My great, great grandfather Arthur Bull reentered civilian life as a U.S. Army Civil War veteran on 24 Aug. 1865 — undoubtedly grateful that he had survived and happy to be reunited with his family.
What little I know about my ancestor’s return home is contained in affidavits from family and friends supporting his application, decades later, for a military pension.
Arthur’s brother-in-law William Whitney, of Binghamton, Broome Co., N.Y., filed one such affidavit on 30 Nov. 1885. He was married to Rhoda (Blakeslee) Whitney — the sister of Arthur’s wife Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull.
In his affidavit, Whitney described his memory of Arthur’s homecoming — testimony labeled “Credibility good” by the claims examiner, who summarized it in his case notes as follows:
[Whitney] testifies that he has been well and personally acquainted with claimant [Arthur Bull] since 1861 and has personal knowledge that he returned from the army, in 1865, in a weak, emaciated condition, and suffering from what seemed to be heart trouble, with pain in the region of the heart, and with his lungs; had a cough and much trouble to get his breath…
U.S. Civil War pensions were among the few social programs supporting veterans of that war in their old age — and providing sustenance to their families. And government examiners were tasked with assuring that the claims were genuine.
In my great, great grandfather’s case, not only were there records of hospitalizations during his service with the 6th NY Heavy Artillery and of his post-war medical treatment, but also eyewitness testimony, like Whitney’s, from those who knew him well. Again, from the claims examiner’s notes:
…and he (affiant) saw claimant almost daily, from 1865 to 1875, and had personal knowledge that he complained of and suffered from these disabilities, and that he was — in affiant’s opinion — fully one-half disabled thereby for manual labor.
A tanner once more
My ancestor Arthur Bull was a leather tanner by trade, a calling he resumed after the war, so the ability to do manual labor was essential to his livelihood. Records in his pension file make clear that the wounds of war — in his case, heart and lung conditions — stayed with him long after the fighting ended.
Yet being back with family must have been a healing balm. Arthur saw many productive years before applying for his Civil War pension. And he and Mary Elizabeth had many more children after the war. First among them was my great grandmother Eva May Bull, born on 24 July 1866 — just over 10 months after Arthur came home.
More in the next post.
© 2015 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.