Society of the Cincinnati Lecture on Disability among Revolutionary War Veterans

Society of the Cincinnati Lecture on Disability among Revolutionary War Veterans
Deverger-Continental Army Soldiers Drawing

On November 13, 2017, Indiana University professor Benjamin H. Irvin delivered a lecture entitled “A Horse with No Name: Revolutionary War Veterans and the Remembrance of Disability” to the Department of History and Art History and the wider George Mason community. Dr. Irvin’s talk highlighted the often brutal injuries sustained by soldiers fighting in the Continental Army during the American Revolution, and it explored the ways in which individual states and the federal government sought to provide compensation for the injuries sustained by those soldiers in the war for independence. Drawing on pension claims made to state governments after the war, Irvin pieced together fascinating details about how the states assessed and valued different injuries, how and why veterans sought (or did not seek) disability pensions, and how this process changed over time as governments changed and as veterans aged.

The talk was particularly timely in highlighting issues that continue to face veterans and their government today: how best to serve and provide for those asked to sacrifice for their country; how to administrate and determine the legitimacy of those claims; and how to provide the accommodations necessary to best allow disabled veterans to continue to contribute to their country, their community, and their families. 

Dr. Irvin, who serves as Executive Editor of the Journal of American History, also visited an undergraduate class on the American Revolution to share more details about his research and his methodology, helping students explore the database of disability claims he has created as part of his project. 

The talk was the second in an annual lecture series on the American Revolution sponsored by the Society of the Cincinnati in the State of Virginia and the Department of History and Art History. The Society of the Cincinnati was founded at the end of the American Revolutionary War by officers of the Continental Army and their French comrades. It is the oldest private patriotic organization in the United States and its mission is hereditary; the Society’s founders charged their descendants with the purpose of “preserving the memory of the patriotic sacrifices that made American liberty a reality.” Now a nonprofit educational institution, the Society offers events and exhibits that highlight the nation’s early history.

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