"Going out to swallow the oath," from BV-Naval History Society Collection, Civil War--Point Lookout, drawing by Confederate prisoner
As the war came to a close, troops that had surrendered to Union generals were paroled
upon taking an oath of allegiance to the United States. Prisoners held in Northern prisons
were also required to take the oath before they were released.
In late May, a triumphal review of Union troops took place in Washington, D.C.
The Union Commander-in-chief did not live to see the triumphant return of the Union troops,
however. Abraham Lincoln was assassinated on April 14, 1865
After the war, many veterans found the transition back to civilian life difficult. Many
were severely wounded, or had lost limbs. William Oland Bourne became acquainted with many
such veterans when at the Central Park Hospital. He published a magazine sold by veterans,
entitled The Soldier's Friend. To encourage wounded veterans to develop their skills, Bourne
announced a left-handed writing contest for men who had lost their right arms.
In this letter, Phineas P. Whitehouse encourages fellow veterans to re-learn writing while convalescing.
These documents serve as a reminder of the terrible human cost of the Civil War.
Letter from Phineas P. Whitehouse to William Oland Bourne, April 27, 1867;
written from Central Park Hospital in New York; it encourages others to learn to write with their left hand.