The Widows & Dependents in the Atlantic World project is a long running research undertaking on the site. Utilising the American military pension files of widows and dependents that were being claimed by individuals (largely women) outside of the United States, it seeks to build on our understanding of the international dimensions of the American Civil War, particularly as they relate to the working-classes. These files can reveal unique detail about where these immigrants came from, but also have the capacity to inform our knowledge in a variety of diverse ways. These range from who these immigrants were and what influenced their individual emigration; assessing the impact Civil War deaths had in an international context; and uncovering the practical, economic and political framework behind claiming, accessing and maintaining pensions in foreign countries– to name but a few.
As regular readers will be aware, this site makes extensive use of the widows and dependent pension files. This is a unique resource, unparalleled in its capacity to reveal detailed social information about the the impact of the Civil War on immigrant families. These files, housed at the National Archives in Washington D.C., also have the heretofore untapped potential to tell us much about the international impact of the war, particularly for the poorest in society. The initial phase of the project takes as its base dataset a snapshot of worldwide American military pensioners in the early 1880s. In order to do so it draws on the individuals recorded in the List of Pensioners on the Roll published in 1883, a complete listing of American pensioners drawn up in 1882 at the behest of Congress.
The initial phase of this project will create a detailed visualisation of every widow and dependent pension that was being received in the world outside of the United States in the year 1883. Not just a dot on the map, each pension entry is being subjected to detailed follow-up research in an effort to determine the service details of the individual on whom the pension was based, including time and place of death. At the conclusion of this phase an interactive visualisation of the data will be made available through the site.
It is intended that the visualisation will have stand alone merit in demonstrating something of the international impact of the American Civil War. However, through the course of the project detailed analysis is also being undertaken on large numbers of pension files in order to add further depth to our understanding of what the war meant for such individuals, who often made their lives far from the United States. As it progresses, posts offering new information and insights will continue to be published on the blog; some of the main ones thus far have also be made accessible via this page (below). These posts are and will continue to be a mix of both microhistories and broader discussions inspired by the findings. In addition it is intended that the project will ultimately result in a print publication which will synthesise some of the major findings. I hope readers find it both of interest and of use. If you would like to support the work of this site and ongoing research projects such as these, you can do so via my Patreon site for as little as $1 a month at https://patreon.com/irshacw, or by making a one-off donation to the site’s running costs via PayPal by clicking here.