It is July 1864 and Confederate General Jubal Early is at the gates of Washington DC. The city is in panic. Almost every able-bodied soldier from the Union has already been sent south with General Grant for the siege of Petersburg. The only defenders remaining are clerks, government officials, and the Invalid Corps.
Created in 1863, the Invalid Corps was made up of men who had been “disabled by wounds or by disease contracted in the line of duty” – men missing limbs, and eyes, those with rheumatism, epilepsy, bullet injuries, those with what we would now call PTSD, and many others. These men, these invalids, were to serve as guards in cities, escort prisoners of war, provide security for railroads and supply depots freeing up able-bodied men to fight at the front. Although a good idea, in practice, they were derided as “hopeless cripples, shirkers, and cowards.”
In the office we term them the Infidel Corps and me the Infidel Major. – Colonel Charles Johnson, 18th Regiment, Invalid Corps.
And now these “invalids” are all that stand between General Early’s 15,000 fighting men, and Washington City.
This is the story of men with disabilities, of men with honor, and of men whose place in history shouldn’t be forgotten. We are proud to tell you of the Invalid Corps and the men who served in it.