Saturday, September 15, 2012


Last year I posted transcriptions of the Civil War Pension File of my 2x
great grandfather Asa F Ellingwood. Asa had enlisted in the 5th Maine
Volunteer Regiment in June, 1861 and had been present at the First
Battle of Bull Run. He was injured in the Union retreat with a hernia
when he was knocked over by the horse of a Union officer and then
developed nephritis after falling ill from the alternating heat and rain.
He was discharged  with a Certificate of Disability on Dec 23 1861.

But not quite three years later he reenlisted by joining the Veterans
Reserve Corps as described in his Pension File:

"Asa Ellingwood. Reenlisted Sept 3" 1864
at West Lebanon N.H. in V.R.C. for 3 years
Muster Roll of Unassigned Det V.R.C.
(to which assigned) from Oct 31" 1864 to Apl
30" 1865 Present. Muster Roll of 243 Co 1" Batt
 V.R.C. (to  which transferred) June 26" 1865,
for May & June, 1865 Present same to Augt,
31" 1865. Muster Roll of Co A 9" V.R.C. (to which
transferred Sept 22" 1865) for Sept & Oct, 1865
Present. He was  mustered out on Det M.O.R.
Nov. 16 " 1865 as Private at Washington, D.C.
by reason of G.O. No 155 A.G.O. Oct .26" 1865.
Disability at date of enlistment "Right
Inguinal Hernia"

The Veterans Reserve Corps was organized in April 1863 to have injured
or wounded soldiers perform duties that would free up able bodied soldiers
for the front lines, The Reserves were divided into two battalions: the First
Battalion, made up of men who were able to bear arms and serve as pickets,
sentries, and prison guards, and the Second, made up of more seriously
injured men who were able to perform as cooks and other light duty.
Asa seems to be the exception to the rule, because even though he was in
the First Battalion, he worked as a cook.

I can think of two reasons why this might have happened: first, the nature of
his disability. I won't go into the details of what a Inguinal Hernia is because it's
not for the squeamish, and, frankly, I'm squeamish. But obviously it was
serious enough to keep him from the usual assignments for members of the
First Battalion V.R.C.. The second reason might be that he'd might have had
experience in civilian life cooking at a lumber camp in Maine or over in
New Hampshire.

As a cook, Asa would have been assigned to some permanent
installation since troops in the field cooked their own meals from their
field rations. I haven't as yet discovered where he might have been
stationed when he was marked as "Present" in the Muster Rolls listed in
the above image. Perhaps the location of where he was mustered out is
a clue, Washington, D.C. There were a large number of V.R.C. troops on
duty in the capital and they would after all have to be fed.  If that was the
case, Asa would have been there at the time of Lincoln's assassination and
the period after. He might have witnessed the execution of John Wilkes
Booth's co-conspirators in July of 1865 when members of the V.R.C. helped
with the hangings.

While I was learning all this I was brought back to the matter of the inquiry
into Asa's pension. He was given a medical discharge from his first period
in the Union Army with the 5th Maine. The procedure to enlist in the V.R.C.
required a medical examination to determine fitness for duty. So why the 
hearing and questioning when he applied for an adjustment to the amount
of his pension? All I can think of is that there were a greater number of men
applying for pension money and some might have been "working the system".
The War Department would have become a bit more thorough in making
sure the disability claims were real.

But Asa Ellingwood did his duty twice, and returned home to his wife Florilla
and to the daughter Clara Ellingwood, my great grandmother, who had been
born while he was away.

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