|Captain Charles E. Pearse, Company D 16th NYHA|
Well, we've finished viewing Ken Burns' Civil War documentary, but I'm still thinking about the Civil War. I've exhausted most of the online sources for my cousins George Hackett and William H. Lead and I have to say, finding information about the 16th New York Heavy Artillery Regiment was a royal pain. George wound up in Company H of the 16th, while his cousin William, with whom he joined the army in1864 when both were 18, found himself in company D. I'm sure the boys, who grew up together, planned on serving together and were disappointed when they found themselves assigned to different companies. Keeping track of their movements was problematic because a large group of the later enlistees in this regiment were "detached", that is they were loaned to other regiments.
From what I can gather, the summer of '64 found George outside Petersburg, Virginia during the long siege, while William was stationed at Fort Magruder also in Virginia. Ironically, it would be William, posted in the relative security of the fort, who would become ill with "congested lungs" and perish that fall, while George in the midst of the struggle survived.
While looking for any bit of information that might add to my understanding of William and George's experiences, I came across a pension application for William filed in 1880, sixteen years after his death?? William never married, but upon opening the link I found the claim was filed by his mother. I hadn't realized a parent could file such a claim, but it was not uncommon.
Called "mother's pensions", they could actually be filed by either parent or by a minor child. The really interesting element for genealogists is the pensions were granted to parents only if they could prove they were dependent upon their soldier's income. The necessary proof was a letter or letters from the soldier to his parent mentioning the money he sent home. Those letters remained with the soldier's case file, now residing at the National Archives in Washington.
William's mother filing at the time she did is also a clue that William's stepfather had probably recently passed away, and sure enough he does not appear in the 1880 census, though I couldn't find him in the mortality schedule either.
So, today's tip is -- check pension applications even if you're sure your ancestor was killed, and or unmarried. Someone may have filed for his pension.