From Genealogy Gems: News from the Fort Wayne Library
No. 70, December 31, 2009
by Dawn Slater-Putt
Many patrons visit the Genealogy Center with a list of specific books to consult. Such preparation before a research trip is to be lauded, but don’t overlook the benefits of casually browsing the stacks for that unexpected or interesting find! For example, “Artificial Limbs Furnished to Soldiers” (973.74 Aa1uw) is a photocopy of an 1866 Surgeon General’s Office report listing Union Civil War soldiers who received prosthetics. Arranged alphabetically, it includes each soldier’s rank, company, regiment, state, residence, date, type of limb received, its cost, and the manufacturer.
It might interest his descendants to know that Private W. B. Kress of Fort Wayne, Indiana, a member of Co. H, 75th Indiana Infantry, received an artificial arm on 11 February 1865. Kress’s prosthetic arm cost $50 and was made by the Marvin Lincoln company of Boston, Massachusetts.
By 11 May 1866, when the Surgeon General’s report was filed, the federal government had furnished its Union veterans with 2,134 prosthetic arms, 3,784 legs, 14 hands, 9 feet and 104 “apparatus” at a total cost of $357,728.
Providing prosthetics for Confederate veterans was not a function of the federal government, but of the individual former Confederate states. Some state-specific lists of Confederate soldiers who applied for artificial limbs exist, such as “Artificial Limbs for Confederate Soldiers” by Patrick J. McCawley of the South Carolina Department of Archives and History (973.74 So8mc). McCawley’s book describes the South Carolina General Assembly’s actions to furnish Confederate veterans with prosthetics from 1866 through 1909, followed by an alphabetical index to veterans’ applications for limbs that includes veteran’s name, county, year of record series, folder and item number.
Ansley Herring Wegner’s “Phantom Pain: North Carolina’s Artificial-Limbs Program for Confederate Veterans” (973.74 N81weg) is a combination history and index to records at the North Carolina State Archives. The index portion of the book lists the soldier’s name, county, unit, date, type of limb, and record citation.
Digitized images of Virginia Confederate soldiers’ applications for artificial limbs are in the Confederate Disability Applications and Receipts database on the Library of Virginia’s website. Genealogists may search the database most efficiently by cutting and pasting
into their computer browser, and combining the search term “artificial” with the soldier’s surname in the top search box. Most applications include the veteran’s place of residence and affidavits describing where and how he was wounded. Rejected as well as approved applications are included among the images.
Researchers may be able to find similar record indexes or digitized images for other Confederate veterans by using keyword searching in the online catalogs of individual state libraries and state archives, or via Internet search engines.
This electronic newsletter is published by the Allen County Public Library's Genealogy Center, and is intended to enlighten readers about genealogical research methods as well as inform them about the vast resources of the Allen County Public Library. We welcome the wide distribution of this newsletter and encourage readers to forward it to their friends and societies.
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Steve Myers & Curt Witcher, co-editors