Thursday, March 27, 2014

Civil War Hospital Leg Brace


This is an utterly amazing item, showing the ingenuity and resourcefulness of Civil War period manufacturers: a wooden leg brace by maker "A. Goodwin Ashfield" which incorporates pivots, ratchets and other mechanics which allow exact positioning of an injured lower limb.

This brace pivots up and down at the knee to adjust flexion and extension of that joint, locking into place by setting the heel position upon the step-cut base. The wood (Walnut or chestnut)has been contoured to comfortably fit the lower thigh and the calf. Then, there is a heel plate that is adjusted by two large wooden turnscrews which raise the foot into dorsi-flexion or lower it into plantar (toe down) flexion.

There are remnants of canvas straps at the sides that held the leg solidly in place. These are made of the same type canvas strips of which Civil War field tourniquets were fabricated, being fixed in position by small lock-buckles. The entire assembly is set upon a base of solid wood with a T-shaped end strut for better stabilization in bed. It's a fantastic piece of workmanship meant for those men whose legs could be salvaged rather than amputated.


Wow, I didn't even know that had leg braces back during the Civil War Era. I wonder how easy it would be to walk with one of those. It doesn't look like it would be. Did they have them specially made for individuals or did they come in standard sizes?
Claudia Rosenburg |

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