The Civil War & its cost –
Part 2 – Three Rough Years.
Once Peter B. McLean had been removed from the hospital tent near Yorktown, his long journey home had just begun. Affidavits and depositions found in his pension file and in his wife Susan’s application for a widow’s pension provide the details of the experience.
In a 29 Jan 1890 declaration, Peter B. wrote of his departure from Yorktown and return home. I have provided a transcript (with clarifications) below the image.
“Was taken from Hospital tent before [on the lines in front of] Yorktown about May 5th 1862 to Fort Monroe in wagon & boat to Baltimore & cars [train] enroute home while suffering with fever & became deranged & out of head and was put in Soldiers Home at Philadelphia. They sent for my wife. I remained in Philadelphia that one week & then taken to my father’s house 125 Grand St Brooklyn L.I. [Long Island] Dr. Hanford was sent for. I remained there to the fall about October then was removed to my own home 275 Graham Ave. Was confined to the house till May 1863 confined to house a whole year & gained strength enough to go out & do light work in fall of 1863 had a relapse & was sick again 1864 a whole year until Spring 1865. & have Rheumatism & diarrhea ever since.” The last line in the paragraph is about his ruptures (hernias in the groin) and that he is unable to do any manual labor.
Dr. William H. Hanford, mentioned above, was the McLean family physician. On 14 Mar 1890, he provided an affidavit stating that he had been Peter B.’s physician before the war and
knew him to be sound and able. “I did not see him again till about May 12th 1862. When he came home from seat of war suffering with typhoid Malaria and diarrhea. From May 12th 1862 to May 1863 I saw said Peter B McLean daily during which time he was confined to his house and a confirmed invalid, through the balance of the year 1863. I saw him about three times per week. At the end of 1863 a relapse set in which lasted a whole year. And it was at beginning of 1865 before Mr. McLean had so far recovered that he could again go out of doors. During the year 1865 his chronic diarrhea left him. And since that time 1865 Mr. McLean has been able to do some light work. Yet suffering from Malaria nearly every month since 1865 till the present time frequently developing into rheumatism till he has become a cripple and totally disabled.”
These two statements from the 1890s are fairly straightforward, but they don’t tell you what really happened on a personal level. The 1898 deposition of his widow and family members are a little less clinical. I’ll provide relevant pieces of those depositions in the next two posts and links at the end of the last post to complete transcripts.
While there were hospitals for the seriously ill and wounded, most soldiers were sent home to be cared for as soon as possible. Once discharged, their pay stopped and the burden of their care and support fell on the families. Susan McLean was fortunate that her father-in-law was able to support the family during this period. Pensions at the time were reserved for those who were maimed, hospitalized, or completely disabled. While Peter B. appears to fit the criteria as disabled, no pension or support was filed for prior to 1890.
In Part 3, I’ll cover the years between 1865 and 1892.