Thursday, February 16, 2012

Invalid Pension: $8.00/month - Civil War Pension File

While working my way through Ellis Bickerstaff's Civil War Pension File I realized that most of the documents in the file are ones that Ellis, his attorneys, or doctors sent to the pension office. A few are documents completed and retained by the pension office; it's likely that a few of them are duplicates of ones sent to Ellis.

After Ellis's initial claim request, he was given a pension number which follows his paperwork through the pension file. Every paper has that number, even the earliest papers when he had not yet been approved for a pension for his service in the Civil War.

Ellis was examined by two physicians who submitted affidavits on "Additional Evidence" forms. Dr. W. J. McDowell submitted an affidavit on December 11, 1890, which, in part, reads:

I have personally examined the applicant Ellis H. Biggerstaff of Co. D. 157 Regt, Ohio [illegible] [illegible] on this 10th day of December 1890–

I find him with history and present existence of Catarrhal trouble and chronic bronchial troubles. Symptoms. Headache, discharge from the nose, cough and almost constant throat iritation [sic], and reports constant tendency to take “cold” - Inability to withstand exposure. Has had trouble with his stomach and bowels, – gives history of lung trouble Unable to work any whatever for several months at a time. – There is some dullness on percussion over left lung . – Applicant states that he suffers constantly with his lung –––
I further declare that I have no interest in said case and am not concerned in its prosecution.
Wm. J. McDowell [signature]

Two weeks later, Dr. R. F. Gant examined Ellis and submitted another affidavit in which he stated:
Ellis H. Biggerstaff Personally appeared at my Office for examination for pension. I find the applicant Suffering from Chronic Catarrh and Chronic Bronchitis. The symptoms [illegible] are headache, (almost continuously) discharge from the posterior naries, constant irritation of the naries and throat, with cough and constant secretion from bronchial tubes. Halking [?] and spitting with pains in lungs. Petitioner claimed to have had these troubles for years, incapacitating him to perform manual labor to considerate extent, being obliged to have his work [illegible] indoors in cold or rough weather. Being a carpenter by trade his work necessitates him to be outdoors a good deal of his time in this way is hindrance to some extent in his work. Applicant is a soldier of company (D) 157th Regiment of Ohio State Guards Volunteer.
I further declare that I have no interest in said case and am not concerned in its prosecution.
R. F. Gant, MD [signature]

In a Surgeon's Certificate, form 3--111, the examiner concurs with the findings of the other two physicians. The next document (by date) is "Invalid Pension."

Ellis was awarded a pension of $8.00 per month commencing on July 26, 1890. Ellis began the paperwork to obtain a pension on July 19, 1890, and after 8 1/2 months was finally approved.

The value of $8.00 in 1891 was approximately equivalent to the value of $192.00 in 2010.

(You can click on any image to view it larger. When you're finished looking, click the back arrow on your browser.)

Also about Ellis Bickerstaff's Pension File:
Ordering Civil War Compiled Military Service Records
Reviewing Civil War Compiled Military Service Records
Ordering a Civil War Pension File
His Civil War Pension File Arrived
Civil War Pension File: First View
Civil War Pension File: Inventory
Civil War Pension File: Chronological Overview of Papers Pertaining to Ellis
Claim for Disability Pension - Civil War Pension File


  1. That's not a big pension at all! It's interesting that both of the doctors stated that they had no interest in the case and were not concerned in it's prosecution.

    And I wonder what catarrhal trouble is...I'll have to look that up.

  2. It is amazing the same attitudes were found one hundred fifty years ago. Things never change.

    My great grandfather got somewhere about the same amount. He also had to jump through hoops and was denied several times too.


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