Category Archives: Arthur Bull

1890: Arthur T. Bull, a soldier to the end

Sepia Saturday 424: Third in a series on my Union Army great-great grandfather Arthur Bull’s final years as a U.S. Civil War pensioner.

Documents approving a U.S. Civil War full-disability pension for my great-great grandfather Arthur T. Bull are the last ones pertaining directly to him in his pension file.

Sadly —  just seven months after his full military pension was approved — Arthur, 58, died on 30 January 1890 in Salamanca, Cattaraugus Co., N.Y.

However, because my great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull filed a claim for a widow’s pension, there is one more document that describes his final days.

Aug. 2014: Union Army encampment on Governors Island, N.Y. A soldier to the end, on 29. Jan. 1890 — despite his war-related rheumatism and heart disease — my ancestor Arthur T. Bull  made a final half-mile march  to the doctor’s office in freezing weather to be seen about a severe cold. Photo by Molly Charboneau

A pension bureau request

On 29 April 1892 a Bureau of Pensions commissioner wrote from Washington, D.C., to Dr. Abner P. Reeker of Salamanca — Arthur’s last physician — asking for clinical details of his final days as part of the verification process for Mary’s claim:

In the pension claim No. 427,089 of Mary E. Bull as widow of Arthur T. Bull, late of Col L. 6 N.Y. HA, will you please supplement your affidavit by a statement, giving a full and complete clinical history of the soldier’s last illness, its commencement and duration, which he suffered at that time, and the immediate cause of his death, and the direct pathological connection, if any, between the death cause and the disease of heart for which he was pensioned.

A doctor’s response

Dr. Reeker responded promptly by return post on 9 May 1892 with a moving portrayal of my ancestor’s final days:

Arthur T. Bull suffered from heart disease for 4 years before his death and dropsy [edema] of the lower extremities. He had an ulcer on one of his legs. He took a cold I think on the 28th day of Jan 1890 — I did not see him until Jan 29th 1890.

He walked to my office half a mile. Saw him last time on evening of the Jan 29th 1890. To the best of my knowledge he died or his death was caused from heart disease and dropsey [sic.], hastened by his taking a severe cold as he died on the morning of Jan 30th 1890. It has been 2 years since his death, and the above statement is as near the facts as I can recall.

A soldier to the end

As difficult as Dr. Reeker’s letter is to read, it also fills me with tremendous admiration for my great-great grandfather Arthur.

There he was, suffering from rheumatism with symptoms of advanced heart disease — yet, a soldier to the end, he made a final march of half a mile to the doctor’s office in freezing January weather to be seen for a severe cold!

And I can’t help but wonder whether Arthur had merely contracted a severe cold or something worse. The deadly 1889-1890 flu pandemic was then sweeping the globe, and its U.S. mortality rate peaked on 12 January 1890 — only a few weeks before Arthur’s final doctor visit.

More on the late Arthur Bull and his family in the next post. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.

© 2018 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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1889: Arthur Bull requests another pension increase

Sepia Saturday 422: First in a series on my Union Army great-great grandfather Arthur Bull’s final years as a U.S. Civil War pensioner.

Recent retirement from my job got me thinking once again about my Union Army great-great grandfather Arthur Bull — and how vital his military pension was to sustaining his family at the end of his work life.

May 2018: Artillery detail on the facade of the U.S. Pension Office building (now the National Building Museum). My great-great grandfather Arthur T. Bull received a U.S. Civil War pension for his 1864-65 service in the Union Army’s 6th NY Heavy Artillery. Photo by Molly Charboneau

When I last wrote about Arthur, he was living in Salamanca in Western New York’s Cattaraugus County and, in February 1889, had just been approved for a pension for war-related heart disease.

This brought a much-needed bump in household income from a retroactive pension payment, and regular monthly income going forward.

Yet this was still not enough for Arthur to support himself, his wife Mary Elizabeth and their two minor children Alice 13, and Waples, 11, once he could no longer work in the tannery trade.

So on 23 Feb. 1889, Arthur applied for a second pension increase based on a separate, war-related injury to his shoulder that was causing disability as he aged.

Arthur’s court appearance

With his attorney Willam H. Peck, Arthur appeared before a Cattaraugus County judge, as required by the pension law, and signed an additional declaration about his shoulder.  The declaration from his pension file states:

He contracted rheumatism of right shoulder and arm from exposure and hard marching, having to carry his knapsack and other accouterments, bearing more especially from straps placed over right shoulder.

Said rheumatism has continue to the present, at times more or less aggrevated. Whenever he attempts to labor with his right arm, the pain in right shoulder and arm is so intense that he has to stop labor. This claimant is now drawing a pension Cert. No. 315.208 on account of “heart disease.”

The declaration concludes,”That he is now Entirely disabled from obtaining his subsistence by manual labor by reason of his injuries above described.”

Killer knapsack

With backpacks so prevalent in everyday use today, it is hard to imagine how a military knapsack could cause severe shoulder injury to Arthur or any soldier.

Recommended placement of knapsacks, gear and weapons by Union soldiers to avoid injury and illness. Source: MSHWR

However, their potential to cause injury and illness is documented in the Medical and Surgical History of the War of Rebellion (1861-65), a multi-volume compendium of cases and observations reported by the U.S. medical corps to the Surgeon General — which includes illustrations (above) of ergonomic knapsack protocols.

The packs and gear — which could weigh 40-50 pounds — were especially taxing on the double-quick marches often required of Arthur and other Army of the Potomac troops during the grueling Overland Campaign of 1864.

A lasting injury

As described in Killer knapsack, veteran Union soldiers on the march had learned to jettison their heavy knapsacks and accoutrements — traveling light with just a rifle and ammo, weighing about 10 pounds, and some undergarments rolled into a blanket slung over the shoulder.

But Arthur, when new to the army, may not have known to do this — and appears to have sustained a lasting shoulder injury as a result.

Decades later, this injury required him to submit an additional pension declaration since he could no longer work — then wait for another ruling from the U.S. Pension Board.

More on this in the next post. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.

© 2018 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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1888: Pension Board examines Arthur Bull for a pension increase

Sepia Saturday 407: Seventh in a series on my Union Army great-great grandfather Arthur Bull and his final years in Salamanca, Cattaraugus County, N.Y.

On a wintry 26 Dec. 1888, my great-great grandfather Arthur Bull, 57, was examined by U.S. Pension Board physicians in Olean, Cattaraugus, N.Y., in connection with his request for an increase in his Union Army pension for war-related illness.

Winter in Cattaraugus County, N.Y. During the 1888 holiday season, my great-great grandfather was examined by Pension Board physicians  in Olean, N.Y., in connection with his request for a pension increase. By: Seabamirum

The examination took place at the end of a year of significant changes in the Salamanca household of my ancestors Arthur and Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull. Mary’s mother Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee had passed in January and their daughter Jessie married Sidney Banton in May.

By the time Arthur applied in August for an increased pension — because he cold no longer work even part time — only their daughter Alice, 11, and son Waples, 10, were still at home.

 A credentialed board

Examining Pension Board physicians were sometimes Civil War veterans themselves, and thus familiar with war-related complaints. Such was the case with at least one of Arthur Bull’s examiners, Board President John S. Eddy, M.D.

In the 1890 United States Census of Union Veterans and Widows of the Civil War, Dr. Eddy reported that he served as an assistant surgeon with the 12th N.Y Infantry from Oct. 1862 to June 1863.

Surgeon’s Certificate for Arthur Bull’s examination for a pension increase (1888). At least one physician on the examining panel was a Union Army veteran. Arthur was determined to be permanently disabled by war-related disease of the heart.  Photo: Molly Charboneau

A finding of permanent disability

Eddy and a panel of two others took this statement from Arthur, who was described as 5 feet 7 inches tall inches tall, weighing 157 pounds and age 57:

The heart is very irregular, and feels as if something were grasping it. It also pains a great deal. Has shortness of breath. has a pain through the right lung a good deal of the time, coughs at night.

This is followed by sobering notes from Arthur’s physical examination. They indicate that, while his respiration appeared normal, his heartbeat was characterized by a “soft flowing murmur…very intermittent…so much so that it is impossible to count the pulse.”

Stating that Arthur had “Disability in a permanent degree equal to the loss of a hand or foot” due to his war-related irritable heart, the Board made the following recommendation:

From the existing conditions and the history of this claimant, as stated by himself, it is, in our judgement, probable that the disability was incurred in the service as he claims, and that it has not been prolonged or aggravated by vicious habits. He is, in our opinion, entitled to a 3rd Grade rating for disability caused by Disease of the heart.

Arthur finally prevails

Arthur was not alone. According to an 1888 Commission of Pensions Report to Congress, 25,994 Union pensioners were classified as disabled from war-related heart disease between 1862 and mid-1888.

The Olean, N.Y.,  Board signed off on the Surgeon’s Certificate (shown above) on 31 Dec. 1888, and it was received at the U.S. Eastern Pension Office on 11 Jan. 1889.

Fortunately, this time my ancestor did not have to wait long for a decision. On 4 Feb. 1889, the U.S. Pension Board approved an increase in Arthur Bull’s pension to $17 a month commencing on 26 Dec. 1888.

There will be more on Arthur and his family in future posts. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.

Up next: Starting on March 1 — St. David’s Day — a new series on my Welsh immigrant great grandfather Francis Hugh “Frank” Owen of Baltimore City, Maryland.  

© 2018 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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1888: Arthur Bull requests a pension increase

Sepia Saturday 406: Sixth in a series on my Union Army great-great grandfather Arthur Bull and his final years in Salamanca, Cattaraugus County, N.Y.

In 1888, Union Army pensioners like my great-great grandfather Arthur Bull were having trouble supporting their families as their ability to work declined.

This widespread need forged the Grand Army of the Republic into a powerful national veterans’ lobby for increased benefits — a burning issue that made it onto the agenda of Republican National Convention held in June 1888 in Chicago.

https://www.gsa.gov/real-estate/historic-preservation/explore-historic-buildings/heritage-tourism
The U.S. Pension Building in Washington, D.C., was constructed in the 1880s for the agency that administered military pensions. The imposing edifice is  often described as a memorial to Civil War veterans. My ancestor Arthur Bull’s 1888 application for a pension increase eventually found its way here for processing. Source: U.S. General Services Administration (GSA)

According the Donald L. McMurray in “The Political Significance of the Pension Quesion” both veterans and the public — likely including my Bull ancestors — supported the GAR’s pension campaign. 1

The development of pension activity by the Grand army was contemporaneous with a rapid growth of membership, from 60,678 in 1880 to 269,689 in 1885, and 427,981 in 1890. At the latter date about one-third of the survivors of the war were members. No doubt this growth was caused in part by interest in the increasing activity of the organization in regard to pensions….Throughout the northern states a large part of the public believed in giving the veterans what they wanted so far as the means of the government enabled it to do so.

Declaration for pension increase

Nevertheless, a document in his Union Army pension file indicates that Arthur, 56, could not wait for the issue of pension increases to be resolved at the national level.

Signature of my great-great grandfather Arthur T. Bull on his pension increase declaration (22 Aug. 1888). I have inherited no photos or artifacts from my ancestor, so his signature — still fairly strong despite his declining health — is precious to me. Photo by Molly Charboneau

On 22 August 1888, my ancestor personally appeared before a Salamanca, N.Y., justice of the peace and filed a Declaration for the Increase of an Invalid Pension under then existing laws.

Arthur stated he was a pensioner of the U.S. and described the circumstances.

…enrolled at the Syracuse Pension Agency at the rate of $4.00 a month…by reason of disability from disease of heart and lungs incurred in the military service of the United States, while serving as a private in Co. F. 6th Regt. of New York H.A. Vols.

He went on to request a pension increase due to inability to work and appointed a lawyer to act on his behalf.

…on account of increased disability from the disease of heart and lungs, rendering claimant almost entirely incapacitated from the performance of manual labor [and] that he hereby appoints with full power of substitution and revocation Willard H. Peck of West Valley, Cattaraugus So. N.Y. as his true and lawful attorney to prosecute his claim.

A stamp on the document shows that it was received in the U.S. Pension Office in September 1888. Then Arthur waited for the next step — an examination by the local Pension Board — which finally came in December 1888.

More on this in the next post. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.

© 2018 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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  1. McMurray, Donald L., The Political Significance of the Pension Question, 1885-1897.  The Mississippi Valley Historical Review, 9 (1) (Jun., 1922), 19-36; Oxford University Press on behalf of Organization of American Historians. JSTOR (http://www.jstor.org/stable/1886098 : accessed
    accessed 7 February 2018.)

1888: Jessie Bull marries Sidney Banton

Sepia Saturday 405: Fifth in a series on my Union Army great-great grandfather Arthur Bull and his final years in Salamanca, Cattaraugus County, N.Y.

As the spring of 1888 approached, my paternal great-great grandparents Arthur and Mary (Blakeslee) Bull prepared to celebrate a happy occasion — the marriage of their daughter Jessie Bull to Sidney Banton of Salamanca in Cattaraugus Co., N.Y.

http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2016812957/
Woman in wedding dress holding flowers (circa 1900-1910).  My great grandaunt Jessie Bull, who married in 1888, may have worn a similar dress — or possibly something simpler, since her wedding was described as “quiet” in the newspaper. Photo: Library of Congress

Although the Bull family was still in mourning after the recent passing of Mary’s mother, my ggg grandmother Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee, the impending wedding likely lifted everyone’s spirits and set their eyes on the future.

Putting down roots

For Jessie, marrying and putting down roots in Salamanca may also have brought a newfound sense of stability after the Bull family’s many moves throughout her childhood (see table below). Her fiancé Sidney, a store clerk, came from a local family that had lived in the area since the 1860s.

Residences of Jessie Bull in New York State 
Year Source Location Details
 1870  U.S. Census Hancock, Delaware Co., N.Y. (Catskills) Jessie listed as age 1.
 1874 Broome Republican marriage notice Binghamton, Broome Co., N.Y. (Southern Tier) When Jessie was 5, older sister Emma married “at the home of her father in the town of Binghamton.”
 1875 N.Y.S. Census Lyonsdale, Lewis Co., N.Y. (Adirondacks) Jessie, age 6, listed as born in Delaware Co.
 1880  U.S. Census Lyonsdale, Lewis Co., N.Y. (Adirondacks) Jessie A. Bull, 11, born in July 1868, was at school.
 1885 Arthur Bull Pension Record Limestone, Cattaraugus Co., N.Y. (Western N.Y.) Jessie was 17 when a pension doctor examined her father Arthur Bull.
 1888 Cattaraugus wedding anniversary notices Salamanca, Cattaraugus Co., N.Y. (Western N.Y.) Jessie Bull, 19, married Sidney Banton, 22.

That’s quite a few moves for a young woman of 19. And Jessie left friends, schoolmates and older siblings behind with each relocation — including my great-grandmother Eva May (Bull) Charboneau, an older sister who remained in the Adirondacks region after she wed.

Jessie’s marriage to Sidney would anchor her in Western New York for the rest of her life and end the cycle of constant moves.

Announcement of a wedding

Jessie Bull and Sidney Banton were married on 10 May 1888 in a simple wedding at the home of her parents Arthur and Mary (Blakeslee) Bull — according to anniversary newspaper announcements of the happy occasion.

http://nyshistoricnewspapers.org/lccn/sn85054110/1928-05-16/ed-1/seq-4/#date1=01%2F01%2F1725&index=0&date2=12%2F31%2F2016&words=Bull+Jessie&to_year2=2016&searchType=advanced&sequence=0&from_year2=1725&proxdistance=5&page=1&county=Cattaraugus&rows=20&ortext=&proxtext=Jessie+Bull&phrasetext=&andtext=&dateFilterType=range&SearchType2=prox5
Fortieth anniversary announcement of Jessie Bull’s 10 May 1888 marriage to Sidney Banton (Cattaraugus Republican, 16 May 1928). Source: NYS Historic Newspapers/NYS Library

 

Their wedding was again celebrated in the Looking Backward column of the local paper sixty years after the event.

http://fultonhistory.com
Sixtieth anniversary announcement of Jessie Bull’s marriage to Sidney Banton (Salamanca Republican-Press 10 May 1948). Source: Old Fulton New York Postcards

 

One hundred thirty years ago in May

Since I don’t know whether the Cattaraugus papers continue these announcements, this blog will serve as the 130th commemoration of Jessie Bull’s marriage to Sidney Banton.

Coming when it did, their wedding surely brought happiness into the lives of my aging great-great grandparents Arthur and Mary (Blakeslee) Bull — along with an extended network of local Banton in-laws.

More in the next post on Arthur Bull’s Salamanca years. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.

© 2018 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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