Civil War Union private Franklin Durrah’s hand-written letter paints a bleak picture of life on the front lines. However, just as interesting as the content of the letter is its reason for being. Durrah was one of many Civil War veterans who lost his right arm in battle. William Bourne, a chaplain at Central Park Hospital, held a penmanship contest through his newspaper for soldiers who had lost their right (primary) hand, offering prize money and the hope that their skill at writing even with their disability would increase their employment prospects.
- the collection offers an unprecedented look at stories of heavily wounded soldiers and provides a rare soldier’s-eye-view of combat and recovery
- the organizer of the penmanship contest for veterans hoped that showcasing the winners’ penmanship despite their disabilities would lead to their future employment
- the letters showed that some soldiers struggled from the affects of war many years later, though some adjusted to mainstream society well
““Penmanship,” The Soldier’s Friend wrote, “is a necessary requisite to any man who wants a situation under the government, or in almost any business establishment.””