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BULLET State and Federal Benefit Payments to and Land Grant Programs for U. S. Military Veterans, 1775-1966: a Chronology
The following chronology is intended as an aid for genealogists searching for more information about ancestors who served in the United States military during the period 1775-1966. It should help make the genealogist more aware of pension, bounty land, and other benefit programs for which an ancestor may have qualified, and for which records still exist in various state and federal repositories.
1636- Residents of Plymouth Colony vote to "maytayn competently by the colony during his life" any man "mamed and hurt" while participating in any military expedition authorized by the colony. (Note: This is apparently the earliest instance in the history of British North America of a governmental body promising a pension or other long-term benefit to men serving in its military forces.)

1775- Continental Congress authorizes payment of $10 and 100 acres of land for men enlisting for three year terms of service in the Continental Line.

1776- Half-pay for life is granted to Revolutionary War soldiers disabled while in the service. Pensions granted before April 1806 only go to men who had served in the Continental Lines or navies from their states, not to soldiers who had served only in state militias. Pensions granted before March 1818 go only to disabled men unable to make a living.

1776- Continental Congress authorizes payment of $20 and 100 acres of land for men enlisting for three year terms of service in the Continental Line.

1778- South Carolina approves a bounty land grant program for men who served in the South Carolina Line or the state navy. Awards begin in 1784.

1778- Half-pay for seven years after the conclusion of the Revolutionary War to all officers who remain in the service until war's end; an $80 one-time payment to be made to all enlisted men who remain in service until war's end.

1779- Continental Congress authorizes payment of $200 and 100 acres of land for men enlisting for three year terms of service in the Continental Line.

1779- Virginia legislature authorizes payment of $750 and 100 acres of land for men enlisting in the Virginia militia for three year terms of service.

1780- New Jersey legislature authorizes payment of $1,000 and 100 acres of land for men enlisting in the state militia for three year terms of service.

1780- Pennsylvania approves a bounty land grant program for its Revolutionary War veterans who serve until the cessation of hostilities. Awards range from 200 acres for a private to 2,000 acres for a major general. It is later discovered that some of the land set aside for this program actually belongs to the state of New York. Persons with Pennsylvania patents for these New York lands are allowed to resettle on Pennsylvania plots.

1780- Half-pay for seven years after the conclusion of the Revolutionary War is promised to all widows and orphans of officers who are killed while in the service.

1781- Maryland establishes a land reserve to be used for bounty land awards to Maryland Revolutionary War veterans (present-day Allegany and Garrett counties). A survey of the land into 50 acre plots is completed in 1788. Awards are 50 acres to enlisted men, and 200 acres to commissioned officers.

1781- New York approves a bounty land grant program for its Revolutionary War veterans. Reserved lands are in the Finger Lakes region (land is purchased from the Onondaga and Cayuga Indian Nations in 1788-1789). Grants range from 500 acres for a private to 5,500 acres for a major general.

1781- Virginia relinquishes its claim to lands northwest of the Ohio River. In exchange, it receives the right to issue bounty land warrants and patents to its Revolutionary War veterans in the "Virginia Military District of Ohio," which opens for settlement in

1784. It continues to issue bounty land warrants and patents there until 1803, when Ohio becomes a state.

1783- North Carolina approves a bounty land grant program for Revolutionary War veterans who served two years or more in the North Carolina Line (militia service does not qualify a man for this program). Privates get 640 acres, while officers get between 2,560 acres and 12,000 acres depending on last rank held. Warrants in this program are issued between 1783-1841. Land reserved for this program lies the present-day state of Tennessee. Land patents during the period 1783-1797 were issued by North Carolina, while patents for the period 1799-1841 were issued by the state of Tennessee.

1784- Georgia awards land to militia and Georgia Line veterans, and to persons who remained loyal to the Revolutionary cause after the British reestablished control in Georgia. Awards ranged between 230 acres for a private to 1955 acres for a militia brigadier general.

1788- Congress passes legislation allowing any soldier who served in the Continental Line from any state during the Revolutionary War to claim at least 100 acres of bounty land in the U.S. Military District of Ohio.

1789- Federal government assumes responsibility for all pensions to Revolutionary War veterans previously paid by the states.

1790- Revolutionary War veterans not then receiving pensions can apply directly to the federal government for such pensions, rather applying through their states.

1791- Connecticut legislature approves award of "Fire Lands" in what is now northeastern Ohio to Connecticut citizens who suffered damage to property when the British burned nine towns in that state. By law, the land grant would be recorded in the town where the person receiving an award had lost property.

1800- A fire in the War Department destroys almost all pension and bounty land files submitted to that date. Surviving are some pension claims submitted 1792-1795, when such claims required approval of Congress (a list of such claims can be found in the American State papers).

1801- Massachusetts awards bounty land grants of 200 acres to its veterans who had served as enlisted men in the Revolutionary War. The grants are awarded in what is now the state of Maine.

1806- Revolutionary War pensions are authorized for men who had served only in state militias.

1811- Congress passes legislation granting bounty land to men volunteering as enlisted men in regiments raised to fight the War of 1812. A private is entitled to 160 acres (a quarter-section). Officers will not be granted bounty land for War of 1812 service until 1850.

1813- Congress passes legislation granting pensions to soldiers disabled during the War of 1812. Officers will receive half-pay, while enlisted men will receive $5 per month.

1814- Some pension files are destroyed when the British burn buildings in Washington, D.C., during the War of 1812.

1814- Congress passes legislation granting 320 acres of bounty land to men who volunteer to serve in the war with the British as enlisted men until the cessation of hostilities.

1818- Pensions for life are authorized for men in need who had served in the Continental Line or in the U. S. Navy or Marines for nine months or until the end of the war, regardless of whether indigence was due to disability or not.

1820- Federal government requires certified inventories of income and assets from prospective and current pensioners. Those unable to prove need are denied aid or removed from the roll.

1823- Some men removed from the rolls in 1820 are able to be reinstated when eligibility rules are relaxed somewhat.

1828- Full pay for life is granted to Revolutionary War officers and enlisted men who remained in the Continental Line until the end of the war.

1832- Full pay for life is granted to officers or enlisted men who served in any Continental Line or state militia unit for two years or more. Those serving more than six months but less than two years receive pensions for life in lesser amounts. Widows and orphans of eligible Revolutionary War soldiers can receive any monetary payments due to a veteran which had not been paid before his death.

1832- Land entries end in the U.S. Military District of Ohio. Veterans having outstanding warrants for land in this district are issued scrip entitling them to land in the Military Districts of Indiana or Illinois.

1833- A Pension Office is established in the War Department.

1835- Maine offers 200 acres of bounty land to Revolutionary War veterans who had been enlisted men, had resided in the state of Massachusetts during the war, are now residents of Maine, and have not previously been awarded bounty land by the state of Massachusetts.

1838- Maine offers 600 acres of bounty land to Revolutionary War veterans who had been commissioned officers, had resided in the state of Massachusetts during the war, are now residents of Maine, and have not previously been awarded bounty land by the state of Massachusetts.

1836- Widows of Revolutionary War soldiers become eligible to receive the pension that would be due a veteran provided that he and she had married while he was in the service.

1838- Widows of Revolutionary War soldiers become eligible to receive for a term of five years a pension which would be due a veteran if they had married prior to January 1, 1794.

1846- Congress authorizes pensions for soldiers disabled in the war with Mexico.

1847- Congress passes legislation granting bounty land to men who volunteer to serve in any of the ten regiments raised to fight the Mexican-American War. Men serving one year or more are promised 160 acres; men serving less than one year are promised 40 acres.

1848- Widows of Revolutionary War soldiers are authorized to receive pensions for life if they married the veteran before January 2, 1800.

1849- The Pension Office of the War Department becomes the Pension Bureau of the Department of the Interior.

1850- Legislation passed by Congress beginning in this year grants bounty land to many military veterans who had not previously received a land grant. Privates get 160 acres, others more depending on rank. Men who had previously been issued a warrant for less than 160 acres are issued warrants which make up the difference.

1853- All restrictions regarding a widow's date of marriage to a Revolutionary War veteran are removed.

1861- Congress authorizes pensions for any Regular Army officer who had served for forty consecutive years (soldiers serving in the Confederate Army are ineligible to receive such pensions).

1861- Congress authorizes the payment of a $100 bounty to men volunteering to serve 3 years in volunteer regiments from the states.1862- Congress prohibits payment of federal pensions to any person who is engaging in the Rebellion or giving aid and comfort to rebel soldiers.

1862- Congress passes legislation granting pensions to any veteran disabled while serving in the Union Army or Navy during the rebellion.

1862- Congress passes the first Homestead Act. Land in selected areas is granted to persons who live on the land for five years, cultivate or otherwise improve at least ten acres, and construct a dwelling measuring at least 12' x 12' on the property.

Grants are for 160 acres. Veterans of the Union Army and Navy can deduct one year of residency for each year of service during the rebellion.

1864- Congress authorizes payment of bounties to men enlisting in volunteer regiments from the states. One year volunteers get $100; two year volunteers get $200; and three year volunteers get $300. Veterans who agree to reenlist for three years further service get $400 and one month's furlough (this benefit is first approved in 1863, but the enlistments of most of the men it effects expire in 1864).

1867- Alabama begins granting pensions to Confederate veterans who lost arms or legs or were blinded in the war.

1867- North Carolina begins granting pensions to Confederate veterans who lost arms or legs or were blinded in the war.

1869- Last Revolutionary War veteran dies.

1870- Georgia begins to grant pensions to Confederate veterans who lost arms and legs or were blinded in the war.

1871- Pensions granted for War of 1812 soldiers who had served for at least fourteen days, or had participated in any engagement with the enemy, provided that the soldier had not aided the Confederate States of America in any way.

1878- Widows of Revolutionary War soldiers are eligible to receive pensions for life if veteran had served more than fourteen days of active duty, or participated in at least one engagement with the enemy.

1879- Georgia begins granting pensions to Confederate veterans with disabilities other than missing limbs, or to their widows.

1885- Florida begins granting pensions to Confederate veterans.

1885- North Carolina begins granting pensions to all disabled and indigent Confederate veterans or widows not granted pensions in its earlier law (1867). 1886- Alabama begins granting pensions to widows of Confederate veterans.

1887- Restrictions on payments of federal military pensions to widows and dependent children of men who had served the Confederacy are lifted.

1887- South Carolina state law permits financially needy Confederate veterans and widows to apply for pensions regardless of whether disability is the result of a war injury.

1887- Pensions are granted to any veterans who had served in the Mexican-American War.

1888- Virginia begins granting pensions to Confederate veterans or their widows.

1888- Mississippi begins granting pensions to indigent Confederate veterans or their widows.

1889- Florida begins granting pensions to widows of Confederate soldiers.

1889- Texas begins granting pensions to indigent Confederate veterans and their widows.

1890- Regular Army enlisted men with thirty years service are allowed to retire with a government pension.

1890- Civil War pension law is changed to allow a Union Army or Navy veteran who is disabled for any reason to apply for a pension. Federal Pension Bureau now has 18 regional offices; a veteran or widow's pension application first goes to a regional office, then to the Washington office if preliminary processing shows that a pension should be granted.

1891- Arkansas begins granting pensions to indigent Confederate veterans.

1891- Alabama law is amended to grant pensions to indigent Confederate veterans or their widows.

1891- Tennessee begins granting pensions to indigent Confederate veterans.

1894- Georgia law expands pension coverage for Confederate veterans and their widows by defining old age and poverty as disabilities.

1898- Louisiana begins granting pensions to indigent Confederate veterans or their widows.

1902- Pensions are granted to veterans who had served in any Indian war 1817-1858.

1905- Tennessee begins granting pensions to widows of Confederate veterans.1911- Last pension claims based on Revolutionary War service are paid.

1911- Missouri begins granting pensions to indigent Confederate veterans only; none are granted to widows.

1912- Kentucky begins granting pensions to Confederate veterans and their widows.

1915- Arkansas begins granting pensions to widows and dependent mothers of Confederate veterans.

1915- Oklahoma begins granting pensions to Confederate veterans or their widows.

1919- South Carolina begins granting pensions to Confederate veterans and widows regardless of financial need.

1924- Congress approves a "Bonus Bill" for WWI veterans. They are to be paid $1 for each day in the service if they stayed in the U.S., $1.25 per day of service if they were stationed outside U.S. borders. Veterans owed $50 or less were paid immediately in cash; others were to be paid in 1945 with money put in a trust fund for that purpose. The advent of the depression led to demands for immediate payment of the bonus monies: veterans and their families gathered in Washington, D.C. in 1932 for that purpose were forcibly cleared from the Capital by troops under General Douglas MacArthur.

1930- Federal agencies having dealings with military veterans are merged into the newly created Veterans Administration.

1944- The "GI Bill" for WWII veterans is passed by Congress. It authorizes educational benefits for veterans of that conflict. This program remains in effect until 1956.

1946- Last pension claims based on War of 1812 service are paid.

1952- The "GI Bill" for Korean War veterans is passed by Congress. It authorizes educational benefits for veteransof that conflict. This program remains in effect until 1965.

1959- Pensions authorized by Congress for widows and dependent adult children of former Confederate soldiers.

1966- The "GI Bill" for Vietnam War veterans is passed by Congress. It authorizes educational benefits for veterans of that conflict. This program remains in effect until 1989.

Sources:

Bockstruck, Lloyd. Revolutionary War Land Grants: Awarded by State Governments. Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1996. (Central-HG 973.74)

Friedenberg, Daniel M. Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Land: the Plunder of Early America. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1992. (Central-ST 333.30973)

Kirkham, E. Kay. Some of the Military Records of America Before 1900: Their Use and Value in Genealogical and Historical Research. Washington, D.C.: n.p., 1963. (Central-HG 929.373)

Luebking, Sandra H. and Loretta D. Szucs. The Source: a Guidebook of American Genealogy. Salt Lake City, UT: Ancestry Publishing Co., 1997. (Central-HG 929.373)

Mayo, Robert. Army and Navy Pension Laws, and Bounty Land Laws of the United States Including Sundry Resolutions of Congress, From 1776 to 1852... Washington, D. C.: Printed by J. T. Towers, 1852. (Central-ST 355.115)

Oberly, James W. Sixty Million Acres: American Veterans and the Public Lands Before the Civil War. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University, 1990. (Central-ST 333.16)

Raff, George W. The War Claimant's Guide: a Manual of Laws, Regulations, Instructions, Forms, and Official Decisions, Relating to Pensions, Bounty, Pay, and Prize Money. Cincinnati, OH: R. Clark, 1866. (Central-ST 336.73)


Compiled by Thomas A. Pearson
Special Collections Department
St. Louis Public Library
July 2002

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