Month: February 2015

An Invalid Corps Song?

97th Regimental String BandIn 1862, General Order No. 105, of the U.S. War Department created the Invalid Corps. A year later, its name was changed to the Veteran Reserve Corps. This popular song written by Frank Wilder gives a good idea of what the sentiment was towards these men at the time. The song tells the story of a young man who tried to join the Union army but was rejected because of his various ailments. The rest of the song basically makes fun of the invalid corps and the men who were exempted from front line duty.  One wonders how much it had to do with the eventual name change.

This version is from the 97th Regimental String Band. According to their website, the 97th Regimental String Band recreates an actual string band of the Civil War Era singing a wide variety of traditional American songs in authentic, “living history” style. The 97th Regimental String Band is a eudaemoniousconcatenation of jocular harmonists that provides both vocal and instrumental music of the 1800’s. They have performed throughout the United States at many of the major theme parks, festivals, civil war reenactments and special concerts. Downright awesome. I may have to pick up a couple of their albums.



I wanted much to go to war,
And went to be examined;
The surgeon looked me o’er and o’er,
My back and chest he hammered.Said he,
“You’re not the man for me,
Your lungs Are much affected,
And likewise both your eyes are cock’d,
And otherwise defected.”


So, now I’m with the Invalids,
And cannot go and fight, sir!
The doctor told me so, you know,
Of course it must be right, sir!

While I was there a host of chaps
For reasons were exempted,
Old “pursy”, he was laid aside,
To pass he had attempted.
The doctor said, “I do not like
Your corporosity, sir!
You’ll “breed a famine” in the camp
Wherever you might be, sir!”


There came a fellow, mighty tall,
A “knock-kneed overgrowner”,
The Doctor said, “I ain’t got time
To take and look you over.”
Next came along a little chap,
Who was ’bout two foot nothing,
The Doctor said, “You’d better go
And tell your marm you’re coming!”


Some had the ticerdolerreou,
Some what they call “brown critters”,
And some were “lank and lazy” too,
Some were too “fond of bitters”.
Some had “cork legs” and some “one eye”,
With backs deformed and crooked,
I’ll bet you’d laugh’d till you had cried,
To see how “cute” they looked.


Invalid Corps vs. Veteran Reserve Corps

The original name for the “Corps of Honor” that would be created by General Order No. 105 and populated by men injured or taken ill in the line of duty, was the “Invalid Corps”. However, from what I’ve been reading, the name was not looked upon favorably. From Captain J.W. DeForest’s final report on the corps before its dissolution in 1865 he wrote: “The bitter prejudice of field troops a garrison organization had found scope in a multitude of and jeers which made the title of Invalid Corps a burden frequently begged to be sent back to their old regiments in the rather than remain in garrison at the price of being called invalids.”

Invalid Corps or I.C. also meant “Inspected Condemned” a term used by meat inspectors who would “label, mark, stamp, or tag as “Inspected and condemned” all carcasses and parts thereof of animals found to be.” And that specific language can still be found in some USDA regulations today. Really. I checked. 🙂

I imagine that men who were continuing to serve their country by protecting railroads and supplies, guarding prisoners, and serving garrison duty (in addition to nursing in hospitals and operating helping to keep the peace under the Provost Marshal) would not take kindly to being referred to as invalids. Less than a year later, General Order No. 111, dated March 18, 1864 change the name to the “Veteran Reserve Corps.”

By the time of the summer of 1864, all of the soldiers would have been in what was termed the “Veteran Reserve Corps.” However, I find that the use of the original term is more in keeping with how they were viewed and in some way, how many viewed themselves. They were the Invalid Corps, the Infidel Corps, the Cripple Brigade and many other similar terms. As such, our documentary, and the term I plan to use throughout this process and the film will be: Invalid Corps.


Inspected and Condemned Stamp