The Civil War was one of America's greatest tragedies. The number of young men killed entered into the millions. Many suffered life-long injuries resulting from the war. To compensate the soldiers for their service in the Union Army, the Federal Government passed five Acts between the years 1862 and 1907 granting them eligibility for a pension. Acts passed before 1862 provided pensions for soldiers who were either disabled or killed. For a soldier who was killed in the war, his widow, his children, or in some cases his parents were eligible for a pension. A parent of an unmarried son, who could prove that his son contributed substantially to his support, was eligible.
Union pension applications are generally a goldmine of genealogical data. They typically include applicant's name, military unit, place of residence, his age and/or date of birth, date and place of his marriage, date and place of his death, the maiden name of his wife, and the names and birthdates of his surviving children. Occasionally, it will include the date of death of the veteran and the date of death of his wife.
Union pension applications are indexed in the National Archives micropublication T288, called the General Index to Pension Files, 1881-1934. The index is organized by by surname and then by state from which the soldier served. This series contains 544 rolls of microfilm, and the roll description is online at the National Archives Web Site. There are two ways to order a pension application: online or by mail.
Ancestry.com has an index to and the images of the entire US Civil War Pension Application Database (requires a fee). These are not transcriptions of pensions, but rather images of the cards used to locate the pension application.
To determine, if a man served in the Federal Forces, use the tools below:
The Tennessee and the Civil War Site has online a database for entering Union Pension Application Numbers. You can search for and add your ancestor's pension application number. These are pension application numbers submitted by descendants.
For more information concerning the laws that applied Pension request, see the following websites. (Note: both require Adobe Acrobat Reader).
Pensions for Confederate soldiers were not granted by the Federal Government, but rather were left to the discretion of the individual Confederate States. On March 10, 1891, the Tennessee State Legislature passed the "Act for the benefit of the indigent and disabled soldiers of the late war between the States". This act established the Board of Pension Examiners, established the eligibility requirements for receiving a pension, set the rates of the pension, and fixed attorney's fees for filing the pension application. At first, the eligibility requirements were fairly stringent. However as time went on, subsequent acts passed by the Tennessee Legislature relaxed the requirements, thus allowing more soldiers to qualify for a pension. On March 29, 1905, the Tennessee Legislature passed the "Act to provide relief for the dependent and indigent widows of soldiers who served in the Civil War". This act established the eligibility requirements for widows of deceased Confederate veterans, the proof required of the widow, and the amount of pension for the widow.
While Confederate pension application do contain some genealogical information, they are generally not as detailed as Union pension applications. An example of the questions asked of a Confederate Veteran is given online. Although the actual pension application changed over the years, the questions required to be answered remained fairly similar throughout the years. Widows pension applications contain more genealogical data, because the widow was required to prove that she was indeed married to the veteran and had not remarried since his death. She also had to have two witnesses fill out questions as well. Usually, these witnesses were men who served in the military with her husband. An example of the questions asked of the widow and her witnesses is given online. To obtain a copy of a veteran's pension application, contact the Tennessee State Library & Archives. You will need to specify the name of the veteran and the pension application number. The TSLA now has online the complete index to the Tennessee Confederate Pension applications.
Several Indexes have been published that list the names of the veterans and/or widows who applied for a Veteran's Pension and the pension number assigned to the application. A pension number that begins with an "S" indicates that the soldier applied for the pension, and a pension number that begins with a "W" indicates that the widow applied for the pension.
The following libraries in Tennessee have copies of the microfilm that contains the pension applications. However, they DO NOT answer mail requests regarding pension applications. If you would like to visit their libraries, their staff would be happy to help you locate and obtain copies of Confederate Pension Applications.
Willie L. Robinson has put online an index to TN "Colored" Pension Applications for CSA Service. The index contains the name of the veteran, place and year of birth, military unit, and whether or not the pension was accepted.
For more information on Confederate Pension Applications, see the National Archives site.
What about those veterans who served in a Tennessee Military Unit but moved to another state after the war? Did they received a pension?
The answer to this question is that it depends on state in which the veteran was living during the late 19th century. If the veteran was living in a state that remained part of the Union and was not a border state, then he probably did not receive a pension. If the veteran was living in one of the former Confederate States of America, then he may have received a pension from that state. For example, a Tennessee veteran living in Texas would have had to apply to Texas for a pension. The payment of pensions was generally reciprocating between the former Confederate states. Some border states did provide pensions after the turn of the century. Below is a list of Confederate and border states with links to information about Confederate Pensions within their state.
Tennessee and the Civil War Pensions Project
This page was last updated on Tuesday, October 27, 2009.
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