Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Period Civil War Pension Ephemera from the "Schmidt Collection" #6 - The "Buddy System"

As a reminder, here are links to previous pension ephemera posts:

#2 - Red Tape
#4 - Ohio Military Home

And now on to the latest installment of Civil War pension items in my collection...

People who are researching their Civil War ancestors already know that pension records can contain a wealth; indeed, generally more personal information than is found in the Compiled Military Service Records (CMSRs). According to a great guide from the National Archives and Records Administration, pensions records can include:

"Discharge papers, affidavits, and depositions of witnesses, narratives of events during service, marriage certificates, birth records, death certificates, pages from family Bibles, and other supporting papers."

Although the War Department kept copious enlistment and muster records, veterans sometimes had to get affidavits to prove their service. More often, soldiers had to secure an affidavit to support a disability claim if a record of his disease(s) or wound(s) was not available, despite equally copious records kept by the Medical Department.

However, while the affidavits themselves might be in the pension record, what you will probably not find is the series of correspondence of veterans trying to contact comrades and officers to supply those affidavits. Those contacts sometimes happened in person, with no record kept at all.

The letter below details one soldier's (Milton S. Dunham, Co. B, 3rd New York Cavalry) attempt to get in touch with past comrades - indeed, at least three different men - in order to get just such affidavits on his behalf to support a pension application and/or get an increase. He seems particularly interested in getting proof that he had succumbed to smallpox. Furthermore, this is clearly not his first contact with this man.

Consider some of the difficulties men in the ranks, like Dunham, faced in doing this: as time went on (this letter was written more than 25 years after the war), officers may have already p
assed away. Dunham confessed his own memory was weaker, and the same might be said for the men he was contacting. For better or worse, some former officers just might not want to be bothered (there's a hint of that in the letter below). On top of all that, Dunham was in Chicago and was having to write to upstate New York for help.

Apart from the content itself, other interesting things attach to this document: the envelope shows it was written from the famous Hooley's Theater in Chicago; perhaps Dunham worked there or lived there. The addressee - Maurice Leyden - was an officer in the regiment and a prominent citizen of Rochester, NY, after the war. My (brief) additional research shows that both Dunham and Leyden were active in the regiment's veteran's organization as well.

Enjoy. More pension ephemera is forthcoming.

[Page 1]

April 15 '92

[To] Maurice Leyden, Esq.

Dear Sir & Comrade

In my last communication I stated I would see Capt Ogden and Parkhurst (now located at Room 31 Howland Block, over Chicago Nat'l Bank) in the near future.

I will say I paid a visit this afternoon to Capt Ogden and he recognized me as being a member of Co. B, 3rd NY Cavalry, and while he does not recollect me as being sick (he not being a member of Co. B) he stated he would render me all the assistanc
e in his power.

Parkhurst I also visited but he was so extremely busy that my conversation was somewhat brief, but he said he would
give an affidavit so far as he could recollect.

If you deem my previous letters unsatisfactory evidence I would suggest that if affidavits from these two gentleman identifying me as M.S. Dunham of Co. B, 3rd NY Cavalry would be satisfactory, I will secure same and forward to you.

[Page 2]

only obstacle that would then confront me would be the dates & names of the different places in which I was sick, if there is such a record.

These facts I cannot remember as my memory is considerably impaired. This I understand is necessary as I will be required to furnish proof from some member of the Co. to the fact that I was sick more or less since I was subject to the attack of smallpox.

Trusting I may hear from you,

I am
Yours in

Milton S. Durham
c/o Hooley's Theater
149 E Randolph

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