Final Update: Our original 500-page review goal was well exceeded by Memorial Day morning!! Incredible work! We issued a stretch goal for the final day of 750 completed... and hit it out of the park too! Final totals as of 10am ET the following morning:  862 pages completed

Thank you immensely to everyone who participated.  We are still eager to hear about what you learned from the men who entered the Left-Hand Penmanship Contest.  Share your stories here!

Not started

In progress

Need Review


Mon., May 20, 9am





Mon., May 20, 5am





Tue., May 21, 9:30am4173,3051,213
Tue., May 21, 5:15pm26113,2961,233
Wed, May 22, 9:30am2293,2951,240
Wed, May 22, 5:30pm17113,2811,257
Th, May 23, 10:30am8103,2361,312
Th, May 23, 5:00pm0123,1691,385
Fri, May 24, 9:00am063,1281,432
Fri, May 24, 4:00pm063,0501,510
Mon, May 27, 7:30am042,7951,767
Mon, May 27, 7:30pm052,7131,848
Tue, May 28, 10am062,5821,978

In the lead up to Memorial Day (May 27) we challenge you to “Make It Meaningful” by completing review of 500 pages of “Civil War soldiers: disabled but not disheartened” campaign in honor of those who have served.

This campaign features entries from the left-handed penmanship competition created by William Oland Bourne for Union soldiers who lost their right hand or arm during the conflict. The handwritten pages include reflections on war and loss. Without transcription the digitized images of the original documents are not keyword searchable or accessible for many users with sight or cognitive disabilities. Focusing on review this Memorial Day offers you the opportunity to honor the sacrifices of service members by exploring and meditating on these soldiers’ experiences and helping make them accessible for others.

"There are many men now in hospital, as well as at their homes, who have lost their right arms, or whose right arm is so disabled that they cannot write with it. Penmanship is a necessary requisite to any man who wants a situation under the government, or in almost any business establishment. As an inducement to the class of wounded and disabled soldiers here named to make every effort to fit themselves for lucrative and honorable positions, we offer the following premiums..."

Thus began an announcement in the June 1865 issue of “The Soldier's Friend,” a newspaper edited by poet and reformer William Oland Bourne that focused on the needs and interests of Civil War veterans. The ad invited Union soldiers and sailors who lost use of their dominant arm during the Civil War to submit penmanship samples in competition for a monetary prize. Bourne served as a chaplain at Central Park Hospital during the war, where he was exposed to the often debilitating injuries sustained by soldiers and sailors. Winning entries were displayed in New York and Washington to advocate for the capacity and resilience of disabled veterans. The writings tell the individual veteran’s stories of service and sacrifice and were used by Bourne to advocate for the injured soldiers' value and experiences in post-war society.  Learn more about Bourne and the contest here.

And speaking of learning more, we have a special Challenge blog post by Michelle Krowl, a historian in the Manuscript Division. It tells the story of Alfred D. Whitehouse, one of the soldiers who entered Bourne’s penmanship contest twice. This post was written to inspire you during this challenge, and as a way for us to mark and reflect upon the significance of Memorial Day. What other stories can you find in this campaign?  Or in the Letters to Lincoln or Clara Barton Diaries?

We'll start the clock at 9am ET May 20 and will track review and completion progress here. Can we review 500 Left-Handed Penmanship Contest pages by the end of Memorial Day? Jump in!