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How Civil War Veterans Transformed Disability

1864 photo of Union wounded from the Battle of the Wilderness - 20 or so men sit and lie under a tree
Fredericksburg, Va. Wounded from the Battle of the Wilderness. James Gardner, photographer. (1864). Library of Congress.

Half a million wounded. A massive government response.    

Through pictures, maps and their own words, this exhibit explores the experiences of nurses and of disabled soldiers and the many institutions that arose to serve them. 

After the massive casualties of the Civil War (1861-1865), the United States built a vast system of hospitals and soldiers' homes. Speaking through the Grand Army of the Republic, veterans demanded services. Their sacrifices won respect and aid. Yet the scale of change also triggered a more grim reaction.  

How Civil War Veterans Transformed Disability supports the unit of the same name in the Reform to Equal Rights: K-12 Disability History Curriculum. It is one of a collection of online exhibits by the Collaborative’s Emerging America program. Each exhibit showcases gems from the collections of Massachusetts museums and models strategies to engage learners through compelling stories and source materials with profound national impacts. This exhibit features 250 sources, featuring the collections of the Library of Congress. 

Soldiers of the Veterans Reserve Corps stand at parade rest in a long line. Soldiers wounded or ill from service manned Washington forts.
Background Essay on Disabled Civil War Veterans
How the Civil War Transformed Definitions and Experiences of Disability for Americans.
Screen cap of the cover of the curriculum unit How Civil War Veterans Transformed Disability
Teaching about Disabled Civil War Veterans
How to use this exhibit and the accompanying curriculum unit through stories, primary source analysis, and investigations. 
An older Black man, balding with a white beard. He wears a medal on his dress coat. He poses seated, with one hand aside his cheek and the other on his thigh. He looks past the camera.
Stories of Civil War Nurses and Disabled Veterans, and Profiles of Institutions
Read and compare the concise, illustrated biographies (9) and profiles (10) of institutions and their impacts on America. 
Screen cap of a map of the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia, with key sites of battles and institutions identified.
Maps & More on Disabled Civil War Veterans
Interpretive maps that locate sites related to the stories and profiles of the exhibit, and other media. 
Screen cap of the first four items in the list of primary sources from the exhibit.
Primary and Secondary Sources on Disabled Civil War Veterans
Browse nearly 100 primary sources: photos, books, speeches, periodicals, political cartoons, and government documents using the complete illustrated list of primary and secondary s
Logo of Mass Humanities
Civil War Veterans and Nurses Exhibit Acknowledgements
Emerging America gratefully acknowledges the support of funders, and contributing scholars and collections that made this exhibit possible. 

Upcoming Workshops

This one-hour workshop empowers Special Education teachers to foster supportive attention to disability and to support integration of disability history across…
This course introduces exemplars of best practice pedagogy for English Learners in History and Social Studies classrooms. It demonstrates dual-language-learner-…
Emerging America and the National Council for the Social Studies present a webinar to strengthen high quality instruction of students with disabilities.  Regi…