Date of Graduation

Spring 2017

Degree

Master of Arts in History

Department

History

Committee Chair

William Piston

Keywords

back pay and bounties, arrears, general-law system/period, African-Americans, U.S. v. Benecke

Subject Categories

Legal | United States History

Abstract

The Civil War was the bloodiest war in American history, and the country felt its impact in many ways. One of those ways was in the expansion of the pension system. The scale of the war left thousands of wounded soldiers in need of care, and a government that recognized its duty to help. In this thesis, I examine the new pension laws that not only benefitted veterans, but also their dependents. Women and children were included within the laws of the ever changing and expanding pension system. This system was not just for white veterans, but also for African-American soldiers who served in the United States Colored Troops. I will further examine how even though lawmakers in Congress meant for the system to be colorblind, black veterans and their dependents faced a great number of additional obstacles when applying for their pensions – obstacles not faced by white veterans. Even if the veteran could afford to make an application, racism within the pension bureau and among the government-appointed doctors created an additional hurdle that could reject a claim, or delay it for months, even years. I conclude that Louis Benecke represented another kind of obstacle – a lawyer who was entrusted by his clients to help them, but instead took advantage of them. Benecke’s actions would result in a series of trials that would lead all the way to the Supreme Court – a court whose limited reading of the law favored Benecke. These obstacles were detrimental to veterans and further hindered their ability to create a new life after the war.

Copyright

© David Alan Whitby

Open Access

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