“The Insatiable Glutton,” a many-armed man wearing a Civil War-era forage cap
labeled “U.S. Pensioner,”
scooping coins out of an overflowing bowl labeled “U.S. Treasury.”
“The Insatiable Glutton” illustration was published on the cover of Puck magazine in December 1882, nearly two decades after the end of the Civil War. By the 1880s, support for the veteran was diminishing, as seen in this representation of a Union soldier grasping at government funds.
|"Tanner's Infallible Elixir of Life, for Pension-grabbers only"|
|Civil War Veterans, Amputees|
other types of labor that required "education or skill." Under the General Law, an army private received a maximum of $8 a month for being rated as "totally disabled." The system defined fractional rates of total disability for diseases or conditions; for instance, a war-related lost finger or small toe was compensated by a prescribed rating of 2/8 totally disabled, with a corresponding pension allotment of $2 per month. A war-related lost eye
or thumb, or a single hernia, resulted in a 4/8 rating of total disability with a corresponding award of $4 per month.
|Widows of Soldiers Receiving Their Pensions|
|New Hampshire Soldiers' Home|
Let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan—to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.
|Pension Building, Washington, D.C.|
In the early 1880s, less than 20 years after the war, 890,000 pension claims had been filed on behalf of those killed or wounded in the Civil War, though not all were approved. By the time the new Pension Building was completed, there were 324,968 Civil War pensioners on the rolls.
Pensions made up a large percentage—almost a third—of the federal budget in the 1880s and took up much of the business of the 49th Congress (1885-1887), a group that included many Union veterans. Forty percent of the legislation introduced in the House and 55% in the Senate consisted of special pension acts.
Despite increasing political support for veterans from 1880 to 1890, the gap continued to widen between applications granted for white soldiers and black soldiers. For example, 44 percent of claims regarding back pain were granted for white soldiers, compared to only 16 percent of black soldiers' claims.
“The generation of people who have come upon the stage of action since the war closed should understand that the blessings of peace and prosperity now enjoyed by the people of the United States are due to the patriotism and valor of the soldiers of the Union.”
peers; and their disabilities, large and small, had rendered them unable to compete fully with the rising generation. A generous pension system would help them recover some of that lost potential. And they believed it entirely appropriate that they shape the political system through lobbying and advocacy which, in turn, helped to change the nature of
politics in Gilded Age America and beyond.
Snider kept the pelt around for years. By July 1900, when she found herself needing to prove she’d been married to Van Liew, she had lost the original letter that contained the skin. In fact, it seems she may have lost all written correspondence from her husband, which is why she was lucky that he had sent her the mole. When the letter arrived during the war, she showed the unusual enclosure, and the accompanying missive addressed to “My Dear Wife,” to her friends. Perhaps because of the mole, four of them remembered the letter years later, and they were willing to write testimonials to the government to that effect.
Snider wrapped the mole skin in her explanatory note and sent it along. She got her pension.
Both the Federal government and Southern state governments continued to provide pensions for Civil War veterans and their widows well into the middle of the twentieth century. In all, billions of dollars were expended by both sides in an effort to "reward" the survivors of America's costliest war. Because of the high rates of expansion in both the Federal and Confederate systems, critics frequently accused pensioners and officials alike of corruption and fraud. Those pensioners most often labeled as frauds were widows, especially young women who had married veterans much older than themselves, supposed "cowards," and, in the Federal system, black veterans.