This volume brings together some 143 letters written by Colonel Charles F. Johnson, an officer who served with the 18th Veteran Reserve Corps after sustaining debilitating wounds during the Seven Days' Battles in June 1862. Edited with an introduction by Fred Pelka, the letters describe the day-to-day circumstances of "The Cripple Brigade," as it was derisively called, as well as guerrilla warfare in Missouri, combat in Virginia, and barracks life in Washington, D.C. Johnson was a keen observer of his nation at war, and his correspondence with his wife Mary is by turns literate and comic, objective and personal.
In his introduction and annotations, Pelka provides a detailed history of the Invalid Corps and explores the experience of disability in nineteenth-century America. He looks at how the nation responded to the sudden appearance of tens of thousands of newly disabled young men, and traces how members of the Invalid Corps fought not only to restore the Union but also to retain their dignity as Americans and as human beings.
"Civil War historians and others will value this book. It provides a fascinating and insightful introduction to the disabled soldiers of the Civil War era, and presents the first analysis of the Invalid Corps and the twists and turns of its history. Fred Pelka performs a great service by calling long-overdue attention to the experience of those who served in this unit."—John David Smith, editor of Black Soldiers in Blue: African American Troops in the Civil War Era
"This collection should be of interest not only to Civil War historians, nineteenth-century Americanists, and disability historians, but also to historians of gender relations and to family and marriage historians. Readable as Johnson's letters are, the book should appeal to general readers as well."—Paul K. Longmore, coeditor of The New Disability History: American Perspectives
"This fascinating collection is a welcome addition to the growing list of published Civil War correspondence."—Civil War History
"Historians of the VRC will benefit from an examination of these letters."—Indiana Magazine of History