I have at least three direct ancestors that served in the Civil War (all Union), and my wife has at least two that fought for the Union and one that fought for the Confederacy. A few weeks ago, I relayed the story of Isaac Edward Wentz, laid low by poor sanitation conditions in a Confederate POW facility and the runs. Today, I continue the tales of ancestral military woe with William J. Miller.
Willam J. Miller is my third great grandfather, on my paternal grandmother's maternal line. He was born 12 September 1826 in Franklin County, Pennsylvania and died 24 January 1901 in Blair County, Pennsylvania. He married Mary Jane Sneath on 10 July 1850 in Blair County.
In early March of 1865, he enrolled and mustered in to the Pennsylvania, B - 6 Cavalry, and in the few short months before the end of the war, he was transferred to Company F and the Pennsylvania Provisional Cavalry. He saw action in this time, as he suffered injuries that compromised both his health and his hearing. And in July 1865 after the end of the war, he went home, back to Blair County to be with his family, where he lived until January of 1901.
In November 1911, his widow filed for a Widow's Pension under the terms of the 1908 Act, and filed the following Declaration:
Here's a link to a copy of the document you can enlarge.
In December of that year, Mary Jane Miller received a reply
According to the Army, William was a deserter as of 14 July, 1865, and as such, neither he nor his spouse were eligible for a pension.
This prompted some back and forth between the Millers and the Pension's Division, including this letter from the Millers.
It does not appear anywhere in the record that the charge of desertion was ever removed or that Mary Jane ever received a pension.
I'm sure that there are countless other soldiers who suffered the same fate, who simply went home when they thought the war was over and never received a proper discharge and were then denied an invalid's or widow's pension. I sometimes wonder if there is any action I could take to clear the charge of desertion from William Miller's record, or if anyone other than me would even care. For what it's worth, I don't think of William as some sort of criminal or scoundrel, just a man broken by the war and, when hearing it was over, just wanted to go home.