Joseph L. LARKIN and The Cripple Brigade

On this day in 1919, Joseph LARKIN passed away. Joe is my paternal 3rd great grandfather. He is buried in an unmarked grave in the old part of the G.A.R. cemetery in Miami, Ottawa County, Oklahoma.


Joseph LARKIN and his wife, Mary Elizabeth LANE LARKIN.

I looked back through my posts to see what I’d already written about him so I didn’t give you duplicate information. I found posts for his wife, some of his children, his parents, one of his siblings…but no post about Joe. He was included in other posts such as in his son William’s post about being a road paver in Tulsa or in his brother’s post about his brother going to prison for murder…things like that. So I decided what I want to tell you about today is Joe’s military service.

When Joe enlisted he was in Company K, 59th Ohio Volunteers. Later he would transfer to the 73rd Regiment, 2nd Battalion, Veteran Reserve Corps. The Veteran Reserve Corps, or VRC, was originally called the Invalid Corps and a man would get transferred to the VRC when he was physically unable to go into combat due to illness or injury. The VRC allowed the men to still participate in the war by doing light duty. The 2nd Battalion- Joe’s Battalion- was made up of the men whose disabilities or injuries were more serious- lost limbs or other serious injuries- as opposed to the 1st Battalion which was made up of men whose injuries were relatively slight and who could still handle a musket and march. Joe and the other men in the 2nd Battalion were often employed as cooks, nurses, guards of public buildings, draft enforcers, and orderlies.

The VRC soldiers had a unique uniform that is described like this (Wikipedia):

Jacket: Made of sky-blue kersey [a fabric that is woven from short-stapled wool and is coarse and ribbed and has a short nap], with dark-blue trimmings; cut like the jacket of the U.S. Cavalry, coming well down on the loins and abdomen.

Trousers: Present regulation, sky-blue.

Forage cap: Present regulation.

They would also occasionally wear a standard dark blue fatigue blouse and their standard forage caps were decorated with the brass infantry horn, and the regimental number and company letter.

There are some great VRC uniform photographs at the Civil War Home website.

It was four members of the VRC who executed the four conspirators who were linked to the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. Likewise, it was the men of the VRC who received President Lincoln’s body when it lay in state.

I hope that you don’t think the VRC was all roses, though. This is a partial article that talks about a terrible incident involving VRC’s on guard:


Stabbed in the eye?! Ouch!!


Too riotous for the VRC!

Sadly, the VRC soldiers did not receive a lot of respect and were often derogatorily called “The Cripple Brigade”. (University of Massachusetts) I use the term “cripple brigade” here more as a badge of honor for someone who served even though disabled rather than as a derogatory name.

There was a popular song during the civil war about the Invalid Corps. I found the initial information on Wikipedia which directed me to the MusicaNet website with the lyrics (see below). A Google search revealed a website where you can download and listen to the tune of the song here. (Scroll down about halfway until you find The Invalid Corps by Frank Wilder.) The song lyrics:

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.”

CHORUS:
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!”

CHORUS

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!”

CHORUS

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.

CHORUS

You can learn more about the VRC here and here (all about the uniforms, including images; really- go here and look, it’s great and if you scroll to the end there is a list of all the reasons a man might be sent to the VRC). I also recommend checking out a Facebook group about the VRC- “American Civil War-Invalid Corps”.

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about this lesser-known group of soldiers. As always, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed telling you about them. I apologize about the delay on the photo of Joe. Please check back in a few days and hopefully I will have found it and added it by then.

Until next time,
Lisa @ Days of Our Lives

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