"The Empty Sleeve"

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lelliott19

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Empty sleeve amputations.JPG

THE EMPTY SLEEVE
You may talk about the pathos
In the hardships of the war,
You may talk about the glory
Of the cause that you fought for;
But there's nothing so pathetic
As the lesson we receive
From the quiet, idle flapping
Of the useless empty sleeve.

You may talk about the marches,
The scant rations and hard tack;
Of the last drop in the canteen,
And the empty haversack,
There's nothing so convincing
In the impressions that you leave
As the mute and speechless record
Of the useless empty sleeve.

You may speak of southern prisons,
But their horrors could not last;
Of the roar and din of battle,
And, thank God, that too has passed.
But we see the grim reminder,
Every morn and noon and eve,
In the living, speaking presence
Of the useless empty sleeve.

Soldiers deck the graves of comrades
With the laurel that they won,
Poets sing of gallant heroes,
And of deeds of great renown;
But there's naught in poets' anthems
Or the chaplets that they weave
That can beat the touching story
Of the useless empty sleeve.
~ Home and Country.

Source: Union Recorder, June 24, 1890, page 6.
 
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Mike Serpa

Major
Joined
Jan 24, 2013
Different from this version.

THE EMPTY SLEEVE.

By the moon's pale light, to this gazing throng,
Let me tell one tale, let me sing one song —
'Tis a tale devoid of an aim or plan,
'Tis a simple song of a one arm man;
Till this very hour, I could ne'er believe
What a tell-tale thing is an empty sleeve —
What a weird, queer thing is an empty sleeve.

It tolls in a silent tone to all
Of a country's need and a country's call,
Of a kiss and a tear for a child and wife,
And a hurried march for a nation's life;
Till this very hour, would you e'er believe
What a tell-tale thing is an empty sleeve —
What a weird, queer thing is an empty sleeve.

It tells of a battle-field of gore,
Of the sabre's clash, of the cannon's roar,
Of the deadly charge — of the bugle's note,
Of a gurgling sound in a foeman's throat,
Of the whizzing grape — of the fiery shell,
Of a scene which mimics the scenes of hell;
Till this very hour, who could e'er believe
What a tell-tale thing is an empty sleeve —
What a weird, queer thing is an empty sleeve.

Though it points to a myriad wounds and scars.
Yet it tells that a flag, with the stripes and stars,
In God's own chosen time will take
Each place of the rag with the rattle-snake,
And it points to a time when that flag will wave
O'er a land where there breathes no cowering slave;
To the top of the skies lot us all then heave
One proud hurrah for the empty sleeve!
For the one arm man, and the empty sleeve!

"Poems by David Barker," 1876, Page 176
https://archive.org/stream/poemsbydavidbark00bark#page/176/mode/2up
 
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southwindows

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Thanks to lelliott19 and Mike for posting these poems. I'm researching the life of my great-grandfather, who lost an arm at Spotsylvania. We have three photos of him (all taken later in life). In two of them people are posed so you can't see his missing right arm -- I suppose this was done deliberately. But he did have a formal portrait photo taken at one point where the empty sleeve is clearly visible. We also have a letter from my great-uncle to my grandfather. He describes how their father's passing leaves a big hole in the family and concludes "now he is reunited with his right arm."
 

connecticut yankee

First Sergeant
Joined
Jun 2, 2017
The Empty Sleeve.
The use of soft lead bullets in Civil War rifles caused devastating injuries, including shattered bones that resulted in amputations, the most common surgery during the war. An estimated 45,000 amputees survived the war and became common sights in their communities. The loss of a limb was often viewed as a symbol of bravery, sacrifice, and service. In poetry and literature amputees became a metaphor for the heroic efforts by soldiers to keep the nation from being dismembered. The image of veterans with amputations appeared in a number of prints and illustrations of the period, including this 1866 print that accompanied a poem titled "The Empty Sleeve."
Creator: Adelaide R. Sawyer/John Chester Buttre

Date: 1866

Publisher: New York: J. C. Buttre

Source: American Antiquarian Society

b850a5249eaf1b8ff31dda0428a73008.jpg
 

lelliott19

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Thanks to lelliott19 and Mike for posting these poems. I'm researching the life of my great-grandfather, who lost an arm at Spotsylvania. We have three photos of him (all taken later in life). In two of them people are posed so you can't see his missing right arm -- I suppose this was done deliberately. But he did have a formal portrait photo taken at one point where the empty sleeve is clearly visible. We also have a letter from my great-uncle to my grandfather. He describes how their father's passing leaves a big hole in the family and concludes "now he is reunited with his right arm."
Hello southwindows. Welcome to Civil War Talk and thanks for your reply. If you are able to post them, Im sure everyone would like to see the photo of your ancestor. Just select the "Upload a File" lower right of the message box and attach your file. Then click "Full Image" next to the thumbnail. And post your message.
 
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lelliott19

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Different from this version.
"Poems by David Barker," 1876, Page 176
https://archive.org/stream/poemsbydavidbark00bark#page/176/mode/2up
Seems that Barker's poem was originally written early in the war - in 1862 - as a stand alone poem and, later music by Henry Badger was added. The music and the lyrics were published by W. W. Whitney in 1864.* The OP was published in the Union Recorder newspaper in 1890.

Interesting to note that "The Empty Sleeve" was still a poignant reminder 25 years after the war. The consequences for families likely continued even after 1890. Think of the young children whose father's were amputees. Those children likely had to assume responsibilities on the farm and may have been unable to achieve the kind of education they might have under other circumstances. And then, the impact on the children of those. It is very sad to contemplate that the impact likely went on into those next two generation, at least.

*Source: Library of Congress, Music Division. "The Empty Sleeve Lyrics by David Barker (originally written as standalone poem in 1862), music by Henry Badger. Published by W. W. Whitney, Toledo, OH, 1864.
 
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Mike Serpa

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Jan 24, 2013
Seems that Barker's poem was originally written early in the war - in 1862 - as a stand alone poem and, later music by Henry Badger was added. The music and the lyrics were published by W. W. Whitney in 1864.* The OP was published in the Union Recorder newspaper in 1890.

Interesting to note that "The Empty Sleeve" was still a poignant reminder 25 years after the war. The consequences for families likely continued even after 1890. Think of the young children whose father's were amputees. Those children likely had to assume responsibilities on the farm and may have been unable to achieve the kind of education they might have under other circumstances. And then, the impact on the children of those. It is very sad to contemplate that the impact likely went on into those next two generation, at least.

*Source: Library of Congress, Music Division. "The Empty Sleeve Lyrics by David Barker (originally written as standalone poem in 1862), music by Henry Badger. Published by W. W. Whitney, Toledo, OH, 1864.
Thanks for digging deeper into this!
 

southwindows

Cadet
Joined
Apr 12, 2018
I'm sure everyone would like to see the photo of your ancestor. Just select the "Upload a File" lower right of the message box and attach your file. Then click "Full Image" next to the thumbnail.
I thought about doing this. I looked in the FAQ but didn't see any guidelines about size limits, format preferences, etc. for photos. If I missed it, please point me to the page; otherwise, I think that might be a good thing to add. The photo of my ggrandfather is large and I would probably need to resize it (which I know how to do, just want to get a result that will look good within whatever limits this site has).
 

southwindows

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Joined
Apr 12, 2018
The music and the lyrics were published by W. W. Whitney in 1864.*

*Source: Library of Congress, Music Division. "The Empty Sleeve Lyrics by David Barker (originally written as standalone poem in 1862), music by Henry Badger. Published by W. W. Whitney, Toledo, OH, 1864.
I thought it would be interesting to see the music that went with Barker's poem, so I checked out the Library of Congress site. They have two additional songs on the 'empty sleeve' theme, one of them specifically inspired by the Buttre engraving that connecticut yankee posted above. Here's the link: https://www.loc.gov/notated-music/?q=the+empty+sleeve
 
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Burning Billy

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Jul 6, 2016
The two poems reminded me of the lyrics to Paddy's Lamentation, which was also originally penned during the 19th Century.


Lyrics:

And it's by the hush, me boys,
I'm sure that's to hold your noise,
And listen to poor Paddy's lamentation.
I was by hunger pressed,
And by poverty distressed,
When I took the thought I'd leave the Irish nation.

So I sold me horse and plough,
Sold my sheep, me pigs and sow,
The little farm of land and I were parted.
And me sweetheart, Bid McGee,
I'm afeared I'll never see,
For I left her on that morning, quite broken hearted.

Chorus:
And here's to you boys,
Do take my advice;
To Americay I'll have youse not be coming,
For there's nothing here but war,
Where the murderin' cannons roar,
And I wish I was back home in dear old Ireland.

So me and a hundred more,
To Americay sailed o'er,
Our fortunes to be making, we were thinkin';
But when we landed in Yankee land,
They stuck a musket in me hands,
Saying, “Paddy, you must go and fight for Lincoln.”

General Meagher to us said,
"If you get shot or you lose your leg,
Every mother's son of you will get a pension.”
But in the war I lost my leg,
And all I've got is a wooden peg;
Oh my boys it is the truth to you I mention.

(Chorus)

Now I'd have thought myself in luck,
To be fed Indian buck
In Ireland, the land that I delight in;
But by the devil I do say,
“Curse Americay,”
For I'm sure I've had enough of your hard fighting.

(Chorus)
 
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Thanks to lelliott19 and Mike for posting these poems. I'm researching the life of my great-grandfather, who lost an arm at Spotsylvania. We have three photos of him (all taken later in life). In two of them people are posed so you can't see his missing right arm -- I suppose this was done deliberately. But he did have a formal portrait photo taken at one point where the empty sleeve is clearly visible. We also have a letter from my great-uncle to my grandfather. He describes how their father's passing leaves a big hole in the family and concludes "now he is reunited with his right arm."
Welcome !
 

Belle Montgomery

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Oct 25, 2017
Location
44022
Thanks to lelliott19 and Mike for posting these poems. I'm researching the life of my great-grandfather, who lost an arm at Spotsylvania. We have three photos of him (all taken later in life). In two of them people are posed so you can't see his missing right arm -- I suppose this was done deliberately. But he did have a formal portrait photo taken at one point where the empty sleeve is clearly visible. We also have a letter from my great-uncle to my grandfather. He describes how their father's passing leaves a big hole in the family and concludes "now he is reunited with his right arm."
Please share it!
 
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Mike Serpa

Major
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Jan 24, 2013
I thought about doing this. I looked in the FAQ but didn't see any guidelines about size limits, format preferences, etc. for photos. If I missed it, please point me to the page; otherwise, I think that might be a good thing to add. The photo of my ggrandfather is large and I would probably need to resize it (which I know how to do, just want to get a result that will look good within whatever limits this site has).
I think you can upload pictures up to 8MB. No TIFF. Maybe no PNG? JPG for sure. If it is the wrong format it won't be uploaded. You should be given the option of 'Thumbnail' or 'Full Size.' If the photo is more than 800 pixels across people have to click on it to see it at full size. Just do like the the rest of us...keep trying until the picture is uploaded. :smile:
 

southwindows

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Apr 12, 2018
Since folks seem interested: pasted below is the picture I mentioned in a previous post of my great-grandfather, Gardner Perry of Wilton, N.Y., veteran of the 77th N.Y. Infantry. He was wounded in the Bloody Angle at Spotsylvania.

About posting photos: the weird thing is this. When you click on "Upload a File," at the lower right there is what appears to be a list of supported graphics formats. PNG is on the list, so I thought it was OK to keep the file as a PNG but it refused to upload. After converting to JPG it worked fine.

Gardner Perry 1.jpg
 
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