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View Diary: GFHC Open Thread: “Our Lives, Our Fortunes, and Our Sacred Honor” (33 comments)

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  •  well, in defense of your ancestors, it wasn't (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    fenway49, edwardssl, hayden

    easy ... years ago, when I started researching my 4g-grandfather Nehemiah Day online, I found this interesting note online (and I didn't note the source, and of course lo these many years later it is no longer online *bangs head against the wall*)

    The American Revolutionary Pension Records are some of the most interesting and underused primary source documents that the government has stored at the National Archives. Pensions were given to American Revolutionary war veterans by the United States Congress in varying degrees and at varying times. During the war (1775-1781) pensions were given for those who were disabled (invalid pension) or to widows and orphans of soldiers who died while in service. This of course did not include many people but Congress liberalized its pension requirements in 1818 to include those that served a minimum period of time, were in need of assistance, or were an invalid/disabled because of their service. Yet, the most important change Congress made was the Pension Act of 1832. This made pensions available to any soldier or soldier’s spouse, regardless of financial or physical need, who served at least six months in the American Revolution. This not only included Continental Soldiers but militia, wagoneers, and even doctors or those who provided hospitals. Your first thought might be that this did not include many veterans because the law was passed 50 years after the war was over. Yet, a quick glance at the Index of Revolutionary Pensioners will prove otherwise. Between the soldier or the spouse of the soldier, literally tens of thousands of pensions were distributed by the United States government. Another important feature of the American Revolutionary Pension record is the Bounty Land Warrant records. Since the Continental Congress did not have the money to pay soldiers, free land was promised to entice them to enlist (or stay enlisted). Special reservations were created for this singular purpose as many soldiers took advantage of this offer immediately after the war. Titles to these lands were called Bounty Land Warrants. Bounty Land Warrant Applications are included and indexed within the American Revolutionary pension record files at the National Archives.

    To apply for the pension the veteran, or spouse of the veteran, had to travel to their local county courthouse and attempt to prove their service during the war (remember it was 50 years later). Veterans would very often call on the testimony of their friends, neighbors, or fellow soldiers who could testify in a sworn affidavit to the military service of the applicant (or spouse). At the courthouse the court secretary recorded the testimony of the veteran (and his friends who testified on his behalf). This gives us a unique document, as it is really an "oral" history of the 18th century soldier.

    Not an easy process for elderly people, especially widows who were required to have testimony from living witnesses of the male variety. It would be great to find the source again. It was some college(?) course syllabus that published the text of several pension applications, including Nehemiah's and his brother-in-law, and asked the students to put themselves in the shoes of a Rev war soldier and write an account (I no longer remember what about).

    "If you are sure you understand everything that is going on around you, you are hopelessly confused." Walter Mondale

    by klompendanser on Fri Apr 18, 2014 at 11:10:10 AM PDT

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