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Michaela Richmond
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« on: February 05, 2016, 09:50:21 PM »

In Louisa May Alcott's book, "Hospital Sketches", there is a passage that reads:
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Presently, Miss Blank tore me from my refuge behind piles of one-sleeved shirts, odd socks, bandages, and lint

In May I will be assisting with a United States Sanitary Commission display. We've decided that we would like to have various pieces of clothing and items to show that would have been donated to the USSC. The official USSC patterns have been very helpful, and I plan on utilizing them, but my question is: Was a " one-sleeved shirt " a real thing, or was Alcott using poetic license? Would women have actually sewn and donated shirts with only one arm with the understanding that it would be used for an amputee? Would it have been more likely that they would have just rolled up and pinned the unneeded sleeve on a shirt? Are there any surviving one-sleeve shirts? If a woman did sew a shirt with only one sleeve, would the 2nd armhole be sewn shut?

I think it would be an interesting item to have on display, and it would be a great talking point...but only if it was a real thing!  Wink
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EKorsmo
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« Reply #1 on: February 06, 2016, 02:09:44 AM »

Found it. The Advocate and Family Guardian (1862):

"I suppose most of the readers of the Advocate and Guardian have sewed, or are sewing for our army. The supply of hospital-stores constantly needs replenishing. Shirts and drawers, long and short dressing gowns and woolen socks are always in demand. Some the shirts should be made with only one sleeve and be tied or buttoned either on the shoulder or under the arm on the side without a sleeve, if buttoned on the shoulder they need not be open in front. Others should have large loose sleeves open the whole length, the shirts also open at the shoulders, and tied together with tape. The drawers should be made much like pantaloons, as they are worn instead of pantaloons in the hospitals. A few shirts and drawers of quite small sizes are needed for drummer boys, very few shirts larger than ordinary night shirts are required. The drawers should be as long as pantaloons. Old flannel is much needed as well as old linen and cotton."

That being said, this is the only reference on Google books, so how common they might have been is anyone's guess.  A normal shirt, after all, could be given to anyone, with one sleeve pinned as needed (on whichever side), while a one-sleeved shirt would only be useful to the one-armed soldier (with the side fastenings, you might get an ambidextrous shirt, so it at least wouldn't matter which arm was missing...).

You already mentioned having the USSC pattern, but if anyone else was looking for it (one of them?), there's flannel hospital shirts and drawers here.
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Michaela Richmond
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« Reply #2 on: February 14, 2016, 08:35:54 PM »

This is exactly what I was looking for! Thank you so much!

I'm having a little trouble visualizing what is being described though...
The article says they should be:
Quote
tied or buttoned either on the shoulder or under the arm on the side without a sleeve

So are they saying to make a shirt like normal, and on one side have the usual arm hole, but don't sew a sleeve into it, and just close the opening with ties or buttons? But then why would that make it so the shirt:
Quote
if buttoned on the shoulder they need not be open in front
Huh
Sorry, I'm probably just being thick-headed, but I can't picture what they're saying  Tongue
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« Reply #3 on: February 14, 2016, 10:21:46 PM »

I'm picturing a shirt which has fasteners in place of a shoulder seam or a side seam--presumably making it either easier to dress the patient, or easier for the doctors to access the wound without the patient fully undressing.  Unfortunately, I haven't found any actual examples or more detailed instructions; one place you might check is the Museum of Civil War Medicine (I haven't been able to get their collections site to load). 

I do remember seeing instructions for a civilian invalid bed-gown built along similar lines, only that was done as two entirely separate pieces (a front and a back) which tied together along both sides, the top and bottom of the sleeves, and along the shoulders.  The idea was that the sick person wouldn't have to move around, or even sit up for more than a moment while attendants changed their clothes--and that if they couldn't even do that, the front piece alone could be switched out.  Now to see if I can find that reference again...
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« Reply #4 on: May 11, 2016, 09:59:08 PM »

Still haven't found an original one-armed shirt, but here's the bedgown that sounded not-dissimilar in its fastenings.  It's from Godey's, 1862:
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