Rian Dundon, aphotography editor at Timeline.com, published a collection of moving portraits of amputees that date all the way back to the Civil War. It was one of the most violent wars in history up to that point, and these pictures are extremely affecting.
Sometimes it’s important to step back in history for a moment and think about how challenging life used to be. Perspective is a funny thing.
According to Dundon, as many as 750,000 men lost their lives during the Civil War, which lasted four years, from 1861-1865.
Because of advances in weapons technology, the violence of the Civil War was far greater than that of any war before it. But another major contributor to the death toll was wound infections.
Infection was incredibly rampant, so overworked and overburdened doctors often turned to amputation as a quick fix.
This “quick fix” affected these men in incalculable ways for the rest of their lives.
It is estimated that up to three quarters of all Civil War battlefield surgeries were amputations.
While these soldiers’ lives were transformed forever, they certainly weren’t the only ones.
Aside from the level of violence and the north/south conflict, the Civil War made history in another way: It was the first war to be photographed extensively.
Reporters captured the battles and their aftermath, but returning soldiers would also sit for portraits that were then printed as small cards or “cartes de visite.”
Many of these returning soldiers were amputees. And there’s something truly haunting about these portraits. Their somewhat deadpan, vacantexpressions are almost spooky.
As Dundon puts it, “Any drama to be gleaned is the result of what isn’t there phantom limbs left in battlefield hospitals. It’s a peculiar instance of early photographic disconnect wherein what we see fails to register the gravity of what is depicted…Backstory provided, however, and our understanding of these men’s dire experiences is rendered indelible.”
Read more: http://twentytwowords.com/these-haunting-photos-of-civil-war-amputees-are-incredibly-powerful/