Tag Archives: Arthur T. Bull

30 Jan. 1890: Arthur T. Bull RIP

Sepia Saturday 425: Fourth and last in this series on my Union Army great-great grandfather Arthur Bull’s final years as a U.S. Civil War pensioner.

Every family historian has that one ancestor whose story takes hold of them like no other — and the story of my great-great grandfather Arthur T. Bull was the one that spoke to me. So it is understandably hard for me to bid him farewell after writing about his final days in the last post.

Arthur T. Bull Obituary (Cattaraugus Republican 31 Jan. 1890) — A.T. Bull died yesterday morning from the effects of pneumonia resulting from the grip. The funeral will occur to-morrow at 2 p.m. at the M.E. church.

From discovering his Union Army service on a road trip with my late dad and traveling to Washington, D.C., to obtain his pension file, to attending reenactments of the battles he fought in that prompted me to launch Molly’s Canopy — my ancestor Arthur T. Bull has been a game changer for me.

I’m proud to have brought Arthur’s story to light on Molly’s Canopy — something my great-great grandfather would never have imagined while taking life as it came more than a century ago.  But I did not do it alone.

It takes a village

Every genealogist knows that it takes a village of helping hands to find an ancestor and tease out the details of a forbear’s life — and so it was with Arthur.

Tombstone of Arthur T. Bull in Wildwood Cemetery, Salamanca, N.Y. (2005). Every family historian has that one ancestor whose story takes hold of them like no other — and the story of my great-great grandfather Arthur T. Bull was the one that spoke to me. Photo courtesy of Wildwood Cemetery staff.

His pension file provided information about his military life, and the U.S. and New York State censuses helped me track his many moves around the state.

But it took the personal touch of city, library and cemetery workers to flesh out vital information about Arthur’s end of life, and I owe them my thanks. Among them:

  • The Salamanca City Clerk who sent me Arthur’s death certificate, indicating he was buried in Wildwood Cemetery in Salamanca, Cattaraugus County, New York.
  • The Salamanca Public Library librarian who located and mailed me Arthur’s newspaper obituary, which is quoted above.
  • The Wildwood Cemetery worker who graciously took the above photo of Arthur’s tombstone, which has been framed on my desk for years.

Arthur revisited

For those of you who have grown to love Arthur as I have, take heart. There is still much of his backstory to uncover — including the details of his birth and early years — so he will reappear on Molly’s Canopy at some point in the future.

Meanwhile, the end of Arthur’s life brought a new set of circumstances for his immediate family — his widow Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull, their two minor children Alice and Waples — as well as the extended Bull family who rallied to assist them.

And a new struggle unfolded as my great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth applied for a Civil War widow’s pension — a process requiring its own set of forms, proofs and affidavits. In the next post, I will begin the story of the Bull family’s challenges in a post-Arthur world.

Up next: Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull files for a widow’s pension. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.

© 2018 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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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: A full disability pension for Arthur Bull

Sepia Saturday 423: Second in a series on my Union Army great-great grandfather Arthur Bull’s final years as a U.S. Civil War pensioner.

In February 1889 my great-grandfather Arthur Bull filed an additional declaration asking for a Civil War pension increase due to a war-related shoulder injury that rendered him unable to work — then waited to hear from the Pension Board.

Living History 2015: A U.S. Civil War veteran and his wife at the Violet Festival in Dolgeville, Herkimer Co., N.Y. Union veterans like my ancestor Arthur Bull worked and raised families after the war, but relied on military pensions for war-related infirmities as they aged. Above, a Civil War veteran (c.) speaks to factory owner Alfred Dolge (r.) during a portrayal of the town’s history. Photo by Molly Charboneau

Four months later, on 26 June 1889, Arthur was examined by a panel of U.S. Pension Board physicians in Jamestown, Chautauqua Co., N.Y. — about 33 miles west of his Salamanca home in western New York’s Cattaraugus County.

Sympathetic pension physicians

Although sworn to be impartial, the pension board physicians may have been sympathetic to my ancestor — a 57-year-old veteran struggling to support his family on an approved partial-disability pension of $17 a month.

According to the 1892 New York Sate census1 Dr. Thomas D. Strong, president, would have been 67 at the time — a mature physician with some awareness of the toll age can take.

Calculating from the same census2,Dr. William M. Bemus, secretary, would have been 33 . And based on a search of military pension records, he appears to have filed for his own invalid pension in January 1899 — having served as a Surgeon and Major in the 3rd N.Y. Infantry.

Together with the treasurer, whose name is hard to decipher, these physicians examined Arthur’s claim that he was suffering from “disease of the heart, rheumatism, of right shoulder and arm.”

The medical exam

1889: Surgeon’s Certificate in the case of Arthur Bull’s pension increase application. The examining physicians ruled in my great-grandfather’s favor and found him eligible for a full disability pension due to war-related injury and illness from his service in the 6th NY Heavy Artillery during the U.S. Civil War. Scan by Molly Charboneau

The surgeon’s certificate states that Arthur was 5 feet 8 inches tall, weighed 150 pounds and had a normal temperature of 98.5 degrees. The report continues:

He makes the following statement upon which he bases his claim for Inc. He had rheumatism and disease of the heart followed. Was sent [to] hospitals. Pt. of Rocks & Mt. Pleasant. Was discharged 1865 on gen. order.

Upon examination, we find the following objective conditions: Fairly nourished. Rheumatic creak in the right shoulder, and right knee. No deformity of joints, or contraction of tendons. Motion of right shoulder some what impaired. Heart, size is normal, and sounds clear. Has marked ascites [fluid retention] and anasarca [edema or swelling] of feet and legs. Heart feeble, and irritable.

Full-disability pension approved

Fortunately for Arthur, this team of pension physicians found in his favor. They concluded their report with the statement below, in which I have underlined the handwritten portions:

From the existing condition and the history of this claimant, as stated by himself, it is probable that the disability was incurred in the service as he claimed, and that it has not been prolonged or aggrevatedby vicious habits.

He is, in our opinion, entitled to a 18/18 [100%] rating for the disability caused by Disease of the heart & rheumatism.

This must have been bittersweet news to Arthur — a finding that brought increased income to his household, but at the price of his total disability due to war-related injury and illness.

Yet with his wife Mary Elizabeth and two minor children dependent on him, this was the best outcome that could be hoped for Arthur and the Bull family under difficult circumstances.

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. Free login required by FamilySearch to view the document image.
  2. Ibid.

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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