11 August 2010

Obituary vs. Civil War Pension File: Fact or Fiction

Early in my research of Samuel Stillman Glover, Jr. I found his obituary in the Manistee Daily Advocate newspaper.  The obituary was a very nice, front page article that filled about 3/4th's of a column.  It was through this article that I read about Samuel's civil war service.  I wondered how much was fact and how much was family stories that had been embellished.

I sent for Samuel's civil war pension file from National Archives and Record Administration to determine the fact and fiction of his war life.  Below are 5 excerpts from his obituary with fact or fiction supporting evidence.

Obituary:  "When the civil war broke out he was one of the first to leave his business and respond to his country's call.  He enlisted in the summer of '61 in Co. H of the 1st Regiment of Mich. Engineers' and Mechanics Volunteers, and was immediately ordered to the front."

Pension File: Samuel enlisted on 7 December 1861 in 1st Regiment, Engineers and Mechanics, Michigan, Company H.

Fact or Fiction:  Mostly fact with exception of enlistment time.

Obituary:  "Early in '62 he was wounded in his right knee while on his way from Shelbyville to Huntsville with secret dispatches."

Pension File:  Surgeon's Certificate states he suffered a gun shot wound to the right knee.  Captain Marcus Grant's statement explains his mission to carry dispatches from Shelbyville, Tennessee to Huntsville, Alabama.

Fact or Fiction:  Fact

Obituary:  "He was several miles from his destination when wounded (was shot through the knee) but pluckily clung to his horse until he reached the picket lines at Huntsville, when he was taken from his horse nearly unconscious and had just strength enough to say dispatches were in his shoes, that was the last he knew for weeks."

Pension File:  Captain Marcus Grant's statement of injury states, "at the time of the attack by the rebels upon Murfreesboro, Tenn on Sunday July 13th, 62 the exigency of the case demanding it he volunteered to carry dispatches from Shelbyville Tenn to Gen. Buell, Huntsville Alabama.  While half way between Shelbyville and Fayetteville at the midnight hour he was fired upon by Guerrillas wounded and narrowly escaped capture.  Arriving at the camp of the 35 Indiana about daylight Monday morning, the dispatches were then sent on to Huntsville by courier."  Other information in file states he was injured crossing Elk Ridge, 12 miles from Fayetteville, Tennessee.  In addition, his record shows months of hospitalization after this time.

Fact or Fiction:  Mostly fact, he did not reach Huntsville. 

Obituary:  "His family at home did not hear from him and had about given him up for dead when months after he suddenly arrived in Adrian (where his family resided at that time) discharged as incapacitated from further service."

Pension File:  Spent many months in hospital in Nashville, Tennessee with being examined on November 20, 1862 and diagnosed for discharge with partial anchylosis of the joint rendering him entirely unfit for service and permanently disabled for life.

Fact or Fiction:  Fact

Obituary:  "He was drawing a pension of $10.00 per month.  He applied several times for an increase.  Some years ago he applied on account of his kidney trouble, but was rejected.  The examining boards plea is that $10.00 per month was sufficient."

Pension File:  July 23, 1904 pension amount was listed as $10.  His file shows several requests, that were denied, for increases with doctor statements concerning his health, including his kidney trouble. 

Fact or Fiction:  Fact

For the most part his obituary was factual.  I think they could have 'bragged' a little more about his service.  I find Samuel to be a fascinating family history subject.  One I am thankful for was my great great grandfather.

Other Related Posts:

Ancestor Biography:  Samuel S. Stillman, Jr.

Tips and Tricks:  Ordering Military and Pension records from NARA

Summary of a Civil War Pension File:  Samuel S. Glover, Jr.


  1. Brenda, How cleaver to compare the Pension file information to the Obituary. Very nice observations.

  2. Barbara, Thank you. I appreciate you following and commenting on my blog.

  3. so very nice that a great obit was printed-- my 2g grandpa barely was mentioned and certainly nothing about the Civil War was mentioned. I found out through the pension he was wounded at Fair Oak, VA.

  4. I was very fortunate indeed. His obituary is the exception, usually all I find is a short couple of sentences. Aren't pension records great reading?

  5. What a great post! I have two obits that match up with two Civil War pension files, and I'm going to analyze them just like you did!

  6. Thank you, Heather. I enjoyed comparing the information in them, I hope you do too.