The First Amputee Of The Civil War

The First Amputee Of The Civil War


You'll know you're in Churchville after you cross over Whiskey Creek on U.S. 240 west of Staunton. Four churches highlight the hamlet. Except for the Wool Festival and Pumpkin Festival out at Chester's Farm, Churchville is pretty quiet. Its only ongoing tourist attraction is the James Edward Hanger Historic Monument stuck smack-dab in the middle of town.

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James Edward Hanger

    Hanger was a Churchville teen who wanted to enlist in the Grand Army of the Republic in 1861. A food ambulance corps, laden with supplies for the Confederacy, passed through town on its way to West Virginia. Hanger hung on to the group and bedded down with them in a nearby barn, fired up and ready to go. At dawn he woke suddenly to the sound of gunfire. Hanger jumped from a hayloft to grab his horse, but he never left town. In the skirmish, he was severely wounded by a cannonball. Union troops found him later in the day and surgeons amputated one of his legs above the knee, making Hanger the first amputee of the Civil War. The traumatized teen went home and took to his room, spending hours whittling and working with barrel staves and scraps of wood. Three months later, he amazed his family by walking down the stairs on an artificial leg that hinged at the knee. That invention not only made Hanger's life easier, it made him rich. He made "Hanger limbs" for other area amputees, and the state legislature commissioned him to make artificial limbs for wounded veterans. His patent led to a thriving business. When he died in 1919, Hanger Company had branches in London, Paris, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, and Saint Louis.  Today, Hanger Orthopedic is traded on the New York Stock Exchange and has more than 1,000 employees in forty-three states. Fortune magazine ranked it as one of the fastest- growing companies in the United States.


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