The Project

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.

The Sources

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 Output

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.

 

 

Visualising the Personal Stories of the 1866 U.S. Army Cholera Outbreak

During my research I have repeatedly encountered the consequences of the 1866 Cholera epidemic that...

In Defence of Substitutes: The Story of Mary & James Ryan of Drogheda, Canada & Vermont

The men who entered the Union military as substitutes from 1863 onwards are among the...

From Land of Enslavement to Land of Freedom, and Back: The Story of an African American Pensioner in Canada

Among the most intriguing stories of widows and dependents in the Atlantic World are those...

Exploring the Stories of American Civil War Widows in Scandinavia

A number of previous posts have explored the impact of loss during the American Civil...

Podcast: Catherine Garvin & The Search For Her Disabled Son in 1860s America

The new Forgotten Irish Podcast is now live. It is a story that may be familiar to some...

The Kiely Family Story: From New York to Kilmacthomas Workhouse, and Back Again

When the American Civil War broke out in April 1861, Ireland’s Nation newspaper predicted that the lives...

From Dungarvan Workhouse to Samoan Grave: The Life & Letters of James Butler, United States Navy

James Butler was born in Kereen (Aglish), Co. Waterford in 1878. His family were poor–...

Visualising the Impact of the American Civil War on a Manx Family

As regular readers will be aware, I occasionally take the opportunity to explore some non-Irish...

The International Pension Crisis of 1893

I was very honoured recently to be asked to provide a guest post for the...

Mapping Britain’s American Civil War Widows & Dependent Parents: An Online Resource

This is the second instalment of the ongoing mapping project detailing every widow and dependent parent...

Mapping Mainland Europe’s American Civil War Widows & Dependent Parents: An Online Resource

Over recent months I have been working on a major new resource for those interested...

Mapping Scotland’s 19th Century American Military Pensioners

As part of my continuing work on Civil War pension files, I returned again to...

North Carolina Slave, Union Widow, Liberian Emigrant: The Journey of Nancy Askie

My interest in the remarkable information contained within the widows and dependent pension files extends...

"I was Forewarned by a Dream": 1860s Emigrant Letters between Kansas & Kerry

On 3rd September 1863 Private John Shea of the 1st Kansas Infantry, Company B, died...

'We Have No Interest…in the Claim": A Cork City Affidavit After A Death at Malvern Hill

The majority of posts on the site relate to information contained within the Widows and...

Grieving for an Emigrant Son: The Story of the Finnertys of Galway City

This week I will be continuing my county-specific examinations of the Irish experience of the...

'As Good A Chance to Escape As Any Other': A Cork Soldier's Aid to His Family in Ireland, 1864

Occasionally, I am asked why any Irish impacted by the American Civil War should be...

In Search of Con: The Remarkable Story of the Hunt for the 'Idiot' Boy Sold into Service

In late 1863, details of a sensational case began to emerge throughout the newspapers of...

'God Has Called Your Husband to the Other Shore': The Letters that turned Wives into Widows

Few historic documents intrude on the intimate emotional experiences of past people quite like the...

Aran Islanders Abroad: An Inisheer Family and the American Civil War

If you had met John Donohoe in early 1861, it would have meant you were...

'The Hard Industry of My Own Hands': Three American Civil War Widows in Ireland Struggle to Survive

On the face of things, Irishwomen Honora Cleary, Eleanor Hogg and Maria Sheppel had little in...

Visualising One Irishwoman’s Experience of the American Civil War Using StoryMap JS

As most of you are aware by now, I am constantly looking at new techniques...

Visualising the Impact of the American Civil War in Ireland with Palladio

I have been building a database of information relating to the 219 U.S. military pensioners...

'I Feel Very Lonely and Downhearted': Isolation, Idealism and Kindred in the Letters of an Irish Emigrant

Widow’s Pension Files are among the most remarkable records that survive relating to the American...

Telling the Personal Stories of 41 Civil War Pensioners on Storify

For a number of months I have been researching the personal stories of US military...

'Remember me to all the folks': The Last Letter to a Limavady Woman from her Husband

Widow’s Pension Files often contain extremely poignant information. As women sought to prove their connections...

'Should this Book Be Ever Found on My Dead Body': A POW's Fate and a Letter to Ireland

On the 27th January 1865 a Union prisoner of war was found dead in the...

The Long Arm of War: The Impact of the American Civil War On A Dublin City Family

We have a tendency to view the American Civil War as a conflict that impacted...

Dependent Father: How one Irish Brigade Soldier's Service Helped an Elderly Man in Rural Tipperary

Each month for much of the 1880s the octogenarian Timothy Durick travelled from his home...