The Confederate Pension Systems in Texas, Georgia, and Virginia: The Programs and the People

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The United States government began paying pensions to disabled Union veterans before the Civil War ended in April 1865. By 1890 its pension programs included any Union veteran who had fought in the Civil War, regardless of his financial means, as well as surviving family members, including mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters. Union veterans did not hesitate to "wave the bloody shirt" in their attempts to liberalize pension laws. Pension programs for Confederate veterans were much slower to develop. Lacking any higher organization, each southern state assumed the responsibility of caring for disabled and/or indigent Confederate veterans and widows. Texas ... continued below

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Wilson, Mary L. December 2004.

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  • Wilson, Mary L.

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The United States government began paying pensions to disabled Union veterans before the Civil War ended in April 1865. By 1890 its pension programs included any Union veteran who had fought in the Civil War, regardless of his financial means, as well as surviving family members, including mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters. Union veterans did not hesitate to "wave the bloody shirt" in their attempts to liberalize pension laws. Pension programs for Confederate veterans were much slower to develop. Lacking any higher organization, each southern state assumed the responsibility of caring for disabled and/or indigent Confederate veterans and widows. Texas began paying Confederate pensions in 1899, Georgia in 1888 and Virginia in 1889. Unlike Texas, Georgia and Virginia provided artificial limbs for their veterans long before they started paying pensions. At the time of his enlistment in the 1860s, the typical future pensioner was twenty-five years of age, and fewer than half were married heads of households. Very few could be considered wealthy and most were employed in agriculture. The pensioners of Georgia, Texas, and Virginia were remarkably similar, although there were some differences in nativity and marital status. They were all elderly and needy by the time they asked for assistance from their governments. The Confederate pension programs emerged about the same time the Lost Cause began to gain popularity. This movement probably had more influence in Georgia and Virginia than in Texas. Texas tended more to look to the future rather than the past, and although Confederate veterans dominated its legislature for years, its pension program could not be called generous. The Civil War pension programs died out with the veterans and widows they were designed to care for and did not evolve directly into any other programs. Because they helped to remove the stigma of receiving government aid (state or federal), The pension programs served as precedents for future social programs.

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  • December 2004

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  • Feb. 15, 2008, 3:48 p.m.

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  • Jan. 16, 2014, 12:12 p.m.

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Wilson, Mary L. The Confederate Pension Systems in Texas, Georgia, and Virginia: The Programs and the People, dissertation, December 2004; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc4647/: accessed October 18, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .