The first amputee of the Civil War was James Edward Hanger, an unfortunate 18-year-old who promptly commenced carving his own replacement leg out of wood scraps. Three months later he was walking down the stairs on an artificial leg of his own construction which hinged at the knee.
His invention not only made him rich, the Hanger company he founded to help other amputees is still doing the work, 150 years later.
The number of American soldiers who have undergone amputation surgery in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is well over 1,000, a horrendous figure, but one which pales compared to the Associated Press estimate of more than 100,000 civilian deaths in the conflict. I resided in Manhattan during 9/11 and even the cab drivers knew Iraq had nothing to do with it. They told me.
As an optimistic youth, I fully expected war to become obsolete after we left Vietnam. I am sorry I was so wrong, and that dream seems now more elusive than ever before.
Anonymous tintype photograph, circa 1870? Amputee and friends. Collection Jim Linderman.