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date: 13 November 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Over 45,000 soldiers became amputees during the Civil War. The scale of wartime disability challenged American beliefs that masculinity and patriotism were virtually inseparable from able-bodiedness. By the war’s end, the amputated limb had become a recurring subject in music, photography, and literature. This essay discusses representative Civil War era songs about amputee veterans and analyzes how they musically and lyrically negotiated the cultural scripts of disability, masculinity, and patriotism. These scripts became especially complex when able-bodied women performed the songs in the voices of disabled veterans. Three songs are discussed in detail, including the song “Old Arm, Good Bye,” in which a soldier sings a love ballad to his freshly amputated arm, thanking the arm for its strength and loyalty to the Union. These songs reconstructed the disabled veteran, and indeed the amputated arm itself, as complex symbols of both patriotism and Victorian masculinity.

Keywords: disability, veteran, civil war, performance, gender, prosthesis, patriotism, masculinity

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