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Valor and Disability

February 28, 2021

Public Notice for the Invalid Corps (1863), Author US War Dept. (PD)

The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them” (Matt. 11: 5).

In the midst of a brutal Civil War, the need for manpower was so great that the US War Dept. on April 28, 1863 created the Invalid Corps a/k/a Veteran Reserve Corps [1].

Comprised of men severely disabled by wounds or disease, the Invalid Corps was to have been an honor corps of soldiers who had already served faithfully, but would now be assigned light tasks in order to free up healthy men for the front lines.

Instead, the Invalid Corps was despised by one and all – its members reviled as cripples, cowards, and malingerers.

Despite this, the Invalid Corps served valiantly.  Jeered as the Infidel Corps and the Cripple Brigade, the Invalid Corps often put in longer hours with fewer breaks than able-bodied men.

Soldiers whose limbs had been amputated and nerves shattered guarded prisoners, railroads, and essential supplies.  They arrested bounty jumpers, and patrolled city streets.

  • Vastly outnumbered, the Invalid Corps supported local police during the vicious New York City draft riots of July 1863.
  • On June 20, 1864 the 18th Regiment of the Invalid Corps was called on to oppose 4000 Confederate troops led by Gen. Wade Hampton.  When asked whether the injured men under his command would stand and fight, Col. Charles Johnson responded, sarcastically, “Tell the general that my men are cripples and they can’t run [3].”  The Confederates were successfully driven back.
  • On July 11, 1864 Confederate Lieut. Gen. Jubal Early launched an assault on Washington DC [4].  Only the Invalid Corps was immediately available to defend the Union capitol.  The 5th, 6th, 9th, 19th and 24th Regiments took up positions along the defensive line of forts around the city.  Convalescents left their hospital beds to take part.  Heavy fighting ensued.  But the Invalid Corps held the line until reinforcements could arrive.

No monument exists to the Invalid Corps today.  But the sacrifice and devotion of its members were undoubtedly recorded in heaven.  They stand as testament to the fact that disability is not the measure of a man.

It is when we have no resources that our valor is tested.  It is when we have been incapacitated that our mettle truly shines.

[1]  Wikipedia, “Veteran Reserve Corps”, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Veteran_Reserve_Corps.

[2]  Maryland Public Television (MPT), “The Invalid Corps”, https://video.mpt.tv/video/the-invalid-corps-j99gel/.

[3]  National Museum of Civil War Medicine, ” ‘Tell the General that My Men Are Cripples and They Can’t Run’:  The Field Service of the 18th Regiment, Veteran Reserve Corps, May – June 1864″, 5/21/19, https://www.civilwarmed.org/veteran-reserve-corps/.

[4]  Smithsonian Magazine, “When Washington DC Came Close to Being Conquered by the Confederacy” by Thomas Lewis, July 1988, https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/when-washington-dc-came-close-to-being-conquered-by-the-confederacy-180951994/.

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From → Christian, Religion

25 Comments
  1. One has to salute these brave ones, and the Christ whose Good News makes special room for such.

    My father almost lost his life in WW2’s North African campaign, so I know first hand how it ravaged his life – physically, mentally and emotionally until his early death.

    Though personally pacifist these days, one has to admire the bravery of men and women around the world ‘hampered’ in some way or another from living a ‘regular life’ and yet living beautifully. (Sometimes people have referred to such as ‘handicapped,’ but then we ALL have ‘handicaps’ of some sort, don’t we? And to think Jesus came for us all)

    Thanks for your lawyer’s mind that brings these significant snippets from history to our attention, Anna.

    • Thank you for the compliment, Erroll. I am glad you were able to appreciate the story. My heart goes out to your father, for his service and his suffering. Yes, we do all have failings and shortcomings. But by His wounds we are healed (1 Peter 2: 24).

  2. I had never heard of this. Amazing. They need to be honored.

  3. You wrote, “It is when we have no resources that our valor is tested. It is when we have been incapacitated that our mettle truly shines.” YES!

    Thank you for sharing this history. They should never be forgotten.

  4. I had not heard of this before , thanks Anna. There is something about immense pain in a persons life that creates depth of character. These people obviously had a character few ever arrive at much less see in others in their life time. Then when seen it’s often not recognized.

  5. Allan Halton permalink

    In fact, Anna, one must be an invalid– like Jacob of old, crippled in that strength of the natural man that enables us to walk independently of God– to be a valid soldier in Christ’s army.

  6. It is a moving story, I never heard about it before. They are for me heroes and have to be honoured. Thank you for informing us with your wonderful and interesting article. LG Marie

  7. I was never very good at history in school, but every once in a while I read a true story and think, “If they had taught THIS stuff in history class, I would have been a lot more interested and remembered more.” This is one of those stories. Thanks for sharing it, Anna.

  8. This is the type of content one can invest on. Too beautiful
    Thanks a lot

  9. Thanks for this interesting article, Anna. I’m also reminded of the following verse:
    But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. – 2 Cor.12:9

  10. Anna thank you for sharing this—I had never known about this corps of soldiers— I’m sure this ‘second’ chance helped to fuel a sense of purpose and service— meaning they were still greatly needed!

  11. The immense suffering of soldiers is bad enough; but what angers me are the typical big business/money motivations for why wars are started.

    The American Civil War, from my understanding, was started essentially to enable the larger slave-labored business operations to continue.

  12. This is a compelling story, a part of history I did not know. Thank you for sharing it, Anna! You have wonderfully brought us to the apex–your concluding sentence.

  13. This was certainly news to me, thank you so much Anna. And thankfully we’ve already learned not to use such terms as invalid, crippled or retarded. We are all humans and nobody knows how able we all are or might be. A lovely post with very important information.
    All the best Anna,
    FBC

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