It wasn't always happily ever after...

If you’ve seen Civil War pension files, you know that there are some amazing details that you can learn in those files. There are stories about these soldiers’ service in the war, details about their lives after the war, and information about their families. Many of these details are impressive and exciting to learn about, but not all of them have happy endings. My own ancestor’s file tells one of those stories. 

Henry Rhinehart, my great great great grandfather, was drafted in 1865, near the end of the war. Since he was drafted so late in the war, his service lasted less than three months. 

After Henry died in 1898, his wife Mary applied for a widow’s pension from the government. Mary submitted her application when she was in her 70's, hoping to get help from the government. She was denied any pension payments because Henry had served in the army for less than 90 days. The law said that anyone who had not served at least 90 days was not eligible. 

Mary applied again, hoping they would change their minds. In her application she states that he enlisted “to serve one year or during the war, and was willing to serve his full time if needed, but was discharged . . . My deceased husband went to the War of the Rebellion and left me with five little children on my hands, with no means of support for my children or myself. Now, Your Honor . . . I ask you to give my claim a careful reconsideration, for as long as I could perform labor to support myself, I did not ask it, but am now dependent.” Her request was denied again. 

It’s not always exciting to hear stories about your ancestors living in poverty and being dependent on others. However, this was part of their story, and it would have been lost to history if it wasn’t recorded in his Civil War pension file.
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