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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Empty Sleeve: or, the Life and Hardships of Henry H. Meacham, in the Union Army

From: collections.countway.harvard.edu


This pamphlet is an example of postwar mendicant literature—items printed and sold for the support of their authors—and illustrate some of the hardships faced by disabled veterans in later life.

Henry H. Meacham, a former carriage-maker in Massachusetts, joined the 32nd Massachusetts Volunteers; his arm was blown off by a shell near Petersburg in June, 1864.  He printed and sold this pamphlet to make a living for himself and his ailing wife.  In this account of his war experiences, Meacham says,

"As we were standing there, a shell came through one man and then exploded, taking my right arm off, and killing four of my comrades, making five lives destroyed and one wounded.  I never expected to get home or even off the field, but I was bound to do all I could… I was at this time one mile from any surgical assistance, and walked that distance, while the blood was fast leaving me, notwithstanding I had bandaged the arm as tight as possible…. I was so weak as to be unable to walk, or hardly stand…. I had not long to wait before the surgeon came along, and at my earnest request, I was taken to the amputating room and placed on the table.  This is the last that I remember until my arm was amputated.  After I had fully come to my senses, I was conducted back to my bed on the ground, and there I remained during the night with my bloody clothes on."

The cover of the 1874 poem states, “The author of this book lost his arm in the discharge of his duties as Machinist on board the Demaly while conveying troops from Galloup’s Island to City Point, Va.”

Image: The Empty Sleeve: or, the Life and Hardships of Henry H. Meacham, in the Union Army,
(Springfield, Mass. : sold for the benefit of the author, [1869?]). Purchased for the Library of Harvard Medical School, 2005.


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