The Civil War Letters of Colonel Charles F. Johnson, Invalid Corps

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Univ of Massachusetts Press, 2004 - History - 339 pages
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Organized in May 1863 to meet the Union Army's growing manpower needs, the Invalid Corps -- later renamed the Veteran Reserve Corps -- was a unique military unit. With more than twenty-four regiments of troops, nearly all of them men disabled by illness or combat wounds, it was at one point twice as large as the entire pre-war United States Army. During four years of service its troops enforced the draft, guarded prisoners and vital outposts, protected rail lines and supply depots, and served as military police in cities all across the country. Members of the Corps escorted President Lincoln's body home to Illinois, and after the war its officers formed the nucleus of the new Freedman's Bureau.

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.


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September 19 1861December 27 1861
January 1 1862June 22 1862
August28 1862November 22 1862
June 14 1863August 4 1863
August8 i863December 7 1863
The same old thing except being shot at January 6 1864May5 i864
Tell the general my men are cripplesand they eant run May 7 1864June 22 1864
All the rich are seehesh and all the poor are staunch union June 26 1864October 7 1864
They do not permit the VetRes Corps to remain idle October 13 1864December 11 1864
Kisses to Clara October 9 1866

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Page 30 - REMEMBER thee ? yes, while there's life in this heart, It shall never forget thee, all lorn as thou art ; More dear in thy sorrow, thy gloom, and thy showers, Than the rest of the world in their sunniest hours. Wert thou all that I wish thee, great, glorious, and free, First flower of the earth, and first gem of the sea, I might hail thee with prouder, with happier brow, But oh ! could I love thee more deeply than now...
Page 56 - NEVER GIVE UP! NEVER give up ! it is wiser and better Always to hope, than once to despair; Fling off the load of Doubt's cankering fetter, And break the dark spell of tyrannical care: Never give up ! or the burden may sink you — Providence kindly has mingled the cup, And in all trials or troubles, bethink you, The watchword of life must be, Never give up...

About the author (2004)

A freelance writer and researcher, Fred Pelka is the author of the ABC-CLIO Companion to the Disability Rights Movement, and a 2004 Guggenheim Fellow.

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