Empty Sleeves
Amputation in the Civil War South

Brian Craig Miller

How amputation influenced definitions of manhood, allowing dependency to be recognized as part of southern masculinity


"Some passages of this book are so deftly written. . . that they remind the reader of the importance of good writing to good scholarship. Brian Craig Miller has crafted a beautifully written and extensively researched book on a topic we must give greater attention: the bodily ramifications of the Civil War. Empty Sleeves is a powerful addition to a growing field of work."
—Sarah Handley-Cousins, The Civil War Monitor

"Miller's finest points are made in retelling the tragic stories of many of these Confederate soldiers, gathered from a thorough search through pension and medical records. Detailed footnotes and a comprehensive biography indicate that Miller has done his job."
—Robert Grandchamp, Blue & Gray Magazine

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The Civil War acted like a battering ram on human beings, shattering both flesh and psyche of thousands of soldiers. Despite popular perception that doctors recklessly erred on the side of amputation, surgeons labored mightily to adjust to the medical quagmire of war. And as Brian Craig Miller shows in Empty Sleeves, the hospital emerged as the first arena where southerners faced the stark reality of what amputation would mean for men and women and their respective positions in southern society after the war. Thus, southern women, through nursing and benevolent care, prepared men for the challenges of returning home defeated and disabled.

Still, amputation was a stark fact for many soldiers. On their return, southern amputees remained dependent on their spouses, peers, and dilapidated state governments to reconstruct their shattered manhood and meet the challenges brought on by their newfound disabilities. It was in this context that Confederate patients based their medical care decisions on how comrades, families, and society would view the empty sleeve. In this highly original and deeply researched work, Miller explores the ramifications of amputation on the Confederacy both during and after the Civil War and sheds light on how dependency and disability reshaped southern society.

Uncivil Wars

Page count: 280
20 b&w photos, 13 tables
Trim size: 6 x 9


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Brian Craig Miller is associate professor of history at Emporia State University. He is the forthcoming editor of the journal Civil War History and the author of John Bell Hood and the Fight for Civil War Memory and The American Memory: Americans and Their History to 1877.