Editor’s Note: This article, the third of three installments, is excerpted from the Introduction to Mr. Bockstruck’s book Revolutionary War Pensions Awarded by State Governments 1775-1874, the General and Federal Governments Prior to 1814, and by Private Acts of Congress to 1905. The first two installments appeared in Genealogy Pointers and here on our blog (Part I and Part II).
Revolutionary War Pension Records Restored, Consolidated, and Explained, Part III
Due to the 8 November 1800 fire in the War Department in Washington, D.C., which destroyed almost all of the pension files submitted before that date, there are pension files bearing the notation “Dis. No. Papers” that were created from pension claims submitted for approval to Congress between 1792 and 1795. They are listed in the American State Papers, Class 9, Claims. There was a second fire in the War Department 24 August 1814, which destroyed the pension files submitted within the first fourteen years of the nineteenth century. Some of those pension files were also partially recreated and also bear the notation “Dis. No Papers.” Such files contain the name of the veteran, unit, date of enlistment, nature of disability, residence, and amount of pension. In the micro-publication Letters Received by the Secretary of War, Main Series, 1801-1870, M221, are some letters of inquiry about eligibility for pensions, replacement of lost pension certificates, &c.
Army and Navy Pension Laws, and Bounty Land Laws of the United States, Including Sundry Resolutions of Congress, from 1776 to 1852: Executed at the Department of the Interior with an Appendix, Containing the Opinions of Attorneys General of the United States, with the Decisions, Rules, and Regulations Adopted by Different Secretaries Relative to the Execution of Those Laws (Washington, D.C.: Printed by Jno. T. Towers, 1852) by Robert Mayo and Ferdinand Moulton remains an important source for ascertaining the existence of pension files before the two fires. Another one is Resolutions, Laws, and Ordinances Relating to the Pay, Half Pay, Commutation of Half Pay, Bounty Lands, and Promises Made by Congress (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1998).
At various times Congress requested lists of pensioners, and these reports have been printed. These lists augment the other fragmentary records and provide data not available elsewhere. The pension report for the year 1792 is the second volume of House publication Reports War Department 1st Congress, 3rd Session to 2nd Congress 2nd Session. It contains the names of 1,358 pensioners. Seven reports between 1794 and 1795 are in Senate publication War Office Returns to Invalid Claims. The 1796 report first appeared in print in Mary Govier Ainswoth’s “Recently Discovered Records Relating to Revolutionary War Veterans Who Applied for Pensions under the Act of 1792,” National Genealogical Society Quarterly, XLVI (1958) 8-13, 73-78.
A Transcript of the Pension List of the United States of 1813 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1959) is extremely significant because it was the last one to appear prior to the fire of 1814. It contains the names of 1,766 pensioners, not all of whom, however, were Revolutionary War veterans. Of course, many pensioners were already deceased by 1813. The U.S. War Department’s Pension List of 1820 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1991) contains the names of more than 15,000 pensioners. In order to replace the papers and applications submitted after 1800 but destroyed in the fire of 1814, Congress issued The Pension List of 1835 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1835, 1968). The four-volume set has been greatly enhanced by the addition of indexes.
A Census of Pensioners for Revolutionary or Military Services; with Their Names, Ages, and Places of Residence, under the Act for Taking the Sixth Census, Bound with a General Index (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1974) contains the names of pensioners–both veterans and their widows at the time of the 1840 census. Some of these pensioners had been on the rolls prior to the fire of 1814. Others were state pensioners. By no means, however, were all of these individuals veterans of the Revolutionary War. Other pension lists include Letter from the Secretary of War, Communicating a Transcript of the Pension List of the United States (1817). It contains the names of about 1,000 pensioners and 300 half-pay pensioners. Pensioners of the United States, 1818 (Baltimore: Southern Book Company, 1959) has 5,900 pensioners and The Pension List of 1820 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1991) has 17,000 pensioners.
The final payment vouchers found in Record Group 217 of the Treasury Department include a few invalid pensioners approved prior to 1814. The vouchers for the states of Georgia and Delaware have been microfilmed. Those for the District of Columbia, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Virginia have been published.
Perhaps as many as a few hundred state bounty land recipients who do not appear in [my earlier book,] Revolutionary War Bounty Land Grants Awarded by State Governments (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1996), are also featured in this work.
Each entry [in Revolutionary War Pensions Awarded by State Governments 1775-1874, the General and Federal Governments Prior to 1814, and by Private Acts of Congress to 1905] contains the name of the veteran, the state of his or her service or residence, and details of service and family data consolidated from various sources. In some instances the evidence was insufficient for differentiating between individuals of the same name, or variations in spelling were so different that it was impossible to determine if there was a single pensioner. In such instances entries were left unconsolidated.
The sources for the individual states [far too numerous to be included here] are treated alphabetically by the Thirteen Original States plus the Green Mountain and Pine Tree states–Vermont and Maine. Kentucky and Tennessee also provided relief to selected Revolutionary War veterans living within their borders. The resources are discussed in alphabetical order for each locality [throughout the balance of the Introduction].
Image Credit: By John Steeple Davis (1844-1917) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.