View Full Version : Pensions

10-05-2007, 09:07 PM
Researching pension records, we all use them for a variety of reasons--question is, 'how did the veteran go about making the claim and how was he paid? The state? The USA? Can anyone point me to a source?

Obliged in advance

Hoosier Yank
10-06-2007, 08:05 AM
Find this book at your library, "The Civil War Diary of a Common Soldier William Wiley of the 77th Illinois Infantry" edited by Terreance J. Winshel. The epilogue has a wealth of information about the pension program and what William Wiley went through to secure a pension.

A "Google" search came up with several hits on this topic.


Dale Beasley
10-06-2007, 01:17 PM
In my family, my GGGrandmother received the pension for her husband (6th Mississippi Infantry), and it was from what I can see from the State of MIssissippi.

Joe Walker
10-06-2007, 04:20 PM
Hey Alan,

If you are working on CS, I have done some research and have some basic info by state and how the amounts changed over the years, widow claims, etc. For US, I don't have.

Joe Walker

Curt Schmidt
10-06-2007, 06:19 PM

When researching veterans through NARA (National Archives and Records Administration) I routinely have the pension records searched as well.

In brief and to over-generalize...

The new Federal government starteed administering a limited pension system at the close of the Rev War for men wounded in active military service, or veterans or their widows pleading extreme poverty.
With changes in the 1830's such as universal manhood suffrage for white males and a developing system of patronage, "pensions" became availabe to all veterans or their widows. (Some of the Rev War research I do is in the 1830's pension affadivits/statements and applications of Rev War vets...)
Since the numbers of Rev War vets were small, things did not really expand to after the Civil War...
Beginning in 1861 already, the Federal government looked toward the needs of soldiers and sailors (and/or their dependents). And the 1862 requirements remained the basis for the Federal system until the 1890's- and in some cases into the present. My father-in-law, a Korean War veteran was intially denied help/treatment when reduced to a coma because his condition could not be determined as "incurred as a direct consequence of . . . Military duty" or developed after combat "from causes which can be directly traced to injuries received or diseases contacted while in military service."

Amounts of Federal pensions depended upon the veteran's military rank and level of disability. Pensions given to widows, orphans, and other dependents of deceased soldiers were always figured at the rate of total disability according to the military rank of their deceased husband or father. By 1873 widows could also receive extra benefits for each dependent child in their care, eventually adjusted by age of the child. I have family papers of a ancestor widow and her children reaplying and renewing until the kids were too old and later when she died.

In 1890, the Dependent Pension Act was passed largely due to the lobbying and power of the GAR. This effectively (but not totally) removed the link between pensions and service-related injuries, allowing any veteran who had served honorably to qualify for a pension if at some time he became disabled for manual labor. By 1906, old age alone became sufficient justification to receive a pension.

Regarding Confederate veterans, about the same time, some Southern congressmen attempted to open up the Federal system to make Confederate veterans eligible. They argued that Southerners had contributed to the Federal pension system through indirect taxes they had paid since the end of the Civil War.
However, the idea was met with mixed responses in both North and the South, but overwhelmingly, opposition came from those financially comfortable Confederate veterans and southern politicians who regarded such dependency on Federal assistance a dishonor t the Lost Cause. Even though a large number of "less than comfortable" or "well off" Confederate veterans were not opposed to taking "Federal" pensions.
At any rate, the idea died, and CS veterans, wives, and dependents were not taken into the Federal pension system.

Some Southern states had been providing their veterans with artificial limbs and "retirement homes since the end of the War, it was not until the 1880s and early
1890's that former Confederate states passed pension systems. Theirs mostly resembled the pre-1890 U.S. system- eligibility was based upon service-related disability or death and indigence, and widows as well as other dependents of deceased soldiers could receive pensions. However, they were not based upon just "service."
But there were differences. Southern widows collected pensions set at a specific rate for widows of deceased soldiers. These rates were generally lower than those to which their husbands would have been entitled should they have survived. Under the Federal system, there was no separate category for widows.
Also, most Southern pension laws determined stipend amounts based only on the degree of disability. No determination was given to military rank.
And the funding was different. "Indirect taxes" funded the Federal pensions, but most all Southern states paid for their pension system by direct taxation.
And since, in the finest of States' Rights' traditions, because Southern pension systems were at the individual state level only, they varied as to method and amount. NOt to mention they were lower and less "generous" than Federal pensions. Of the former Confederate states, Georgia spent the most per year on pensions, Alabama ran a close second.

Perhaps oddly enough, BOTH the Federal and Confederate pension systems , although lasting into the middle of the 20th century, were controversial. Pensioners, widows, and officials were often accused of fraud- especially young women who married aged veterans.
Not to mention widows who did not remarry, and particularly Black veterans.

Hoping To Qualify for a Reenactor Pension One Day Mess

Joe Walker
10-06-2007, 07:44 PM

Like I said in earlier post, I have state by state comparisons and in-depth info on Texas and Georgia for CS pensions. I also have detail on how exactly a vet filed, and the approval process. There were differences. Regarding the amount, by 1957 CS vets in Texas were getting $300 per month regardless of marital status. (OK, probably two left!!) But a nice sum- for anyone.... in 1957.

Joe Walker

Silvana Siddali
10-07-2007, 10:10 AM
You can find information on pensions for both armies on many state archive web pages. In fact, some states are now beginning to scan and post pension applications. Those are an incredibly rich source of information about service records, injuries, longevity, & postwar experiences of soldiers from both sides. You can find a lot of this information on genealogical sites as well, but I'd advise beginning with the National Archives genealogical research site:


Some of the border states did support Confederate veterans after the war. For example, the Missouri State Legislature passed a law in 1911 permitting pensions for Confederate veterans who weren't alreadyreceiving aid from soldiers' homes or the like. For the Missouri records, take a look at the State Archives site; go to the Provost Marshal's records & look for the pension applications there:


Off the topic for a moment -- that MO state archive site is a real treasure trove for all sorts of mid-19th century information. Worth a browse.

Gary of CA
10-07-2007, 02:18 PM
Off topic.

I researched one soldier for a Marine friend. His ancestor was moved around from company to company within the same regiment. I found out that when he returned from his lenghty sick leave, his company had been moved so he was temporarily reassigned to another company.

Post-war his regiment joined the Army of Observation in Texas where he developed vision problems. He applied for a pension but for years was denied. Each application was supported by depositions by his comrades, officers and the surgeon but after three denials, a special investigator was sent out to examine his claim. The investigator learned that his claim was legitimate and ONLY one person said that his vision impairment was related to VD. That individual maligned the soldier for the sole purpose of having his pension refused. The pension was awarded with increases as years passed. When the soldier died, the wife continued receiving a pension.

Reading pension files are very heart rendering affairs. When we read the diaries, letters and journals of the soldiers, we meet them when they are generally at the height of their power with youthful exuberence and boundless engergy. Fast forward 30-50 years and they're older, crippled and suffering from rheumetism, arthritis and other are unable to care for themselves without the assistance of their wives or loved ones.

10-08-2007, 10:41 AM
Obliged to you all. All this deals with the CS Veterans' Home in Austin as well as a 10th TX CAV veteran.

Joe, can you email me your number so we can visit?