The Civil War & its cost –
Part 3 – 25 Hard Years 1865-1890.
In 1865, Peter B. had recovered sufficiently enough to return to work and to his own home. He once again appears in the Brooklyn city directories as a painter and grainer. His fourth child Peter was born this year, and many more followed in the coming years. On 21 Feb 1872, Peter B.’s father Peter Charles McLean died. He had spent the last three years in Peter B.’s home after a stroke left him paralyzed and unable to care for himself. Peter B. sold his property in Brooklyn and relocated to Roslyn in Queens County that same year. He remained there until 1893 when his physical and mental state deteriorated to the point that he had to be committed.
It is clear from the depositions of his doctor, his wife, associates, and neighbors that he was not the man he’d been before the illnesses acquired during the war ravaged him. As shown in the previous post, Dr. William H. Hanford stated that Peter B. continued to suffer from Malaria and had developed rheumatism. In almost every deposition provided by people who knew him both before and after the war, the deponents uniformly commented on the change in his appearance. A variety of words and phrases conveyed the picture: sallow, pale, gaunt, loss of flesh, tired, in pain, and suffering.
27 Apr 1898, former private George W. Bagwell stated, “The next time I saw him was in 1864, he then looked thin, delicate and was not at all well. … I did not again see him until about 1889 when I met him in Long Island City, L.I. … In appearance he looked about the same as when I saw him in 1864.” Former Captain William H. Leaycraft recalled seeing Peter B. a short time after his own discharge in 1863, but couldn’t recall the exact date. “He then looked pale and emaciated and in poor health.” Alfred Noon met Peter B. when he moved to Roslyn in 1872 and worked with him for almost 20 years. He provided the following:
“He had a very sallow complexion and some cough and was generally broken down.”
What also becomes clear is that Peter B. McLean was a man who never quit. He continued to work and provide for his family despite his infirmities and pain.
Susan W. McLean, 10 Feb 1898 –
“From the time he came home to his death – he was subject to rheumatism – and had frequent attacks – it was located in his lumbar area. I do not recall that he was confined to the house with it. Yes he complained a great deal of the pain in his limbs. As it was difficult for him to get about – would have difficulty in getting up from a sitting position. He was a man that would work as long as he could stand. … I am sure that he had the rheumatism when he came home. I think it was then located in his knees and shoulders. Know I rubbed his knees with liniment. To relieve him of the pain and from that time up to time he went to the Asylum he had it and was more or less disabled during that time. Would have occasional chills or creepy feelings as he called it from malaria. Never laid up more than a day or two at a time from this trouble. His complexion was sallow and when he would have the chill spells the white of his eyes would be yellow. He often said that his whole trouble was a result of malaria. Was very thin spare man and very nervous temperament.”
Ruth Reed 17 Mar 1898
“From discharge to the time he went to Roslyn (widow says that) he was extremely thin in flesh (unnaturally so) and was stiff in his knees and always taking medicine. I noticed the trouble in his knees a great many times in his walk and especially in his sitting down and getting up. This was a constant trouble. … Mr. McLean had the same stiffness in his knees, year by year, while he lived in Roslyn. I supposed it was rheumatism. My sister said that his bowels were weak and troublesome a good part of the time, and that his food did not digest well. He had a good appetite as I recollect. He never gained flesh.”
Mary E. McLean 19 Mar 1898
“While Mr. McLean was able to work, yet he almost constantly complained of the rheumatism and suffered at intervals from his discharge from the service up to his last sickness. And many times went to work when he was not able to.“
In his 24 May 1890 deposition, Daniel Harrison stated, “he had to be helped into and out of a wagon while going and returning from work.” The Bureau of Pensions examiner flagged this item as “disability worthy.”
Alfred Noon worked with Peter B. “During the period from 1872 to within a few years prior to his death he was constantly complaining of rheumatism and of a rupture. The rheumatism seemed to be in his legs, very stiff in his movements and frequently needed a cane.” In 1898, neighbor David Harrison stated, “And upon approach of changes in the weather he would suffer acute pain in shoulders and from hips down. In fact, he continually complained of rheumatism pain and was frequently laid up for days at a time – and as he grew older his attacks would become more frequent and severe and for eleven or twelve years prior to his death he became a physical wreck from the effects of his rheumatism.”
Several of the deponents commented that he’d resorted to patent medicines for the relief of his rheumatism, but continued to suffer.
A medical examination of Peter B. was conducted 18 Apr 1890 in Roslyn, New York as part of the pension application process. The doctors stated that he was missing his teeth and wore dentures due to gum disease, his spleen was slightly enlarged, and his heart sounded irregular. They believed the condition of the heart was probably due to a former carditis [inflammation of the heart]. The board stated that in their opinion, he was entitled to the following ratings: a 2/18 for disability cause by malarial fever results, and 6/18 for that caused by rheumatism and resulting heart disease, 8/18 Hernia, 4/18 varicose veins, 2/18 loss of teeth.
In looking closely at Malaria’s symptoms and signs, the presentation may include headache, fever, shivering, joint pain, vomiting, hemolytic anemia, jaundice, and respiratory distress. Typhoid fever brings with it an extremely high fever and frequent delirium. The delirium gives the fever a nickname of “nervous fever.” It also brings diarrhea and leaves the liver and spleen enlarged and leaves the victim emaciated and weak. One of its other complications is endocarditis. All of these things appear in Peter B.’s initial 1890 evaluation.
Peter B. McLean was granted a pension of $12.00 per month.