Pensions of the War of Revolution

When soldiers returned home in need of help because of their service, the states and the people took care of them. Help began in the communities around battlefields for those whose return home was obstructed.

Dr. Frederick Fisher in Salisbury cared for Leonard Hice for two years before the soldier wounded at Kings Mountain returned home. A detachment of SC militia built a barracks near Kings Mountain to shelter the wounded. Col. William Campbell appointed two escorts for each wounded soldier who wanted to go home. Dr. William MacLean cared for John Chittam (Chittim) for decades after his BKM wound. Joseph Dobson was treated on the battlefield by a British doctor. Then he went to the Lincoln County home of John Wilfong who sheltered him until he was able to ride and loaned him a horse.  Joseph McDowell, Charles McDowell, and probably other homes in Burke County took in wounded soldiers where Dr. Dobson made the rounds caring for them.

Washington County Virginia had two court sessions given largely to the casualties from the battle of Kings Mountain with individual attention scattered to given soldiers from time to time. In November 1780 attention was given to the families of the deceased. In April 1783 pensions were reviewed and extended for some wounded and the survivors of some killed.

The Commonwealth of Virginia provided pensions to wounded veterans. William Moor’s case was reviewed and the governor increased his pension due to his degree of disability. Ebbing Spring Presbyterian Church (the Anglican monopoly on churches ended) helped to Moor’s with their offerings.

In 1814, three decades after the end of the war, Congress passed an invalid Pension act for veterans of the War of Revolution. In 1832, 51 and ½ years after the Battle of Kings Mountain, Congress passed a service pension. In the next few years, the service pension was extended to provide pensions to widows and dependents.

The war department at some point established files for pensioners. They were numbered Snnnnn as they were set up in crude alphabetic order. More S numbers were added as other pensions were awarded. Rnnnn files were assigned tothose pension applications rejected. Many of those were mere secretarial lapses which were corrected. Some rejections were never reversed. A wnnnn weries of file numbers was set up for widows and dependents of revolutionary soldiers. Federal Pension Application file numbers (FPA) are used as supporting evidence for sworn facts about people, places, times, and happenings in the war.

Some veterans refused “charity” and did not file for pensions. Some years later with changes of time and circumstance had changes of mind and filed applications. There was a rush of appearances in cunty courts ofter the passage of each pension act. The magistrates took depositions. Clerks wrote some in the county journal and wrote a copy for the War Department. All verified, substantiated, corroborated, and certified locally, the War Department clerks then analyzed and ruled on each application.

There are signs that some would treat a splinter as a debilitating wound  while others who substantially recovered from significant injuries said never mind. There are signs that some counties would let every old codger of age sufficient to have been in the war get Washington money into their counties. Some whistleblowers testified about fraudulent pension. There is proof of lawyers paid to get pension awards. There is suspicion of paid witnesses for old widows. About the only twist I did not see was a veteran applying for a pension on oath that he died at Kings Mountain.

When two bucks go into battle, they charge headlong and smash. If neither is knocked out, they repeat. At some point, the bucks lock horns trying to break the other’s or to gouge eyes out. What do you call the blinded loser of the fight?

“No idea?”

When the winner of the buck fight gouged out the eyes and broke the legs of his foe, what do you call the loser?

“Still no idea?”

The War Department asked questions often irrelevant to the frontier militia. An illiterate teen age volunteer had little concept of who was doing what in the chaos of war. Fifty years later he had slmost “no eye deer.”

In the chaos of war, the facts known to many soldiers were wrong. Five decades later, memories were further degraded. Papers were scarce on the frontier and preserving them for years was impossible for the majority. The Samuel Newell three story house inherited by Joseph Black Newell with a renowned library burned. Only the family bible was saved. The Sevier County TN courthouse burned with only a surveyor book salvaged. Frontier cabins burned with little public notice. Water damage left commission and discharge papers unusable.

Will Graves and a host of volunteers have turned virtually undecipherable manuscripts and misfiled papers into a data base of readable pension information at If your county recorded pension declarations, it might hold a manuscript which can file some holes in the federal archives.