Why are there so many names on this Civil War pension card?
Why are there all these names on this pension card, and how are the men connected?
This is a question I get quite often. The short answer is, they’re not connected at all. The men just happened to have the same pension file numbers at different points in the pension’s life span.
The longer explanation of what these numbers mean will take several paragraphs to explain, so read on if you'd like to know all about these particular kinds of pension index cards and how to make sense of them. It’s a little confusing, so hang on!
The first thing to understand about these cards is that there were two categories of pensions that Civil War soldiers could apply for. The INVALID pensions (based on disabilities or injuries) and the DEPENDENT pensions (after the soldier’s death, his dependent could receive pension benefits on his behalf).
The second thing to understand is that most pensions had more than one file number. When a soldier first applied for an invalid pension, it was given an APPLICATION number (also known as an ORIGINAL number). If it was approved, it was given a CERTIFICATE number. So that invalid pension had two file numbers: an invalid application/original number, and an invalid certificate number.
After the soldier died, if a widow, child, or parent applied for a pension, the process would start all over again. The dependent pension was given an APPLICATION number at first, then a CERTIFICATE number if it was approved. So that soldier’s pension packet now has four different file numbers: an invalid application/original number, an invalid certificate number, a dependent application/original number, and a dependent certificate number. Sounds confusing, but the process worked for them in the pension bureau.
So in the case of this card shown here, all four men had 203,008 as one of their file numbers at one point. Remember, many pensions had FOUR different numbers assigned to them:
- David Alvis, in this case, had the invalid application/original number of 203,008.
- Daniel Loub had the invalid certificate number of 203,008.
- John Howland had the dependent application/original number of 203,008.
- Benjamin Klock had the dependent certificate number of 203,008.
They weren’t related, they didn’t serve together, they weren’t dependents of each other, they weren’t substitutes in the draft, they didn't share a pension, or any other explanations that are out there. These four men had nothing in common, except for a random assignment of numbers on their pension file.
It’s similar to when you enter a place, such as the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, to get new license plates. You may get assigned a number as you wait in line. Let’s say your number is 393 as you wait in line.
You wait for number 393 to be called, then you go up and get your new license plates. Your new plates may have the numbers 784 on them. The numbers 393 and 784 are completely unrelated to each other– you just had two different numbers randomly assigned to you in this process.
Someone with the numbers 393 on their new license plates would have nothing in common with you, even though you had the number 393 given to you while you waited in line. Its just that you both randomly were given that number at different phases in the process. You were given that number in the first phase, and they were given that number in the second phase.