of the fractured nation and a stark reminder of the costs of the conflict.
The perspectives of surgeons, physicians, and nurses are richly documented in the history of Civil War medicine, which highlights the heroism and brutality of battlefield operations and the challenges of caring for the wounded during wartime. Yet the experiences of injured soldiers during the conflict and in the years afterwards are less well known.
More than three million soldiers fought in the war from 1861–1865. More than half a million died, and almost as many were wounded but survived. Hundreds of thousands were permanently disabled by battlefield injuries or surgery, which saved lives by sacrificing limbs. As Americans sought to put the memory of the conflict behind them, they increasingly ignored the plight of aging, disabled, and impoverished veterans.
This exhibition was developed and produced by the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.