|Understanding Civil War Pensions
The purpose of this page is to give users a legal background into the building of the United States Pension system put
in place after the War of the Rebellion. In placing pensions on the internet for the veterans and widows of the
members of the 33rd, 34th, and 23rd St. Augustine members of the USCT many of the issues that are given here can
be more fully seen and explored.
There are two rules to observe in studying pensions:
1. The rules depend on when the application for a pension is submitted. The process is more liberalized over time.
2. The longer a person lives the more likely they will receive a pension (see 1 above) since the rules are in a state of
constant change over who is entitled to a pension.
1. Remember that pension documents have a purpose - to get a pension. In essence this means that you must
challenge almost everything in a pension (the same way that a special examiner would challenge the person who was
claiming a pension.)
2. Like all documentation one must weigh the evidence especially with the birth dates of children and marriage
records. In genealogy one must always give weight to evidence --- simply because something is written on a piece of
paper does not make it a "fact." If one is not careful, they are simply extending an error, mistatement, fraud, etc. to a
Structure of the Pension Division
Before the War of the Rebellion the Pension office was placed under the Department of Interior (March 3, 1839). The
Pension office grew after the Civil War with the increase in pensions. By the 1880s these were the divisions: mail,
record, Adjudicating, Boards of Review and Re-Review, Army and Navy Survivors Divison, Law Division, Medical
Division, Certificate Division, Stationery and Accounts Division, the Special Examination Division, Agents' Division,
(See Commissioners of Pensions for list of Commissioners)
1. See African American Bounties and Pay Arrears and Specific Statutes for specific information about
3. How pensions were lost - This short report from fiscal year June 30, 1904 gives the leading causes of pension loss:
* Failure to claim means that pension was paid but never picked up.
An Act to authorize the Employment of Volunteers to aid in enforcing the Laws and protecting Public
Property - July 22, 1861
“Sec. 6. And be it further enacted, That any volunteer who may be received into the service of the United States
under this act, and who may be wounded or otherwise disabled in the service, shall be entitled to the benefits which
have been or may be conferred on persons disabled in the regular service, and the widow, if there be one, and if not,
the legal heirs of such as die, or may be killed in service, in addition to all arrears of pay and allowances, shall receive
the sum of one hundred dollars.”
Act to Grant Pensions - July 14, 1862
Pension Act - July 4, 1864 - Revision of the July 14, 1862 Act
Pension Act - March 3, 1865 - Revision of the July 14, 1862 Act
Southern Rolls and Agencies (Pension Office of 1865 Annual Report)
The pension agencies for the several States of Arkansas, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North
Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia were, of course, suspended on the outbreak of the
rebellion. Since the close of the war a gradual restoration of the administration of the pension system in those States,
in accordance with an order of the President of the United States, has been attempted. By an act of Congress,
approved February 4, 1862, the payment of any pension to one who has taken up arms against the government of
the United States, or " in any manner encouraged the rebels, or manifested a sympathy with their cause," was
effectually prohibited. Most of the appropriations for pensions, within the last four years, have been coupled with the
proviso that no portion of the money thus appropriated should be paid to any disloyal person. The names of all
pensioners, who were such prior to the rebellion, have been stricken from the rolls of the above-named States, and
regulations have been adopted, in accordance with which those heretofore enrolled in those States, and able to prove
their continued loyalty, in act and sympathy, throughout the war, may have their pensions restored. Pension agents
have been appointed at Richmond, Virginia; Nashville and Knoxville, Tennessee: Little Hock, Arkansas, and New
Orleans, Louisiana, at each of which place there are also many new pensioners, by reason of loyal service rendered
in the late war. These agencies have been reopened as fast as there seemed to be a local requirement therefor,
either to accommodate the limited number of restored pensioners or such as have been newly added to the rolls.
* After the year 1861 those pensioners previously enrolled at the agencies in the disloyal States are omitted in official
Resolution Respecting Bounties to Colored Soldiers June 15, 1866
Pension Act - June 18, 1866 - Revision of the July 14, 1862 Act
Resolution in Reference to the Collection and Payment of Bounties, etc. March 29, 1867
Pension Act - July 27, 1868 - Revison of the July 14, 1862 Act
Pension Act - July 7, 1870
Legitimacy of Children Born Before Marriage Section 10 March 10, 1873
Discharged Soldiers Murdered at Centralia Mo - Act of March 3, 1875
Pension Act of January 25, 1879 - Arrears Law
Letter from the Secretary of the Interior - His views on the proper mode of obtaining evidence in claims
for arrears of pensions under the Pension Arrears act of January 25, 1879
Disability Act of June 27, 1890
Selections from Laws of the United States Governing the Granting of Army and Navy Claims 1886
Pensions to Army Nurses - August 16, 1892
Pension Accrued Benefits to be Used for Burial Benefits - March 2, 1896
Proof of Death - March 13, 1896
Disloyalty for Parents of Soldiers who served in the War with Spain - Act of April 18, 1900
Desertions Section 4749 Revised Statutes 1917 - from May 24, 1900
Disloyalty Pensions for United States Volunteer Infantry Joint Resolution - July 1, 1902
An Act Granting pensions to certain enlisted men, soldiers, and officers who served in the Civil War and
the War with Mexico - Act of May 11, 1912
Medal of Honor Rolls Special Pension of $10 - Act of April 27, 1916
Increased Rate to Certain Widows, Pensions for certain Remarried Widows - Act of September 8, 1916
August 26, 1776 - Congress
passes National Pension law
1818 - Service Pension System
1832 - Full pension for life for
Revolutionary War Veterans
1833 - Pension Office established
under Department of War
March 3, 1839 - Pension Office
placed under the Department of
July 22, 1861 - First pension
authorization for United States
soldiers in the War of the Rebellion
July 14, 1862 - Act to Grant
Pensions establishes the Civil War
July 4, 1864 - Time for applying
for claim arrears extended from 1
year to 3 years after discharge.
Issue of African American
June 18, 1866 - Rules changed
for African American slave
July 25, 1868 - Time for applying
for claim arrears extended from 3
to 5 years after discharge.
1871 - Service Pensions for
veterans of War of 1812
March 3, 1873 - Consolidation Act
if claim beyond 5 years the
veteran would be paid from the
date of the last evidence
March 3, 1879 - Certain
discharged soldier's families
entitled to pension.
January 25, 1879 - Pension
1887 - Service Pensions for
veterans of the Mexican War
June 27, 1890 - Disability Act
pensions not related to service
disability but general disability
1892- Service Pensions for
veterans of Indian Wars between
May 24, 1900 - Deserters
extended pensions under certain
April 18, 1900 - Pensions
extended to parents of War with
Spain veterans who fought in the
July 1, 1902 - Pensions possible
for Confederate POWs who fought
in the First - Sixth U. S. Volunteer
1902 - Service Pensions for
veterans of Indian Wars between
1817 and 1858
May 11, 1912 - An Act Granting
pensions to certain enlisted men,
soldiers, and officers who served
in the Civil War and War with
April 27, 1916 - Special Pensions
given to Medal of Honor
Recipients who reached the age
Sept 8, 1916 - Some Remarried
widows still eligible for pension
General Law System - July 14, 1862
Bill analysis by section
Section 1 - lists the individuals covered by the act. The original act would only cover enlisted personnel. Nurses would
be added much, much later. The act would provide benefits from the 4th of March 1861 (Lincoln’s inaugural). The bill
was for disabilities from either wounds incurred or diseases contracted while the person was in service. These
disabilities would be rated. The bill gives the pension dollar amounts.
Section 2 - provides for widows and children under the age of 16 until they reach the age of 16.
Section 3 - provides a pension for mothers who were dependent on their son for support (without the son having
either wife or children). This pension would be terminated on the remarriage of the mother.
Section 4 - provides a pension to an orphaned sister(s) if there is no wife, no children and no mother till the sister will
arrive at age 16. No disloyal heirs could receive a part of a pension.
Section 5 - Pensions may be filed for 1 year after discharge for back pay or payment would be made from date of filing
Section 6 - Lawyers would receive a $5 basic fee with $1.50 allowed for further evidence except surgeons certification.
Section 7 - High misdemeanor for a lawyer to exceed these fees in section 6.
Section 8 - Surgeons requested by the pension office would receive $1.50 fee.
Section 9 - Commissioner of Pension furnishes all paperwork free of charge.
Section 10 - Pilots, engineers and crews of military boats not mustered in receive same bounty and disability pension
of a corresponding naval rank.
Section 11. Widows and heirs provided in the same way as those of section 10.
Section 12. Commissioner of Pensions may hire someone to detect for fraud in pensions.
July 4, 1864 Supplementary to General Pension act of 1862
Bill Analysis by Section
Section 1. Need only one surgeon appointed by commissioner as long as it is a surgeon of the army or navy.
Section 2. Agent refunds surgeon fee to Pension office for examinations in Section 8 of 1862 law.
Section 3. Declarations of pension must be made before a Court of Record or some officer who has custody of seal.
Section 4. Section 12 of 1862 act repealed. Commissioner of Pensions must now used clerks in his office.
Section 5. Pensioners who have lost both feet entitled to twenty dollars a month and both hands or both eyes twenty-
five dollars per month.
Section 6. If over three years in filing the pension commences from the date of filing the last paper in said case.
Section 7. On remarriage of any widow pension terminates and cannot be renewed.
Section 8. A reexamination takes precedence over the original examination.
Section 9. Persons not enlisted in but serving in an engagement since March 4, 1861 if disabled by wounds are
entitled to a pension and also widows and heirs. Claims must be made withing three years of this act.
Section 10. If person entitled to a pension dies after applying before pension granted widow and heirs pension would
have started from the date at which the other pension would have begun.
Section 11. All enlisted soldiers are entitled to benefits of this pension.
Section 12. Fees for agents and attorneys are raised to $10. Are not paid until pension is obtained Sections 6 and 7
of the 1862 act repealed.
Section 13. Punishment for agents and attorneys who violate Section 12.
Section 14. Marriages of African American soldiers.
Section 15. All provisions inconsistent with provisions of this act are repealed.
March 3, 1865 Pension act of 1865
Bill Analysis by Section
Section 1. Cannot draw a pension if currently working for the U. S. government with full salary.
Section 2. Surgeons not actually mustered into service entitled to pension if they meet same criteria as surgeon
mustered into service and widows and heirs of them also entitled to pensions.
Section 3. Loss of one foot and one hand rate $20.
Section 4. Children may only receive pension from the death or marriage of a widow. (does not change section 10 of
June 18, 1866 Pension act of 1866
Bill Analysis by Section
Section 1. Both eyes, both hands, permanently disabled, utterly helpless, requiring assistance $25 month
Both feet, one hand and one foot, or cannot perform manual labor $20 month
One hand or one foot, or disabled from doing manual labor equivalent to one hand or foot $15 month
Section 2. Cannot assign a pension to another person.
Section 3. Penality for violation of section 2.
Section 4. Agents receive 24 cents charge max for semi-annual payments.
Section 5. Section 1 of March 3, 1865 act repealed.
Section 6. If no widows and no children heirs would receive pension from time of death.
Section 7. Rank calculated from the time of commission without regard to muster unless fault of soldier.
Section 8. Sick leave is the same as being in hospital for pension benefits.
Section 9. Period of service calculated to the disabandonment of unit or until soldier leaves by other causes.
Section 10. Teamsters, wagoners, artificers, hospital stewarts, farriers, saddlers, and all other enlisted men not
mentioned in 1862 law entitled under this act. [Ed note: artificer - skilled mechanic in the armed forces, farrier -
specialist in the care of horses. See Hospital Steward for commission]
Section 11. If widow abandons child. Child receives pension, widow does not.
Section 12. Pension applies to children brothers and sisters and fathers.
Section 13. Still 3 years to file pension with arrears or from date of filing.
Section 14. Marriage rules for African American soldiers
Pension Act of July 27, 1868
Bill Analysis by Section
Section 1. Pension order for dependents without widow or minor children: 1 Mothers, 2 Fathers, 3 Orphan brothers
and sisters under 16.
Section 2. Person must have wounds received or disease contracted in the service of the United States (line of duty)
Section 3. If pensioner fails to claim his or per pension for a period of three years after due presumptive evidence that
such pension have legally terminated.
Section 4. If soldier dies and wife entitled to a pension children of former wife are entitled to two dollars per month till
sixteen years of age.
Section 5: If the child is in an asylum, etc. shall still receive the pension.
Section 6: Five years to file a pension except insane persons or children under sixteen years if previously thereto they
were without guardians or other proper legal representatives.
Section 7: Commissioner of pensions must give public notice of Section 6.
Section 8: Changes 1866 legislation on payment of children's pension.
Section 9: Changes section six of 1866 legislation.
Section 10: Remarriage of widow does not change act of 1865.
Section 11: Provisions of section 9 of 1864 act extended for five years from the 4 day of July 1867.
Section 12: Pension for loss of one eye $25 per month.
Section 13: All widows pensions for all wars $8 per month.
Section 14: All officers of the military or naval service of captain in the army or lieutenant in the navy are entitled to
receive an artificial limb on the same basis as privates in the army.
Section 15. Pensions granted by special acts of Congress shall be subject to be varied in amount according to the
provisions and limitations of the pension laws.
Section 16. All acts and parts of acts inconsistent with this act repealed.
Pension Act of July 7, 1870
Bill Analysis by Section
Section 1: Acts of 1866 and 1868 do not increase or reduce any amounts of pensions granted by special acts of
Section 2: Amounts of money withheld should be restored to persons granted special pensions.
Expanding Scope of People
covered in Pensions
July 14, 1862 - Parents
Pilots, engineers and crews of
military boats not mustered in.
July 4, 1864 - Regular army
covered as well as mustered
troops from date of March 4, 1861
Persons in tempory service who
are injured or killed entitled to a
March 3, 1865 - Surgeons not
actually mustered into service
entitled to pension
June 18, 1866 - Teamsters,
wagoners, artificers, hospital
stewarts, farriers, saddlers, and
all other enlisted men not
mentioned in 1862 law entitled
under this act.
July 27, 1868 - Children of earlier
marriage under age of 16 entitled
to $2 a month pension.
August 5, 1892 - Pensions to
|Legal Limitation (minors)
|Failure to Claim*