When American soldiers return home from duty, the goal is to honor them and their service by providing any care they may need and making sure they’re able to return successfully to civilian life.

Of course, that can be challenging for a lot of reasons.

But back in the days after the Civil War, there was an effort to achieve these goals through penmanship.

Many Civil War soldiers lost arms or legs in the fighting, and that struck a man named William Oland Bourne.

He was a poet, publisher of the newspaper “The Soldier’s Friend” and chaplain at a rehabilitation hospital in New York.

Bourne saw wounded soldiers who’d lost their right arms trying to re-learn how to write with their lefts.

And he decided to create a national contest for left-handed penmanship.

Injured veterans who mailed a left-handed writing sample could win cash prizes.

This wasn’t for charity or publicity: as Bourne wrote, “Penmanship is a necessary requisite to any man who wants a situation under the government, or in almost any business establishment.”

He wanted to encourage these men to develop their writing so they could find jobs and support themselves and their families.

The contest was a success; the participants became known as the “Left-Armed Corps,” and they got national attention for their writing.

None other than General (and future president) Ulysses S. Grant visited several exhibitions showing their entries.

Grant declared their writing “eminently honorable” and their penmanship excellent, to the point that he said he was glad he wasn’t the one who had to decide which entries would be the winners.

If you’d like to learn more about the veterans of World War II, there’s a spot in Buda, Texas that might work.

The Memorial Miniature Golf and WWII Museum is billed as the only World War II-themed miniature golf course/museum in the state.

And the owner says each hole meets a state standard for social studies and geography.

William Oland Bourne, “The Soldier’s Friend”, and the Left-Handed Penmanship Contests, 1865-1867 (Library of Congress)

One-of-a-kind mini-golf course, WWII museum now open in Buda (KXAN)

Image via Library of Congress