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A Connection Lost: The Last Civil War Pensioner Passes Away

History is a passion for me, both my own family's and our country's. I am driven to learn all I can before it disappears into the mist.


I love history...

In fact, I considered becoming a History Teacher years ago, I just couldn't find the opportunity to attend college after I discovered my True Calling. Now, at my advanced age, my wife has determined I can actually get grant money and go back to school should I wish. Imagine, me at my age beginning to attend college part time, attempting to secure a degree in history! Let's see, 60 years old, need about 120 credits to graduate, get maybe 8 or 10 credits a semester, six years or so to graduate...

I would be approaching my retirement age of 66 years 8 months at the same time I received my diploma!!

"Congratulations Mr. Archer! Here is your diploma and your first Social Security check! Please, don't fall and break a hip on your way across the stage."

Wouldn't that be a hoot?!

But that pales in comparison to what I am about to relate to you.

Anyway, I love history. I love pursuing my own family history, our country's history, and that of interesting people from history. When my wife showed me that headline this morning, I knew I had, I HAD to learn more about someone who must be interesting even if the world forgot all about her.

Tell me though, how does someone tied directly to the Civil War, someone still alive in 2020, someone who is receiving a pension from our government forgotten about by the media? Seems to me that would have been a pretty good human interest story in today's crisis.


From Wikipedia...

"Irene Triplett (1930 – May 31, 2020) was the last living recipient of an American Civil War pension.[1] Her father, Pvt. Mose Triplett (1846 – 1938), served both in the Confederate Army and the Union Army.[2] Since his death in 1938, Triplett collected $73.13 per month from the Department of Veterans Affairs.[2] The total amount she received exceeded $73,000 in 2020, or $344,000 when adjusted for inflation.[3]

Triplett was born in 1930. Her father was 83, and her mother, Elida Hall, was 34. She grew up on her father's farm in Wilkes County, North Carolina. In 1943, she moved with her mother and brother to a poorhouse, where she remained until 1960. She lived in private nursing homes until her death.[2]

Triplett was the last surviving child of a Civil War veteran after the death of Fred Upham, the son of William H. Upham, in 2018.[4] She died in 2020.[5][6]"


Her father...

Moses Triplett was her father. He was a member of the Confederate Army, enlisting as a private in May of 1862 in the 53rd North Carolina Infantry Regiment at roughly 18 years of age. Two years later, he defected and joined a Union regiment, and from there finished the war as far as I can tell.

He married Elinda Hall, a 34 year old woman in 1924. In case you are doing the math, he was 78 years young at the time. Six years later, Irene was born in 1930. Again, do the math: he was 83 years old when she was born.

He passed away in 1938 at the ripe old age of 92 years young.

Her pension, from him through her mother, amounted to $73.13 per month.

Folks, this is a story that ties our modern day life directly to a life that none of us can even imagine, not really. We watch films, read books, study the history of the period but we do not, can not know the day to day life this man saw, the struggles, the torture, the traumatic scenes he witnessed first hand...

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And probably passed on directly to his daughter. She relates that she was beaten, often, by her father and mother, and even school teachers. With today's catch phrase "PTSD" being something even those out of work utilize to get disability benefits, can you imagine the mental torture this man went through, recalling and living with the memories of brother on brother killing, of neighbor against neighbor deaths. And then, more than likely, passed those demons on to his daughter, leaving her to deal with those same demons?

I pray she is finally at rest.

Please note that I corrected (I think) the dates to reflect what likely should be regarding his age when married and his daughter was born.

She was the last...

Irene was the final link to a time, as Margaret Mitchell said so eloquently, "Gone With The Wind". Others had preceded her, some recently, that I knew nothing of. I find this to be a tragedy, that we had living links to a past so rich with history, so fraught with tragedies and we were not even aware of them.

Maudie Hopkins, passing away on August 17, 2008 was the last surviving widow of a Civil War veteran. She had married William Cantrell of Kentucky at the age of 19 years. She was 19; William was 86! This took place on February 2, 1934. Unfortunately for Maudie, the state of Arkansas passed a law in 1937 saying no widow of a Civil War veteran was eligible for a pension.

Evidently, it was fairly common for a younger woman to marry a Civil War veteran in order to get his pension. Arkansas passed a law in 1937 preventing this occurrence, later changed to allow only those born prior to 1870 to be the only ones eligible for the pension.

That'll stop them gold diggers after $25 dollars every two or three months! That was what Maudie received until the law was passed.

Maudie passed away at the age of 93.

Prior to these two...

Alberta Martin passed in 2004 at the age of 97 years young. She had married a Confederate soldier in 1927 when she was but 21 years of age. Her husband, William Martin was a spry 81. According to Miz. Alberta, as she was called, she needed help with her young son at the time and William's $50 per month provided a degree of security.

She promptly gave birth ten months later to another son, Willie.

Two months after William's death, Alberta married Charlie Martin, William's grandson from an earlier marriage.They remained married for over 50 years until his death in 1983.

Was that where that song "I'm My Own Grandpa" came from?

Gertrude Janaway was the last surviving Union widow, passing in 2003. She had married John Janaway, who had been a Union officer, at the age of 18, (he was 81) in 1927, He passed away in 1937. She remained living, alone apparently, until her death in 2003 in the same log cabin she and her husband had shared. She received a pension of $70 per month until her death.

Is that not amazing?

Think on that for a moment or two: these women receiving pensions spanning three centuries. The 1800's, 1900's and 2000's. Three centuries, over 150 years of history living alongside of us...

And we were unaware of them. I am in awe that someone who should be reasonably famous for their lives and connections lived so quietly, beneath the knowledge of most Americans. I am also ashamed that they lived without our knowing them, celebrating them. Without our acknowledging their commitments to their husbands. Can you imagine, Gertrude living alone all those years in a log cabin built by her husband, himself a Civil War officer? I would love to visit that home, to see what she saw every day.

With what is going on in America right now, with the racial strife and hatred, the anguish felt by a portion of our nation, these women were a direct link to what was the defining moment in our nation's history, something that led directly to where we stand today. And we knew nothing about them. What they saw, what they heard from their husbands, what they felt, what they endured.

I, for one, would have liked to meet them.

While researching this...

I looked to see if there were any surviving children of slaves from the Civil War time frame. I found this from 2014.

A 115 year old woman born in 1899 in Montrose, Georgia. Born to Samuel Kurtz and Amelia Jones. There was a Samuel Kurtz age 5 years living with his parents in the 1870 Census. So, the possibility exists that Jeralean Talley, whose grandfather Andrew Kurtz and was definitely a slave, could have been the daughter of Samuel, who might have been born in the final stages of the Civil War and thus a slave, was in fact a child of a slave. This is the only instance I could find of a possible child of slaves.

However, I found something else quite amazing: Sylvester Magee. Mr. Magee was purportedly born in 1841, was a veteran of the Civil War, and died in 1971 at the age of 130 years old! He was accepted for treatment in the Mississippi Veteran's Hospital, thus lending credence to his claims.

He must have been quite the character, marrying four times, outliving three of his wives and divorcing the fourth. He fathered seven children, the final child when he was 107 years old! A life insurance company recognized him; as well as two Presidents.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Mr Archer


Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on June 06, 2020:

An amazing story, actually all of them are amazing. I do wonder about the Confederate "defector" though. Many Confederate POWs of the Union army were forced into the Union army. It was either that or go to the prison in Illinois, where many of them died of deplorable conditions. My paternal great-grandfather was one of the captured Confederates conscripted by the Union army. So he served in both, but not by choice. He was just a kid at the time.

I think you should take advantage of the opportunity to go to college. You don't have to execute a degree plan. You can choose just the classes that interest you, like history. We have a law in Arkansas that anyone age 60 or older can attend a state university free of tuition and fees. I'd planned to take piano and art when I reached that age, but I was working and couldn't take day classes, and they weren't offered at night. I did, however, out of necessity take a Saturday class in IRS taxes. Now that I'm retired, I just don't have the exuberance that I had back then. I also have arthritis in my hands that would make both art and music difficult. I had a Russian history class with a man who had two degrees, but he was taking Russian and Soviet history because his parents were Russian immigrants. Go for it!

Marie Flint from Jacksonville, FL USA on June 06, 2020:

I guess I'm glad I wasn't a Civil War bride.

I remember, either from a television program or a history teacher, that, just before the war, congressmen were bring knives to the meetings and using them.

The tendency to "fight or flight" or take justice into our own hands are that part of human nature within us that we have to subdue and purge daily,

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and passions, Dan.

Mr Archer (author) from Missouri on June 05, 2020:

Glad you're all okay across the pond, Miz. Liz. Hooray for that too year old man! Good for him!!

Bill, I did a double take as well; damn that was amazing! And I am envious of your being a history teacher; these are the things I would love to be able to talk with a classroom of youngsters about something like this.

Cheyenne, They should have been a news story BEFORE they died.Especially in these times, something like this should be broadcast to give us a break from what is going on. As for them marrying a man so much older, I really believe the guaranteed income was a real attraction in the late 1920's to early 30's. Hard times, Depression, Wall Street crash and all, as they say "Any port in a storm" and an older man with cash income every month would have made them really attractive. And a 107 year old man having a kid, then divorcing his wife?! Holy Hell!!

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on June 05, 2020:

Mike, you'd think these Civil War offspring would make national news. As you say, these people were living historical relics! Can't the news media give us a human interest story or two inside all the strife and dissension that's blasting our airwaves?

Thank you for taking it upon yourself to honor these amazing folks and for bringing us a feel-good story.

I have to wonder at the women who married men two and three times their age just for the pension, though. I guess they figured their hubbies had one foot in the grave by then anyway. Well, except for Sylvester Magee. He fooled 'em all, didn't he?!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on June 05, 2020:

Somebody posted about this person on Facebook yesterday. I did a double-take, you know? I didn't think it was possible until I did the math. lol Pretty amazing, and this stuff IS why I became a history teacher.

Have a great weekend, buddy!

Liz Westwood from UK on June 04, 2020:

We're all ok here at the moment. Gradually coming out of lockdown, which isn't easy, as the government flounders around.

In the UK we have a 99 year old (now 100) who decided to walk 100 laps of his garden to aim to raise £1000 for health service employees. He raised millions, is now a Sir and is writing a book about his life. We have a lot to learn from some older people.

Mr Archer (author) from Missouri on June 04, 2020:

Thank you Sir!

MG Singh emge from Singapore on June 04, 2020:

This is an amazing article. loved reading every bit of it.

Mr Archer (author) from Missouri on June 04, 2020:

Thank you Liz. I cannot comprehend that we had someone like that living in our midst and knew nothing of them. Perhaps they wanted it that way, and if so I respect that; however, I also think of what they experienced, knew and were taught regarding a time long gone away. We need to speak with our elderly and listen to what they have to say, not shunt them aside as if they are not worth our time. I for one truly enjoy speaking with those who are of an advanced age and listening to them, their stories are amazing. Take care across the pond, okay Miz Liz?

Liz Westwood from UK on June 04, 2020:

A link with the past and some interesting historical research in this article. The oldest man in the UK died recently.

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