Rare Finds in a Pension File!
Another interesting find in a Civil War pension file at the National Archives! This pension had one of the rarest of finds, an actual photo of the soldier. The submission of the photo wasn’t necessary to the pension process, but almost appeared to be an act of desperation in order to get the pension application approved.
Newman Eastman came home from the war in bad health, and died a couple months later. He wasn’t married, so his father, Peter, attempted to apply for pension benefits on his behalf.
In order to be eligible, Peter needed to prove that he was being financially supported by his son, the soldier. It’s not uncommon to find letters written home from the war in these parents’ pensions, where the soldier will mention that he was sending money home. The problem, though, was that the only surviving letter from him made no mention of sending money home.
There seemed to be provision made if there was proof that there was affection expressed by the soldier, with the assumption that he would have supported the parent if given the opportunity.
Newman’s sister submitted the letter, in which Newman makes repeated mention of wishing his family well and missing them. She also sent the photo of Newman, possibly in an attempt to further prove that he was close to the family.
In the end, the pension bureau determined that there was not enough proof that Peter was being supported by his son Newman, and the pension application was denied. The letter and the photo still remain in the pension file today, though, and I had the opportunity to send this information to one of the descendants of the Eastman family today.
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(Letters in these pension files often would have the crucial parts of the letter underlined by the pension bureau. Since the purpose of including this letter was to prove the affection that Newman had toward his father, you can see what the pension bureau thought were the important lines.)