My dear cousin Joel,
I write to you because you, who also experienced the hardships of service in the late Civil War, understand the punishment I endured on the march south through Georgia. That march has left me nearly an invalid.
I enlisted as a private at age 22 on Nov. 16, 1863. My enlistment form, to refresh your memory, says I was age 22, having been born March 3, 1841, in Hanover Township, with brown eyes, dark hair and dark complexion, standing 6 feet 2 1/2 inches tall, occupation farmer. I signed up at Alliance for a three-year term. I received a $300 bounty for enlisting.
I was a member of the 3rd Ohio Independent Battery of Light Artillery and fought under Gen. William T. Sherman during the battles for Atlanta. We marched south from Tennessee through northern Georgia in May 1864, following the Western and Atlantic Railroad, and encountered fierce resistance from the Confederate Army of Tennessee under Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, struggling through 120 miles of rugged wilderness terrain. That march ruined my feet and left leg, and now I’m applying for a disability pension. I submitted the following statement to the War Department on Jan. 24, 1889:
“Our battery was an independent battery and not attached to any particular regiment or brigade, and we never had a surgeon or physician but got medical treatment from whatever regiment was nearest to us. So as we never had a physician or surgeon while in the army I am unable to furnish evidence of such and ask that the evidence of comrades may be received in the stead thereof.” A comrade wrote this affidavit on my behalf:
“I was a member of 3rd Ohio Independent Battery and became acquainted with George F. Whitacre immediately after enlisting by reason of him belonging to the same battery. At that time he was a man of robust health. While in line of duty on the march from Clifton, Tennessee, to Big Shanty, Georgia, in May 1864 he contracted varicose veins of the left leg from hard marching and at the same time incurred injury to both feet, and has been afflicted with said disabilities ever since.” John Ohlendorf, East Liverpool, Jan. 10, 1889.
I went to my doctor for treatment about August 1865. He wrote this report to the Commissioner of Pensions: “I found him suffering with varicose veins of left leg and crushed toes of both feet; the condition of the right foot much worse than the other; almost totally disabling him from walking. I treated claimant some weeks; can not recollect at just the length of time; he appeared to be relieved some for a while. I next saw him about May or June 1870 I think, have no dates except circumstantial memory. Claimant’s toes by this time had become partially ancholosed so much that his toes were very stiff could only move them by force. He was so debilitated with them that it was difficult to do ordinary manual labor. I have been well acquainted with claimant ever since 1870, have seen him every month or two continuously and have seen his feet and leg often since 1870 to the present time; he has been at my office very frequently and I have had good opportunity to know his condition. The ancholosis still continues as also the varicose veins have become more numerous and larger. And they remain very painful. And it is with difficulty that he can walk only with great pain. He is now and has been totally disabled from manual labor of ordinary character for the last four or five years.”
As you know, Cousin Joel, I forsook the profession of farming after my return from the war and have been dealing in livestock. With great hope I watch the mailbox for a reply to my application. My children are well and all exhibit the Whitacre ornery streak.
With great affection, your cousin Freese.
I framed this fictitious letter around my great-great-grandfather’s pension application documents, of which I have copies. George Friece Whitacre, who went by “Freese,” mustered out of service on July 31, 1865, at Camp Cleveland. He got his pension, although I don’t know if he received disability pay or just the normal soldier’s pension. He died at age 83 on Dec. 31, 1924, and is buried in Woodsdale Cemetery near Winona.
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