John Mattson’s 1st Pension Rejection

After the shock of Rebecca’s letter from 1902 (May 29th blog), I was compelled to go to the back of the pension file to see how it all started with John C. Mattson’s first request. His original pension application is submitted on Feb 15, 1892 and is rejected on Jan 11, 1893 due to the fact that he had not served the full 90 days required to receive a pension.

Nothing like new information to make you go back and look at the data you have already. Context, context, context.

From John’s service record, it states that he enlisted in the Civil War on May 20, 1861.  He joined the 2nd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment as a Private in Company D. This was 2 weeks after the Confederates declared war on the Union.

According to the history of the regiment, (Bates, Samuel P., History of Pennsylvania Volunteers 1861-1865  prepared in compliance with the acts of the legislature. Web edition. Making America Books.) it was originally organized on April 21st under the command of General Robert Patterson, so John was a month late to the party.  Nothing much happened in that first month for the regiment, other than traveling to Maryland only to be sent back to York, Pennsylvania to wait for instructions.  It was during this time, that John was motivated to enlist.

On June 2nd the regiment was ordered to Chambersburg to help defend against the Confederates in the Shenandoah Valley. They left on June 16th to camp at Funkstown and later crossed the Potomac on June 23rd in effort to keep pressure on the enemy and keep them moving. In July, they arrive at Martinsburg, where some of the troops were sent to Bunker Hill pushing back the rebels again. It appears there were conflicts on strategy between the military leadership and President Lincoln. (See interesting article on this period: Ryan, Joseph. “What Happened June 1861.” American Civil War.com )

The first real battle occurs at Bull Run near Manassas on July 21st and resulted in a Confederate victory. The 2nd Pennsylvania Regiment was in Charlestown (near Harpers Ferry), 60 miles away.

From Charleston the 2nd Pennsylvania Regiment marched to Harpers Ferry on July 23rd.  They took to the train to Harrisburg, where they were mustered out on July 26th a week after their commitment ended.  Apparently, a missed opportunity to use the troops effectively.  So, poor John was there for all the “action”, but not the full term of the enlistment of 90 days.

But what is so important about 90 days? The Pension Law of 1890 required that the veteran be honorably discharged, have served 90 days and have a permanent physical disability.  John had served only 68 days.

John and his widow Rebecca did not take this first rejection for a final answer and continue to send in supporting documentation for their claim for many years to come.  More on their pursuit and pension politics next week.

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