Letters from Widows to Lincoln Asking for Help (1861 and 1864)

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In many cases the Civil War caused as much hardship for those left on the home front as for the men who marched off to battle. A woman who was entirely dependent upon her husband's support had to survive on the army pay he could spare and whatever help she could muster from family and neighbors. The loss of a husband and father exacerbated already tenuous conditions at home for families. With so many men dead or permanently disabled as a result of military service, the Northern government passed the Pension Act of 1862. The war widowed approximately 180,000 women, leaving many wives and children dependent upon an $8 monthly allowance. By 1866, nearly $16 million had been disbursed to 300,000 veterans and 220,000 dependents in what became one of the nation's first national entitlement programs.

Paul S.Bartels,
Villanova University

See also Army, Union ; Civil War .

A "Widder Wumman" wants "Wurk"

Frederick, June 17, 1864 tu Abraham linkun President of the U. States at Washington—Deer Sur: I take mi pen in hand to aske yu about the munney cumming to me frum my husband Daniel Spielman who was a solger in the 2d Mariland Ridgment in company C who was kill in a fite with the rebs last fal near Boonsborrow M.D. I haint got no pay as was cummin toe him and none of his bounty munney and now Mr. President I am a pore widder wumman and have to munney and have borrered all what I lived on last winter and this summer toe—Now Mr. President I can soe and cook and wash and du enny kind of wurk but cant get none—see if you cant git me a plaice in one of your hospittles and I will goe rite to wurk—but I dont want to leve mi little gurl so I want to git a plaice what I can take her toe—I no yu du what is rite and yu will se tu me a pore widder wumman whose husband fote in your army your younion army Mr. President—So Mr. President I sign myself your servant to command

Catherine Spielman

A Plea for "Some Help"

Chester [Penn.] July 8th 1861

Mr. Linkin

I have called on you for some help I am a widir woman with sixth children I was doing pirty well but since this war bisness commence it has cost me a good bit of truble I am willing to do with less for the sake of are union to stand I want you please to help me a little as I stand badly in need of som help please to rite and lit me know direct your letter to

Mrs. Sarah H Vandegrift


I shall put it to a good use.

There is no record of a reply to this plea.

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Letters from Widows to Lincoln Asking for Help (1861 and 1864)

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