By: Jonesborough Genealogical Society
The following information pertaining to the pensions and the laws from the National Archives:
The first pension law passed after the Declaration of Independence was that of Aug 26, 1776. It provided for veterans who were disabled in the service of the United States during the Revolutionary War. The Act of Sept. 29, 1789 provided that “pensioners heretofore paid by States” should be paid by the United States from March 4, 1789, which provision was continued by the Act of July 16, 1790. The Act of June 7, 1784 authorized the Security of War to examine the evidence, and if satisfactory, to place the names on the pension rolls. This provision was repealed by Act of April 10, 1806 which required that the cases be reported to Congress for six years from the passage of the Act. This was extended for six years by the Act of April 25, 1812. The Secretary of War was again authorized to place the names on the pension rolls, without reference to Congress, by Act of March 3, 1819, and this authority was exercised by him until the establishment of the Department of the Interior in 1849.
The first act after the Revolutionary War for regulating the military establishment of the United States was passed April 30, 1790. Section 11 of this Act provided pensions for veterans wounded in public service, not necessarily during the war period. These invalid acts were so numerous that it is not expedient to list. However, prior to 1818 Congress passed no pension laws except for the relief of those veterans who were disabled in the service of the United States. War Department buildings were subjected to fire in November 1800, and again during the Battle of Blandenburg, Aug. 24, 1814. Prior to Aug. 24, 1814, original papers relating to pension claims were destroyed.
The Act of March 18, 1818 was the first general act passed granting pension for service only, this was for the benefit of those surviving veterans of the Revolutionary War who had rendered military or naval service for nine consecutive months in an organization on the Continental Establishment.
The Act of March 18, 1818 was causing too great a drain on the Treasury. On May 1, 1820 an Act was passed whereby all pensioners who were not in indigent circumstances were dropped from the Pension rolls.
The Act of June 7, 1832 provided for the final service benefiting veterans of the Revolutionary War. The eligibility requirement was that the aggregate length of war service be at least six months. This act included militia as well as Continental service. The “indigent circumstance” provision of the Act of May 1, 1820 was not included in the Acts of May 15, 1828 and July 7, 1832.
The Act of July 4, 1836 was the first to provide for widows of veterans of the Revolutionary War. This Act provided for those widows who had married the veteran prior to the close of his last Revolutionary War service.
The subsequent Revolutionary War widows’ pension acts were: Act of July 7, 1838 for widows married to a veteran prior to January 1, 1794; Act of March 3, 1843; Act of February 2, 1848; and Act of July 20, 1848 for widows who had married the veterans prior to January 1, 1800; the Act of February 3, 1853 provided for widows whose marriage took place after January 1, 1800; these pensions ran for a term of five years. Continued from time to time by acts of Congress, and continued for life by the Act of June 3, 1858.
Virginia Half-pay claims by Act of July 5, 1832. This Act covered claims granted by the State of Virginia granted to veterans of that war for a period of five years the full amount of pay per year which they had received during the war, or in lieu of such payment for a five year period granted them an option of receiving one-half of the amount of such annual payment for life. The State of Virginia defaulted in such payments and Congress, by special act, undertook to fulfill the obligation.
The Bounty Land Act of Sept. 16, 1776 granted land to veterans of the Revolutionary War who continued therein until the close of the war or were discharged by Congress, and to representatives of such veterans “as shall be slain by the enemy.”
Major General, 1100 acres; Brigadier General, 850 acres; Colonel, 500 acres; Lieutenant Colonel, 450 acres; Major 400 acres; Captain 300 acres; Lieutenant, 200 acres; Ensign, 150 acres; non commissioned officers and privates, 100 acres.
Claims have been given a file number with a letter preceding it to designate the class of the claimant (S for survivor and W for widow). Rejected claims of both veterans and widows were given the file number preceded by the letter R. The rejected claims provide much genealogical information.