Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Meet John W. Morris, Esq.! (Civil War Pension Ephemera #9)

You can see my "Civil War Pension and Disability Ephemera" posts #1 through #8 here!

And now for today's post...

I have written generally about Civil War pension attorneys before (here), but here's your chance to see a typical pension attorney pitch! The items below - from attorney John W. Morris - are from my collection of Civil War pension ephemera

If your ancestor was a Civil War veteran, especially a Union veteran, he (and in a few cases, she!) was probably hounded by pension attorneys like John W. Morris seeking them as a client. Indeed, there's a good chance that your ancestor actually used John W. Morris, as he had one of the more successful pension attorney firms.



Robert said...

What a neat collection of items! I haven't done much with Union pension claims but have copies of several Confederate claims from Florida. None seem to have been filed with the help of an attorney. Was the Union process so difficult as to really need a lawyer?

As always Jim, great stuff. I love seeing the items in your collection.

Jim Schmidt said...

Robert - Thanks for the kind comment! I LOVE sharing the stuff in my collection so I'm glad you enjoy seeing it! I really like the pension angle of veterans affairs because it has political, legal, and - espe. - medical aspects, often all tied up in a tangle! Certainly some veterans were able to secure a pension on their own, but the "gatekeepers" at the Pension Bureau were there to weed out false claims, etc., and often refused claims on the first try...esp. if you were foreign or an African-American...notice that Morris used to work in the pension bureau himself...I think that made him like one of the "TaxMaster" type folks you see on TV today that used to work in the IRS...he knew the ins and outs and had connections in the pension bureau that helped him get claims through quicker or more easily. I'll be posting more pension stuff in the future! Jim

Mary said...

A number of years ago I obtained copies of letters submitted by both my ancestor (13th Mass.) and then his daughter on behalf of his spouse ( her mother) from an official military department . I wish that I could be more specific about the department from which I made the request but it was for his military records..In any case .I got much more than I thought I would!!!.It is true that for him that it was very difficult for him to collect his pension. It appears as if he had to report to the court house on a regular basis. One interesting note is that in a hand written response from my ancestor to a question (to the effect of) "In what war are you a veteran", my ancestor replied, "The so-called "civil" war! I thought that was interesting! Apparently he grew to think that war was not so “civil” & I tend to agree!

After he passed, it was doubly difficult for his spouse to continue to collect his pension. For her the issue was obtaining a legal copy of their marriage certificate in order to prove she was entitled to it. I think that perhaps there was some shenanigans going on at the time with disingenuous requests for continued pensions after a veteran’s death. In any case, my ancestors were married in the Dakota Territory , on an Indian Reservation. The witnesses to their marriage were Indian Chiefs & the minister who performed the ceremony was long gone! The correspondence was very interesting & she did in fact somehow obtain a copy of the marriage certificate as it was included in his records.

I enjoy your blog!

Mary ancestor of Sam Webster 13th Mass. Co. D (I think that’s the correct Co. ).

Jim Schmidt said...

Mary - Thanks for the kind words and thanks SO MUCH for the GREAT commrnt and the WONDERFUL story! My ancestors didn't arrive in America until after the war so I don't have any of my own family to trace but I am fascinated by how much can be learned from a pension file and your story shows the lengths people had to go to in securing the proper records. Amazing! Thank you for sharing! Jim

Anonymous said...


I had no idea that there was such a racket for Civil War Pensions. My ancestors were primarily Confederate veterans and I have found some of the pension documents for them. Also some for vets of the Revolution. As an attorney, I guess it should not surprise me that my profession has had its parasites going back to Biblical times. Thanks for your continued good work.


Jim Schmidt said...

Steve - Thanks for the comment! I'm so pleased this post has generated so much discussion! I'm not sure if the Confederate pension process, state-by-state, was less complicated than the federal pension system and whether there was a pension attorney market there as would be interesting to know. To be sure, the plethora of pension attorneys was a bit of a racket, but I'm sure some of them did great good in securing pensions for men and families whose literacy and/or lack of education made it hard or impossible to wade in the medical-legal-political waters. Look for more pension items in the future! Jim