ROSWELL, Ga. – The Civil War was a bloody series of engagements, and left thousands of men dead or wounded. At a time when battles were decided on the number of men an army could turn out on the battlefield, every able-bodied man was needed.
But what about those who suffered injuries or lost limbs? If they were otherwise able – and willing – to help with the war effort, what could be done with them?
Roswell resident Kevin Horgan stumbled upon the answer one day while reading Bruce Catton's “A Stillness at Appomattox,” when it mentions the invalid corps briefly, giving a few pages to these men.
“[General Ulysses] Grant needed able-bodied soldiers in the front lines and he had thousands serving in the rear. He also had thousands of volunteers who were invalids, had lost limbs,” Horgan said.
The Union realized they had thousands of soldiers serving reserve or guard duties behind the front lines while thousands more discharged soldiers with wounds ending their military careers wished to return to duty.
The solution was the “Invalid Corps,” later named the Veterans' Reserve Corps.
“They had two reasons to serve,” Horgan said. “They had a compelling need to eat. Most of them were farmers or laborers and needed to work, but because they were missing an arm or a leg they were prevented from working. They also needed to know that the loss of their limb served a purpose. It gave them a duty and a mission and purpose.”
The men were given guard duty of prisoners, or watching supply depots. This gave the able-bodied men the ability to serve in the front lines.
“They didn't really perform heroically but they performed with distinction,” he said.
Their story so stunned and impressed Horgan he decided to write a novel about it. The book was an achievement for Horgan, who said he has never written anything before.
“This [book] is going to be my passion going forward,” he said. “I read a lot, but I have never read about whole regiments of infantry on invalids. No one has ever done this before. It's a small novel but it's a big story.”
A former Marine, Horgan said he recognizes the efforts injured soldiers go through. To that end, he pledges half of all royalties of his book to the non-profit “Hope for the Warriors,” which helps wounded soldiers readjust to civilian life.
“I think I've given a fair tribute to the soldiers then and now who have had to overcome their injuries and move forward.”