Monday, October 13, 2008
NGS Newsmagazine 34:3 (July-September 2008) includes an informative article by Claire Prechtel-Kluskens called "Anatomy of a Union Civil War Pension File." She notes that a typical Civil War pension file is 100 or more pages long, and mentions more than 100 individuals in addition to the pension claimant. A Civil War pension file should contain all claims for a pension by a particular veteran and any other persons like widows or minor children who applied for a pension based on that man’s Civil War service. Eligibility for Civil War pensions varied according to the act of Congress in effect at the time of application, although prior to 1959 only Union soldiers, sailors, and marines and their widows were eligible for federal Civil War pensions. Initially, a man had to be unable because of wounds incurred or sickness contracted during the Civil War to do a full day’s work in order to qualify for a pension. As time passed, pension laws were liberalized until, by 1907, Civil War veterans needed only to be age 62 or older to qualify for a pension.