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Lame Captains and Left-Handed Admirals

Amputee Officers in Nelson's Navy
Teresa Michals

BUY Cloth · 288 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813946726 · $115.00 · Nov 2021
BUY Ebook · 288 pp. · ISBN 9780813946740 · $29.50 · Nov 2021
BUY Paper · 288 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813946733 · $39.50 · Nov 2021

Throughout the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, the Royal Navy had a peculiar problem: it had too many talented and ambitious officers, all competing for a limited number of command positions. Given this surplus, we might expect that a major physical impairment would automatically disqualify an officer from consideration. To the contrary, after the loss of a limb, at least twenty-six such officers reached the rank of commander or higher through continued service. Losing a limb in battle often became a mark of honor, one that a hero and his friends could use to increase his chances of winning further employment at sea.

Lame Captains and Left-Handed Admirals focuses on the lives and careers of four particularly distinguished officers who returned to sea and continued to fight and win battles after losing an arm or a leg: the famous admiral Lord Horatio Nelson, who fought all of his most historically significant battles after he lost his right arm and the sight in one eye, and his lesser-known fellow amputee admirals, Sir Michael Seymour, Sir Watkin Owen Pell, and Sir James Alexander Gordon. Their stories shed invaluable light on the historical effects of physical impairment and this underexamined aspect of maritime history.

Peculiar Bodies: Stories and Histories


Michals takes an understudied topic in naval history and connects it to a broader historiography of disability, and she does so creatively and effectively.

Evan Wilson, U.S. Naval War College, author of A Social History of British Naval Officers, 1775–1815

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