Friday, September 3, 2010

Civil War Pension File of John Mix

Earlier this summer I acquired a copy of the civil war pension file (No. 442032) for my great-great-Grandfather, John Mix.

It was not a cut and dry request - the file was 89 scanned pages! I spent time transcribing the pages because the files were all out of order.

I then created a spreadsheet and put in a line entry by date for any kind of tidbit of information I came across, for instance, on 24 April 1882, John Mix sent a letter to the Pension Office stating that the doctor he was directed to go see in Owego, NY wasn't home the day he went to see him and it would be a lot easier if he could see a doctor in Ithaca.

So I was then able to sort and see the actual order of events:

So here is the scoop of Great-Great-Grandpapa:

John Mix
b. 09 Mar 1830, Tioga Co., NY
d. 1906, NY

2nd marriage was to my great-great-grandmother, Mary E., and they had 6 children.

1. On or about Feb. 9, 1864, John enlisted into the Union Army at Candor, Tioga Co., NY. John was 34 years old and a blacksmith. At home in Willseyville, Tioga Co., he has 3 young daughters, aged 5, 3 and 6 months. He also has an 11 year old son from a previous marriage.

2. His company is Unassigned, and he is in the 16th Regiment, New York Heavy Artillery.

3. On 10 May 1864, he is transferred to Company I, 6th Regiment, New York Heavy Artillery.

4. John says that his Descriptive List is lost and because of that, he isn't receiving his pay. A descriptive list is a form that lists vital info on a soldier, like name, rank, physical description, and any other remarks.

5. On or about 10 July 1864, in Petersburg, VA, John says that he fell into a rifle pit while carrying timber to be used for construction of breastments.

6. U.S. Pension Office records state that on 06 October 1864, John is considered to have deserted the army. John states he had no choice but to leave, and told his Colonel he would be leaving if he didn't receive any pay because he had to take care of his family.

7. In some, but not all records, John states he received an honorable discharge on 01 December 1864 at Harper's Ferry, WV.

8. On 27 February 1882, John, aged 51, submits a petition to receive a pension due to his being an invalid as a result of his war-time injuries. He states he suffers from rheumatism and weakness. He's living in Willseyville, Tioga Co. "Rheumatism" was a term used for any pain or stiffness in the back or extremities. (I've decided to start using it again - as in when I stand up after sitting at the computer for many hours - I'll say: OH, my rheumatism! Then I'll cackle and take a "remedy" like, oh, say, a gin and tonic. Or something like that.)

9. On 02 June 1882 John is examined by Dr. Lucius Allen. Dr. Allen states that John is 6 ft tall, weighs 152 lbs, has a light complexion, has a pulse of 80 and respiration of 18. John himself in other examinations states that he is 5 foot, 6 inches tall.

10. On 05 February 1883 John is deposed.

11. On 13 June 1883 John is again examined by a doctor. This doctor states that his pulse is 84, respiration is 24 and temperature is 99 and 1/8. The doctor finds "some tenderness" and a "slight internal curvature of 3 lower lumbar vertebra". The action of heart is "hard and vigourous". The doctor finds that John's disability entitles him to 3/4 total for rheumatism rating.

Unfortunately for John, the Pension Office can find no record of an honorable discharge. Due to that, his petition is rejected.

But that didn't stop John from continuing to try:

12. On 03 November 1890 John (aged 60) made another petition stating he was an invalid due to injuries received in the war, specifically: rheumatism, phthisic, and injury to back. By now, John was living in Union, Broome Co. "Phthisic", pronounced TIZ-ic, is any wasting disease of the lungs.

He was again rejected.

13. On 20 November 1904, John's wife Mary wrote a letter to the Pension Office referring to a newly passed law that all soldiers over the age of 70 should have a pension. She refers tot he fact that his Descriptive List was lost and he had a young family to take care of and wasn't being paid. She also states that John's health is very poor (he's 74 now). Their address is Ithaca, Tompkins Co.

14. On 27 February 1905 Mary writes again, repeating many of the same statements. However, she now adds that John had a shock last Fall (1904) and has been sick every since.

15. According to my records, John passed away in 1906. I don't have a gravestone or death certificate yet. He would have been 76.

16. On 21 February 1914, the Pension Office writes Mr. Underhill (a congressman from NY) that there is no claim pending for John Mix because he was never discharged. Mr. Underhill wrote on behalf of John's widow Mary. Mary is now 74 and living with her son Wesley Mix.

17. On 04 March 1923, Mary writes the Pension Office for what will be the last time. She repeats the same information she provided in earlier letters and states that she was 83 years old as of February of that year. She's living in Union, Broome Co, still with her son Wesley. The Pension Office writes her back stating that she cannot receive the Widow's pension because John was never discharged from service.

18. According to my records, Mary passed away in June of 1925, aged 85.


Well, it looks like John had legitimate injuries from the fall he sustained while in Virginia, but without an honorable discharge, he just wasn't eligible for any kind of pension. The loss of his Descriptive List seems to be the worst tragedy, since the lack of pay appears to be what prompted him to desert in October of 1864.

One really cool thing to come out of having this pension file are the copies of hand-written letters from John and Mary to the Pension Office.

Now I have their handwriting, in all it's inconsistent spelling and punctuation-less glory. I won't lie, some of it is hard to follow - the letters (especially Mary's) can be like a stream of consciousness.

Here's John's signature to a letter:

and here is Mary's:

I'm grateful to have these!

1 comment:

  1. I find it very coincidental that I, too, suffer from rheumatism and phthisic. I think that with a doctor's note, I should be allowed to apply my self actuated remedy ALL DAY at work. It would make the days seem shorter. And that's my goal.