Last week while I was preoccupied with other projects and not paying attention, I once was again bitten by the “Genealogy Bug.” While not usually life-threatening, these bites can cause irritability, distraction, blurry vision (computer induced) and headaches. I also have reports from my wife that she has noticed a certain amount of hearing loss. As of right now the outlook is good and I should make a full recovery (some of the hearing loss may be permanent…ehhh!).
As I mentioned in previous articles, I come from a long line of amateur genealogists, so much of the ground work was laid before I came along. This has left me the time & opportunity to chase down some of the more interesting family mysteries, instead of the more mundane census searches.
One of these mysteries is my Great Great Great Grandpa William Taylor. According to the family genealogical diaries and the only known picture, William Taylor was born in 1831; was a soldier in the Civil War and stationed at Fort Riley, KS. He never returned from the war and was presumed dead. Simple. Right?
Well, as people did back then, when they found a good name they stuck with it. There were well over a hundred William Taylor’s in the Civil War. Like some kind of mascot, most Civil War regiments had at least one on their rosters. After 10 years, sometimes I feel like I’m on an episode of To Tell The Truth – “Will the real William Taylor please stand up.”
I know that you are now expecting me to tell you how I solved this mystery, but I didn’t. I’m still looking and chasing down leads. What I did find was a piece of Civil War history that I didn’t know much about until now…pensions.
I found that there have been Federal pensions in one form or another since the Revolutionary War. These first pensions were limited to those who were wounded in battle and veterans and their widows who were impoverished. In the 1830’s these benefits were expanded to include all military veterans and their widows.
In 1861, the government began offering pensions as a recruiting tool. But these pensions had taken a step back to the old idea of providing pensions only for those wounded or killed in battle and their widows. In 1862, the maximum a veteran or widow could draw was $8 a month with full disability.
After the Civil War, one thing the government had not planned on was the political power of so many Civil War veterans and their families. The next forty years, would continue to expand the pension system until 1904 when Theodore Roosevelt decided that old age itself was a disability and basically extended benefits to any honorably discharged veteran. Any honorably discharged Union veteran that is.
Despite many years of political haggling, the Confederate veterans were never allowed to draw benefits from the Federal Government. Their benefits were provided by the states of the Confederacy and were substantially less than those of their Union counterparts. Normally, Confederate veterans would apply for these benefits when they became disabled or they or their widows became indigent.
Many states went beyond that and provided Confederate Homes for those that were disabled or those that became disabled or indigent in their later years. Missouri was one of those states and the Confederate Soldiers Home of Missouri in Higginsville, MO was caring for more than 380 veterans and their families at it’s peak.
On May 8, 1950, the last surviving Missouri Confederate soldier, Johnny Graves, died at the home at the age of 108.
The State of Missouri, recognizing the significance of the home and its memorials, made it a Missouri State Historic Site.
Today, the 135-acre Confederate Memorial State Historic Site is memorial to the more than 40,000 Missouri soldiers who fought for the Southern cause. You can visit the chapel, cottage, a farmhouse and the old hospital.
As these pensions provided for many of the soldiers, their pension records have provided me with several leads and I believe William’s wife Susanah may have even drawn a Civil War pension. Now, I just have to find out which Susan Taylor married to a William Taylor (there are 3 so far) is mine…..
~ This blog reprinted from my original site. Copyright Ozark History Buff 2010-2017 ~