HomeArticlesGenealogy: Using Records of Artificial Limbs for Union Civil War Veterans, 1861-1927 (2015 May 14)
Genealogy: Using Records of Artificial Limbs for Union Civil War Veterans, 1861-1927 (2015 May 14)
August 13, 2019
>>Welcome to the National Archives Know Your
Records Program. We are broadcasting live from the National Archives Building in Washington,
D.C. with a live onsite audience. Before we begin, I have a few tips I would like to share
with you. For those of you here with us onsite, we have several handouts and hopefully you
have picked those up. And we will be taking questions at the end of the presentation.
We ask that you use these aisle microphones when you’re ready to make those questions
at the end. For those of you watching online from this YouTube web page, you can also ask
questions using the chat feature on YouTube. You also will find several hotlinks to the
presentation slides, to handouts and live captioning.
Today we are pleased to have Claire Kluskens offer her genealogy presentation entitled
“Genealogy: Using Records of Artificial Limbs for Union Civil War Veterans.”
She will discuss records from 1861 to 1927 and the National Archives that may give information
about a veteran medical condition and whether he received money or artificial limb from
the U.S. Government. Ms. Kluskens is a project archivist. Specializing
in immigration, census, military and other records of high genealogical value. She has
spearheaded the completion of more than 310 microfilm publications and now works on digital
projects. She frequently lectures and writes for national, state and local genealogical
publications. Claire has been on the staff of the National Archives since 1992 and a
genealogists since 1976. Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming our presenter,
Claire Kluskens.>>Claire Kluskens: Good afternoon. Thank
you for joining us here today in person and online. The National Archives, as you may
know, preserves and provides access to the permanently valuable records of the United
States federal government. This task we do in perpetuity on behalf of the American people
and thank you for taking an interest in those records.
In this presentation we’re going to talk about records that show whether a Union Civil War
veteran was amputated and whether he received an artificial limb or money from the federal
government. The research guide that is online, along with
today’s PowerPoint and lecture will provide you the nittygritty details you need to get
access to the records discussed in today’s lecture.
So I invite your attention to that guide. Some of the records discussed here today can
be useful for veterans of other all Civil War veterans while other sorry.
While other records are very specialized and only relevant to amputees. The American Civil
War was the result of thousands of amputations. New technology was largely to blame. The invention
and use of the mini ball, a rifle made of soft lead with a hollow base expanded when
fired and caused large irregular and slowhealing wounds upon impact. Infection and gangrene
set in quickly. Shattered bones, shredded tissue and limited medical knowledge, resources
and options, amputation actually offered the best chance of survival.
By war’s end, about 60,000 soldiers on both sides suffered amputation. A skilled and experienced
surgeon could remove a limb in five minutes. It was critical to minimize blood loss and
length of anesthesia by chloroform. The overall survival rate was 75%, so varied depending
on the location of surgery. Part of the foot was survived 96% while amputation at the hip
joint was survived by only 17%. Later in the war, resection, that’s RESECTION,
became more common. This technique involved removing only the inner section of the arm
or leg leaving a shortened less functional limb. Nearly 40% of amputations resulted only
in the loss of fingers or toes. The war and industrial accidents caused a surge in demand
for artificial limbs, which needed replacement and repair every five years, need replacement
every five years as well as frequent repair. Entrepreneurs responded to this opportunity
through invention and manufacturing. Nearly 150 patents for artificial limb designs were
issued between 1861 and 1873. In 1872, Congress authorized the Army Surgeon General to purchase
artificial limbs for disabled soldiers and seamen and 1868 extended that benefit to officers.
In 1866 Congress authorized the secretary of war to provide free transportation to veterans
between home and the artificial limb manufacturer. In 1870 Congress authorized veterans to receive
a new limb or apparatus for resection every five years and increased the frequency to
every three years in 1891. Veterans who did not want a limb or could
not wear one could obtain money called commutation at the rate of $75 for each leg, $50 for each
arm or foot and $50 for apparatus for resection. In 1874, Congress decided that veterans who
lost an arm at or above the elbow or a leg at or above the knee could receive a pension
of $24 per month instead of receiving commutation or artificial limb. Veterans often chose commutation
instead of a limb. Some could not wear one due to lack of a stump, discomfort from inadequate
tissue surrounding the remaining bone or con chronic infection. Others went without because
it made a man’s patriotic sacrifice visible and commendable. Programs involving money
or benefits caused records to be created. The artificial limb and commutation program
needed to document which soldiers were paid, when and how much.
This presentation will follow one man to the records. His name was DeWitt Clinton Ayres
of Rochester, beaver county, Pennsylvania. He served as a private in company I, 102nd,
Pennsylvania Infantry. The veterans compiled Military Service Record
or CMSR provides an outline of a man’s service and give evidence of wounding or loss of limb.
Every Union Civil War veteran has a CMSR for each regiment in which he served. They are
called Compiled Military Service Records because the information was compiled from original
records, from 1880s to 1910s clerks in the office copied information from original muster
rolls, payrolls antibiotics others records onto cards and put those cards in an envelope
called a jacket. It was a timeconsuming project but provided quick access to most of the records
of veterans service in one location. DeWitt, CMSR for his service has records mentions
his injury. This is the jacket or envelope in which there are 28 cards providing information
about his service in the 102nd Pennsylvania. Towards the bottom you see the number 7 that
indicates there are 7 socalled personal papers inside the jacket as well.
Let’s take a look. Here, for example, is one of those 28 cards. A company must enroll indicates
that DeWitt Clinton Ayres enlisted for three years and mustered in on August 16, 1861 in
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This information is from the muster roll dated August 31, 1861.
Muster roll information is a typical kind of record you would find in most soldier’s
Compiled Military Service Records. Turning now to the personal papers jacket,
inside Mr. Ayres’s CMSR we might things such as enlistment papers, discharge papers, casualty
sheet, medical descriptive list or other medical records and so forth. These are called personal
papers because they relate to only one man in contrast to records like muster rolls,
which relate to many men. Here is his 1864 reenlistment paper. This
is the front side. And here is the back side of the reenlistment paper. CMSRs often have
enlistment but not the original enlistment paper for the man’s first enlistment.
Here is the casualty sheet that indicates DeWitt was wounded May 5, 1864 and his regiment
was part of the second corps sixth division. All the text in the lower half indicates that
the report of killed wounded and missing for the period May 5 to July 10, which is what
this was compiled from, as unsigned but that Brigadier General George W. Getty was in command
on July 10 when the report was made. And this is the reverse side. So the casualty
sheet does not provide much information. Here is a hospital record called a medical
descriptive list for DeWitt Ayres refers to a fractured femur and amputation at the thigh.
This record does not clearly identify the hospital, however, the December 24, 1864 admission
date is a clue. We are able to identify this record as being from the U.S. Army general
hospital number 1 in Annapolis, Maryland, due to a different record we will see later
in the presentation. Thus in all research, a clue from one record can help you with another
record. And this is the other side where most of the
information is. It indicates the wound was received at the Battle of the Wilderness and
goes into more detail about the exact nature of the wound.
He was actually wounded in both legs and the missile passed through the right knee and
as far as the left leg the stump healed without any unfavorable complication.
After a long period of hospitalization, Ayres was discharged from military service ten months
after his injury. And here is the main side where most of the
information is. It is dated U.S. General Hospital number 1 in Annapolis Maryland March 13th,
1865 and indicates he suffered compound gunshot fractures to left leg while in action at the
Battle of the Wilderness on May 5, 1864. It indicate amputation resulted at the lower
third of the leg and he was totally disabled. When you find something find a reference to
a place in the record, be curious about that place and learn something about it. Because
that will enhance your understanding of the life experience. Ayres was discharged with
army General Hospital number 1 on the grounds of the U.S. naval academy, consists of long
rows of onestory structures erected as hospital buildings for wounded northern troops and
sick men recently released from confederate prisons. Annapolis was accessible by train
from Washington and the VA battlefield as well as convenient distance from fortress Monroe in southern
Virginia and other points where sick and wounded men could be assembled. This hospital is known
as U.S. Army General Hospital Number 1, in the rear of St. John’s hospital stood a hospital
known as U.S. Army General Hospital Number 2.
Medical records are another source of information about hospitalizations and wounds. These records
contain hospital information that is not in the Compiled Military Service Records and
many Union Civil War soldiers have carted medical records. Ayres was in the hospital
of the second division Sixth army Corps following the Battle of the Wilderness. There are several
cards like this one on the left because he has listed in different pages in the hospital’s
record. You’ll recall that the casualty sheet we saw earlier from his CMSR indicates also
indicates his initial treatment at this hospital. Next on the right, Ayres was put aboard a
ship, the U.S. Army Hospital Steamer connect at Port Royal, Virginia on May 25, 1864. Thus
three weeks after his wounding, he was stable enough to endure some travel.
The next day, May 26, 1864 Ayres was admitted to Lincoln General Hospital, Washington, D.C.
This is the card on the left. December 18, 1862 Lincoln General was the largest of military
hospitals in the Washington area built by the army to take care of Civil War casualties.
It was located on Capitol Hill 15 blocks east of the capitol building. The complex had over
2,500 beds. Besides kitchen and dining rooms, there were staff quarters, laundry, barber
shop, stables and a morgue. Like other military hospitals, Lincoln general was taken down
shortly after the war. On the next card on the right, from the records
of Lincoln General Hospital, it says that Ayres was furloughed on July 26th, 1864, so
it’s possible he went home to his family at that time.
Six months later, the next card here indicates that Ayres was admitted to Division Number
1 U.S. Army General Hospital at Annapolis on December 21, 1864 and discharged from service
March 14, 1865 as we have seen from his discharge certificate. So the carted medical records
help flesh out the details of his treatment and convalescence after being wounded.
Pension files for Union Civil War veterans are also extremely important sources of information
about the veteran and his life after the war. They can be valuable sources of information
about his immediate family, if he had a widow of minor children who applied for a pension.
The sequence of pictures is meant to give you an idea of the scope of Civil War pension
files. In the first box, one file is extended upward from the box. It is one of 14 files
in that box. In the middle picture you see two rows of Civil War pension files and in
the file picture you see rows upon rows filled only with Civil War pension files and that
only is some of them. Pension files contain many mentions of his
Civil War injuries. We will look at a couple. The Surgeon General report details injuries
and current condition. Here is the front side. Many veterans had reported every year or two
to a board of surgeons who would verify the veterans eligibility for benefits based on
his current medical condition. Unlike DeWitt Ayres, permanently disabled, would usually
get exempted from future examinations. This report stated that DeWitt’s conical shaped
stump was numb and painful and the resulting scar is large indurated, adherent and tender.
Anatomical diagram on the reverse side shows both the location of his left leg amputation
plus a gunshot entrance above his surviving right knee which was painful and weak.
Another record in his pension file is application for commutation or money dated January 9,
1871, shown here. It notes he previously received from the United States an artificial leg made
by Juwitt of Washington, D.C. So that’s the first reference to an artificial
leg. Pension files have many records, though I’ve only shown a couple that are most relevant
to his artificial limb. Next we’ll turn to the specialized records
in records of 15, the records of department of vet veterans affairs at the National Archives
here in Washington, D.C. I should note while the Army Surgeon General was responsible for
certifiability for the program, there are records that relate to limbs or commutation
served to Civil War veterans. And they take up two shelves shown here.
A good place to start is List of Persons Furnished Artificial Limbs and Commutation, which is
a giant volume measures 18 inches by 12 inches by 4 inches. It lists veterans alphabetically
by name and gives unit, first application for limb or commutation and number of limbs
received or paid for at fiveyear intervals being approximately 1875, 1880, 1885, 1890
and 1895, dead and rejected noted for some men. DeWitt Clinton Ayres from Company I,
102 Pennsylvania Infantry first applied January 12, 1871 and again roughly fiveyear intervals
after that date to approximately 1895. And there is a reference here on his line to January
12, 1871 application, his application for commutation money that we saw in his pension
file, the second to last man shown there on that page.
The 11th volume of registers of persons provided limbs and commutations provides the bulk of
the documentation for most veterans. Most volumes have an alphabetical index that indicates
the page containing further information. In addition to the veterans’ name, usually gives
the veterans rank, unit, date of injury, which arm or leg injured, amount of payment, date
of commutation certificate or payment and other information.
Page one explains many of the abbreviations used in that and subsequent volumes. Here
in volume 2 is the index entry for DeWitt Ayres, second from the bottom, indicates he’s
on page 34, and turning to page 34 we have here the entry for February 4, 1871 and the
first man on the page, and it indicates his residence in Rochester, Pennsylvania. His
unit that we have spoken of before, that he lost left leg May 5, 1864 and he’s getting
a commutation certificate for $75. Continuing to volume 3, which covers June
of 1875 to June 1877, on page we find him in the index which tells us to go to page
395, and on page 395 we find that his next application for $75 commutation certificate
was a proved 1877. Moving next to volume 5, he’s on page 170 actually, page 431 sorry
we find Ayres ordered a leg from manufacturer George R. fuller. Likely indicates the $75
payment was authorize on May 7, 1881 to be sent directly to the manufacturer.
Going next to volume 8, he’s on page 345 and covers June of 1885 to June 1887 and we find
authorization for March 27th, 1886 for $75 payment and transportation to manufacturer
George R. Fuller in Rochester, New York. As we learn from different record series discussed
below the $75 still had not been paid to Ayres or fuller by mid 1888. Then in volume 9, which
covers July 1887 to June 1911, we find authorization for Ayres $75 payment and transportation to
manufacturer J.E. Hanger, actually only 30 miles from where Ayres lived and the February
4/91 account reference likely indicates the date of an invalid submitted by Hanger.
And in the same volume on page 363 is an authorization in 1897 for yet another $75 payment. No further
entries for DeWitt’s years were found between 1897 and death in 1914. It’s possible he received
an increase in pension that disqualified him from further artificial limb commutation payment.
Finally the single volume shown here relating to prosthetic appliances, commutation and
transportation reimbursement, 1885 to 1892, includes a copy of a letter written to Ayres,
and we find more information about the procedure used to obtain an artificial limb, as well
as a problem with Ayres’ 1886 leg order. It recounts of the Surgeon General issued an order on March 27th 1886 for Jorge R. Fuller to make an artificial limb pursuant to Ayres’ January 1886 application.
Fuller made the leg but didn’t get paid. More than two years later on December 12, 1888
Fuller sent the Surgeon General undated receipt written in pencil by Ayres as proof of delivery
of the leg. The Surgeon General’s office was unwilling to accept the undated pencil note,
so the chief clerk Samuel Ramsey wrote to Ayres to request Ayres write in ink an acknowledgment
of receipt of the leg. What are the next research steps? Here is
the letter expanded a little more there. What are the next research steps? Researchers
can learn about the structure, features and usefulness and durability of artificial limbs
through newspaper advertisements, patents and publications issued by the manufacturers
and others. Further research is needed to determine if more information is to be learned
about Ayres’ pre1871 leg from other records in the National Archives. In summary, DeWitt
C. Ayres Compiled Military Service Record and pension file provide details about the
circumstances that caused his amputation and subsequent effects on his life. Commutation
certificate and pension file, he received an artificial leg manufactured by Benjamin
W. Juwitt of Washington, D.C. sometime before 1871. From specialized records and records
15 we learn that Ayres received money in 1871 and 1877. He obtained an artificial leg in
1881 and 1886 from manufacturer George R. Fuller of Rochester, New York, who had trouble
getting paid for that 1886 leg. Ayres obtained new legs in 1891 and 1897 from Hanger who
had a factory in Pittsburgh, 30 miles from Ayres’ home, as well as inside other major
cities. The numerous amputations suffered during the American Civil War boosted a new
industry, prosthetics, that continues to innovate and improve mobility products needed by American
veterans returning home from today’s military missions.
And I am now open for questions. Please go ahead.
>>Entry 17, volume, the large volume>>Claire Kluskens: Yes?
>>Is that available in the research room that we can personally use or do we have to
work with an archivist to review it? Care.>>Claire Kluskens: You have to request it
in the room and it will be delivered to the central research room for you to use.
>>Oh, wow. Okay. Then, of course, it’s listed alphabetically
for all the veterans in all those subsequent fiveyear period volumes.
>>Claire Kluskens: That’s right.>>Great. Thank you.
>>Thank you, Claire. We have another question that came online. This have from Betty Lou
Burton. She is wondering, a soldier ancestor who was a soldier during the Civil War period
but not necessarily in the Civil War. Her question is, would someone who served and
lost a leg in the Dakota territory during the time of the Civil War still be considered
a Civil War veteran since he was on the Indian frontier?
>>Claire Kluskens: I think it is worth consulting these records for. I assume that if he’s in
the Dakota territory, he probably was in the regular army, which means he wouldn’t have
a Compiled Military Service Record unless he’s in one of those well, unless he’s in
a unit that has a Compiled Military Service Record that was part of the volunteer forces.
That’s a confusing answer on that part. So let me break it down this way.
He may have a Compiled Military Service Record that I talked about if he was in a quote,
unquote, volunteer unit. Volunteer units had a state name as part of the designation where
he might have been in the regular U.S. Army, which would have a U.S. designation such as
first U.S. infantry. But probably the place she should start first would be the pension
file. If he has one, to see if there is reference to losing a leg. She may have already done
that. Or an arm or whatever. If that’s the case, then I think she should look into these
records because I believe they should have other veterans who were not, you know, directly
in the Civil War.>>Thank you, Claire. A followup for Betty
Lou, since she’s not here with us and online. Would she find anything about her ancestor
in the Dakota territory, anything local, if she’s in that area?
>>Claire Kluskens: Again, I’m not sure exactly what time period that you’re talking about
there, what kind of local records that might exist outside of what the military was collecting
about its own people that were serving in the army. I would need more information to
be able to answer that kind of question.>>Thank you, Claire. We have another question
that popped up from Jan Murphy. Jan asked, do you have a sense of how many times or how
often veterans were refitted for artificial limbs? Was it common for veterans to try limbs
from different manufacturers?>>Claire Kluskens: I would say that it’s
common to get refitted for limbs because, you know, your body does change as you age,
and these limbs were not made to last forever. They were assumed to last five years but still
require some repairs in the meantime, and as we saw with DeWitt C. Ayres, he had over
the course of his lifetime limbs made by three different manufacturers, Benjamin Juwitt of
Washington, D.C, Hanger of Pittsburgh, and George Fuller of Rochester. So I would say,
yes, I would expect they would try different manufacturers.
>>Thank you, Claire. So it sounds to me like just because you found one record indicating
that your ancestor has gotten money or a limb, that you should not assume that’s the only
record down the line.>>Claire Kluskens: I would assume they got
more than one limb in their lifetime. Whether you can prove that or not.
>>Thank you so much. I’m looking online and I do not see any more
questions. Do you have any more questions here from our onsite audience?
Thank you so much, Claire. I appreciate your time. We will keep these presentation materials
available online. If you have an opportunity to watch if you didn’t have an opportunity
to watch live, you can send your questions to us afterwards. Thank you so much.
>>Claire Kluskens: Thank you.