All wars, in a practical sense, center on the destruction of the human body, and in Bodies in Blue: Disability in the Civil War North
(University of Georgia Press, 2019), Sarah Handley-Cousins
, a clinical assistant professor at the University at Buffalo, shows how disability was a necessary by-product of the U.S. Civil War. Handley-Cousins argues that disability in the Civil War North extended far past amputations and highlights how wartime disability ranged from the temporary to the chronic, from disease to injury, and encompassed both physical and mental conditions. In Bodies in Blue
, Handley-Cousins documents how the realities of living with a disability were at odds with the expectations of manhood. As a result, men who failed to perform the role of wounded warrior could be scrutinized for failing to live up to the ideal of martial masculinity. Importantly, Handley-Cousins challenges scholars to think about Civil War historiography in new ways. More specifically, by examining the lasting mental health implications of the conflict, Handley-Cousins forces us to face how soldiers had to reckon with the Civil War for the rest of their lives.
Chris Babits is an Andrew W. Mellon Engaged Scholar Initiative Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Texas at Austin. He researches the intersecting histories of medicine, religion, and gender and sexuality and is currently working on his book manuscript about the history of conversion therapy in the United States.