Join 3,433 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Veterans' Benefits Live On Long After Bullets Stop
May 9, 2014 6:18 PM   Subscribe

Still Paying for the Civil War Each month, Irene Triplett collects $73.13 from the Department of Veterans Affairs, a pension payment for her father's military service—in the Civil War. Additionally, the article is rich in detail about what life was like for a young enlisted man during the Civil War and the years after.
posted by mlis (31 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
Amazing!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:46 PM on May 9


So it's not indexed to inflation then?
posted by blue_beetle at 6:48 PM on May 9 [1 favorite]


This strikes rather close to home. My grandmother (who died in 2000) was the daughter of a Civil War vet, on the Confederate side. She lived into her 90s.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 6:51 PM on May 9 [2 favorites]


"Once, standing atop a car in the center of Wilkesboro, Pvt. Triplett cursed a local bank that had gone under and taken his money with it. "He was a cussing just like a preacher would preach," Charlie Triplett said."

Dear god I love colloquialisms.
posted by sio42 at 6:52 PM on May 9 [6 favorites]


I've posted this before, but Gertrude Janeway, the last known Union widow, died in 2003. (The last known Civil War widow, Maudie Hopkins, died in 2008, but was not receiving a pension; her husband fought for the Confederacy.)

The article describes the way this usually happened; a young woman marries an older man essentially as a caretaker, and collects his pension when he dies.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 6:53 PM on May 9


What a great article, so full of little details that say so much. The pennies on the eyes, corporal punishment at school which led to more corporal punishment at home. Smoking in the first grade. Who knew there was an actual thing called a "poor house"? Which had a TB hut?
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 6:56 PM on May 9 [1 favorite]


"A lot of people were afraid of him," Charlie Triplett said. "Most of the time he sat on the front porch with his old military pistol and shot walnuts off the trees just to let people know he had a gun."

As one does.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:09 PM on May 9 [32 favorites]


I like the part about how he managed to avoid Gettysburg and almost-certain death, then went to the Gettysburg reunion. Must have been tough out there at the memorial ceremony.

(I kid- it sounds like he had a pretty brutal war. Just knowing that you barely escaped a slaughter, and that you only did it by abandoning people you probably cared about, joining the other side, and taking up arms against your neighbors must have been traumatic enough. Pretty tough to defang that rattlesnake.)
posted by Snarl Furillo at 7:19 PM on May 9


This is what it means for a government to always pay its debts. Still making good on a promise from 152 years ago.
posted by miyabo at 7:20 PM on May 9 [1 favorite]


A declaration of war sets in motion expenditures that can span centuries.

Was the Civil War ever declared?

Regardless, her benefits stem from her disability in conjunction with her father's service. I'd be curious to know how many other Civil War children are out there. (My mother is a Civil War grandchild.)

As one does.


Aw, hell, I know I plan to! Get off my lawn, indeed.
posted by IndigoJones at 7:22 PM on May 9 [1 favorite]


IndigoJones, the article says that she's the last. There are 16 surviving family members of Spanish-American war veterans, and a little over 4,000 pension-collecting widows and children of World War I vets.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 7:25 PM on May 9


This reminds me of visiting the wonderful Garden of Eden in Lucas, Kansas. Among the many other amazing oddities at the Garden it blew my mind at the time to learn that Sam Dinsmoor, who built the Garden after he retired in 1905, was a veteran of the Civil War and the father of a Vietnam veteran. Dinsmoor's first wife died in 1917. In 1924, at the age of 81, he married his 20-year old housekeeper. They had two kids. Their son served in Vietnam. According to what I remember at the Garden Sam and son are believed to be the only father and son to have fought in the two wars.
posted by plastic_animals at 8:01 PM on May 9 [2 favorites]


With the general increase in lifespans, I suppose it is possible that the US government will still be paying for the Afghanistan war in the early 23rd century.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:47 PM on May 9 [2 favorites]


This is a neat piece. Even beyond the veteran issue, it's a window onto the connections between generations and how the scale of generations/history is a little more elastic than I often think.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:58 PM on May 9 [1 favorite]


OH OH OH this is where I get to highly recommend This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War, a National Book award winning non-fiction book that explains quite clearly the roots of many many tenets of modern American society, especially the VA system, and how we mourn soldiers today. I read this book in the middle of the "War on Terror" and it was both marvelous and frightening to see how much of our society's reaction/display/politics related to it went back to how the nation dealt with the fearsome numbers of dead during the Civil War.

But be prepared to cry.
posted by barchan at 9:00 PM on May 9 [9 favorites]


With the general increase in lifespans, I suppose it is possible that the US government will still be paying for the Afghanistan war in the early 23rd century.

One way or the other, I'm betting we will be.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 9:44 PM on May 9 [5 favorites]


One time a few years back when I worked in a VA I noticed I could create a report to reach into the depths of the amazing EHR system VistA/CPRS that could print out the particular war for which a service connection existed for patients attached to a particular center. Yes, there were a few Civil War entries, a surprising number of Indian War entries, and an amazing number of Spanish War entries.

Around a quarter of the US population is eligible for some sort of Veteran benefit or service connection, which pretty much illustrates the US's martial nature.

As an aside, it's amazing to me as well that even when the US Federal govt offers all the elements of VistA as public domain -- and has for years -- closed-source, overly expensive, fragile systems like Epic and Allscripts get sold at huge cost to hospitals, even govt-run ones, for large up-front fees and huge ongoing maintenance costs.
posted by meehawl at 10:06 PM on May 9 [9 favorites]


the scale of generations/history is a little more elastic than I often think

It really is. I have a relative who is 94, who tells me stories every time we talk. A few of the stories are of the Mexican War, stories she heard when she was 6 and sitting on the knee of her very old great-Uncle who played his small part in the invasion and capture of Mexico City. (Though all his stories revolved around being drunk, getting in trouble, and not much about any sort of martial glory.)

So, in the year 2014, I'm one degree removed from a veteran of the Mexican War. And then to make it interesting, this relative of mine has spent quite a bit of time with my 6 year old niece. If my niece manages to reach 94, she'll be able to claim, in the year 2102, to be only one step removed from a guy who fought in a war in 1848.
posted by honestcoyote at 1:17 AM on May 10 [3 favorites]


stories she heard when she was 6 and sitting on the knee of her very old great-Uncle who played his small part in the invasion and capture of Mexico City. (Though all his stories revolved around being drunk, getting in trouble, and not much about any sort of martial glory.)

Flashman?
posted by MartinWisse at 2:36 AM on May 10 [1 favorite]


This is like the fact that two of President Tyler's grandchildren are still living (which completely blows my mind).
posted by double bubble at 5:09 AM on May 10 [1 favorite]


So Bush W. put all two whole wars on the state credit card (simultaneously) with very little tangible benefit, but that fact must nevaaaaarrrrr be mentioned when discussing the national debt, because wars are always and forever the "good" kind of spending. You know, the kind that we have to cut food stamps, unemployment benefits, university funding, NASA, and all manner of research funding to continue to engage in at all costs. A couple trillion of long tail spending over the next hundred years doesn't even merit discussion, not when there's more important things like tax cuts and corporate welfare to dole out, and new wars to threaten every day.
posted by T.D. Strange at 6:29 AM on May 10 [3 favorites]


So Bush W. put all two whole wars on the state credit card (simultaneously) with very little tangible benefit, but that fact must nevaaaaarrrrr be mentioned when discussing the national debt, because wars are always and forever the "good" kind of spending.

Don't worry, the newly liberated Iraqis are going to contribute out of their oil revenue so the cost to U.S. taxpayers will be kept to minimum. What? Oh. Nevermind. As someone whose sole source of healthcare is the local VA hospital I can tell you there needs to be a lot more spending to even catch up to current demand not to mention the hundreds of thousands (millions?) of current service members that could end up in the system in the coming decades.
posted by MikeMc at 8:27 AM on May 10


A Harvard University study last year projected the final bill for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars would hit $4 trillion to $6 trillion in the coming decades.

Thankfully, our friends at Halliburton have devised a way to cut $2 trillion off this amount, at a cost of only $3 trillion!
posted by xedrik at 8:41 AM on May 10


IndigoJones, the article says that she's the last

No, it says that she is the last child of any Civil War veteran"still on the VA benefits rolls"..

Turns out there are others who are not on the VA benefit roles.

Which should not surprise us.
posted by IndigoJones at 9:42 AM on May 10


My father was 50 when I was born, which is sort of a one-generation skip. People get a little weird when I talk about his WWII service (he was a drill sergeant), so I can only imagine what it was like to be the child of a civil war vet when my parents were children.

The attitude toward marriages between 80 year olds and 20 year olds has changed a lot, though. I have people look askance when I mention that my parents were 18 years apart, and they were both marrying the second time, with my mother being about 30 when they married. That's not a significant age difference compared to the 50-60 years you're seeing in the parents of these surviving Civil War children.
posted by immlass at 12:31 PM on May 10 [1 favorite]


Wow. The youngest of the surviving kids of Civil War vets is still a sprightly 83 years old. Maybe thinking about history in yerms of generations isn't the clearest way to think about and really understand the timescales involved. In the historical view, the civil war was a relatively recent event. It's no wonder our culture still has so many scars and divisions along those old battle lines.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:38 PM on May 10 [1 favorite]


Maybe thinking about history in terms of generations isn't the clearest way to think about and really understand the timescales involved.

No kidding. Some here will recall that President John Tyler's (1790-1862) two grandsons are (presumably) still alive.
posted by IndigoJones at 1:02 PM on May 10 [1 favorite]


"The promises of President Abraham Lincoln are being delivered, 150 years later, by President Barack Obama,"

Wow.
posted by homunculus at 10:10 PM on May 10


No, it says that she is the last child of any Civil War veteran"still on the VA benefits rolls"..

Turns out there are others who are not on the VA benefit roles.


Oh, my mistake. I misunderstood what you were asking.

The last known living child of a former slave, Mississippi Winn, died in 2011. I bet there are more, though, just without the documentation to prove it, or possibly without knowing themselves.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 11:06 PM on May 10 [1 favorite]


Maybe thinking about history in yerms of generations isn't the clearest way to think about and really understand the timescales involved.

But it is clearly how people talk about it. As a child, I was frequently asked about "my grandfather". I wonder whether those children were asked about their (great-) grandfather or whether the communities at the time were small enough that they just knew these were the children of the ancient veterans.
posted by immlass at 8:19 AM on May 11


""The promises of President Abraham Lincoln are being delivered, 150 years later, by President Barack Obama," Wow."

I love this fact about the universe in general, and because it shows how Illinois is the best state in particular (did you know there have been seven African-American senators since Reconstruction and 3 of them have been from Illinois? Including two of the three who were elected (via popular election) rather than appointed (4 of 7) after a retirement or death.), but whenever Lincoln and Obama are mentioned together, it always makes me irreverently think of the way I'm going to make tons of money when I get my time machine:

Go back in time to 1908 and bet people that a black man will be president before the Cubs will win the Series again.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:25 PM on May 11 [2 favorites]


« Older "The last commuter train in the US with a built-in...  |  Blues, April Fools,... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments