Prologue Magazine

Follow the Money

Tracking Revolutionary War Army Pension Payments

Winter 2008, Vol. 40, No. 4 | Genealogy Notes

By Claire Prechtel-Kluskens


Image of a Revolutionary War soldier from a March 1820 pension payment vouche

Image of a Revolutionary War soldier from a March 1820 pension payment voucher. (Records of the Accounting Officers of the Department of the Treasury, RG 217)

Pension files of Revolutionary War veterans and their widows are well known as excellent genealogical and historical research sources. Few researchers, however, venture beyond the pension file to follow the "money trail" of records documenting the actual pension payments.

"The Check's (not) in the Mail"

Twenty-first-century recipients of veterans' benefits can have payments deposited electronically into a bank account or receive checks by postal mail. That was not the case for Revolutionary War veterans and widows. Collecting pension money was an arduous process. It meant traveling long distances to appear in person before the U.S. Government agent who paid pensions. If the pensioner did not wish to personally travel—due to physical infirmity, inconvenience, or any reason—the pensioner could appoint an attorney-in-fact (an agent) to appear to collect on his or her behalf. That agent might have been a family member or a stranger who may have collected a fee.

The Research Process

Researching the records relating to pension payments is time consuming and involves understanding and using arcane, obscure, and unindexed records. It is not surprising, therefore, that no guide to this research has ever been published. This article attempts to fill this gap by going step-by-step through the research process using a veteran of the 15th Massachusetts Regiment, William McCullar, and his widow, Chloe, as a case study. For Revolutionary Army veterans, the research process primarily involves two record groups, Record Group (RG) 15, Records of the Veterans Administration, and RG 217, Records of the Accounting Officers of the Treasury.1

RG 15, Records of the Veterans Administration

The earliest pension and bounty-land awards for Revolutionary War service were granted by the Continental Congress and then by the Confederation Congress. After the ratification of the Constitution, the U.S. Congress enacted pension legislation. The War Department held the military service records necessary to determine an alleged veteran's eligibility for a pension or bounty land. The name of the War Department component that handled these matters changed over time, from Military Bounty Lands and Pension Branch (ca. 1810–1815), to Pension Bureau (1815–1833), to Office of Commissioner of Pensions (1833–1849). Pension matters were then transferred to the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Pensions (1849–1930). This article will refer to these units simply as the "pension office."

Pension File

The first essential step is to obtain a complete copy of the subject's file from National Archives Microfilm Publication M804, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files (2,670 rolls).2 Genealogists typically focus on the declarations for pension, affidavits, and correspondence in pension files for their personal and family informational value. To track pension payments, the emphasis needs to be on minute details. The researcher should make a chronological listing of every identifiable action taken on the file. This list should include dates of all correspondence, including the names of the persons who sent and received it. Identify the acts of Congress under which pension applications were made, the pension agencies that made the payments, pension file and certificate numbers, dates that pension certificates were issued, and even cryptic numbers whose meaning is not immediately obvious.

William McCullar made his original declaration for a pension based on the Act of March 18, 1818 (3 Stat. 410), on April 1, 1818, and subsequently made a new declaration on June 28, 1820. His pension was first paid by the Vermont pension agency at Burlington. He moved to Salem, Washington County, New York, in autumn 1819, then belatedly applied in 1826 to have his pension transferred to the New York (City) pension agency. A pension agency was established at Albany in 1831, and its records mention William even though he died early that year. Chloe's widow's pension, which she received based on legislation enacted on July 7, 1838 (5 Stat. 303), March 3, 1843 (5 Stat. 647), and June 17, 1844 (5 Stat. 680), was paid by the Cincinnati (Ohio) pension agency since she resided at Alexandria, Licking County, Ohio.

Identifying the acts of Congress under which a pension was granted and the date the pension certificate was issued will help the researcher locate pension payment vouchers in Record Group 217 series. Pensions were typically paid semiannually in arrears.

Index to Pension Agency Payment Books, 1805–1909

The Index to Pension Agency Payment Books, 1805–1909 (RG 15, NM-21, Series 1), consists of oversize index cards arranged by pension agency, then by act of Congress or type of service (such as Revolutionary). Each card names the pension agency, type of pension, and date span covered by each volume in the next series, the payment books.

Pension Agency Payment Books, 1805–1909

The Pension Agency Payment Books, 1805–1909 (RG 15, NM-21, Series 2), are 2,404 large leather-bound volumes. The Boston agency's records date as early as 1805, and a few others begin in the 1850s, which is early enough to include a few Revolutionary War widows. For each payment, these volumes include the pensioner's name, rank, monthly pension allowance, semiannual pension payment amount, and when and to whom it was paid. Remarks may include the pensioner's death date. Unfortunately, these volumes do not provide an additional source of pension payment data for William and Chloe since there are no volumes for Vermont, New York, or Ohio agencies predating their deaths.

Control Registers and Lists

Most of the RG 15 control registers and lists relate to veterans of later wars, but there is one that is pertinent to Revolutionary War veterans and widows. Lists of Veterans and Widows and Other Dependents of Veterans Pensioned Under Various Laws Enacted from 1818 to 1853 (RG 15, NM-21, Series 37), consist of 14 oversize bound volumes arranged by pension agency, then by act of Congress. McCuller is listed in volume 2, which contains the Vermont and Georgia agencies. Page 24 contains this information: certificate no. 12660; rank, private; paid $8 per month; admitted to pension rolls, July 20, 1819; pension commenced April 1, 1818; transferred to New York agency, July 12, 1826; last paid to March 4, 1826; and "Struck off Aug. 2, 1821." The "struck off" notation corresponds to the period of the general pension scandal that resulted in legislation requiring most pensioners to reapply and prove financial need.3 The date of McCuller's restoration to the pension roll is not given. Pension certificate numbers for widows who were paid under pension acts of 1836, 1838, and 1844 are also noted.

McCuller is also listed in volume 12 (New York agency), 1818–1832, page 61, with this information: certificate no. 12660; rank, private; paid $8 per month; admitted July 20, 1819; pension commenced April 1, 1818; date of death, February 3, 1832 [sic]; transferred from Vermont agency, July 12, 1826; last paid by the Vermont agency to March 4, 1826; act under which widow or children admitted, 1838 No. 1935. This last reference is to Chloe's pension certificate number granted pursuant to the Act of July 7, 1838 (5 Stat. 303) which gave a five-year pension to widows, commencing retroactively to March 4, 1836. This reference to his death in "1832" introduces a mystery to solve: Why do these War Department records—as well as Treasury records discussed later—indicate McCuller's year of death as 1832 when all other credible sources—a newspaper death notice, probate records, and his widow's affidavit in the pension file indicate he died in 1831? This presents an interesting discrepancy that we will attempt to trace to its origin.4

Widow Chloe McCuller is listed in volume 8, which contains Ohio and Massachusetts, under Cincinnati agency on page 114, a page that relates to pensions granted under the act of July 7, 1838, unless otherwise indicated. The following information is given: certificate no. 1935; husband William McCuller, private; $80 per annum; date of pension certificate, February 28, 1839. On page 129, Chloe is listed again on a page relating to pensions granted under the acts of March 3, 1843 and June 17, 1844. The following information is given: certificate no. 5518; husband William McCullen [sic], private; $80 per annum; date of pension certificate, May 21, 1844; date of commencement of pension, March 4, 1843. Learning these details will help the researcher track down the pertinent pension payment vouchers in Record Group 217, discussed below.

Pension Correspondence

There are many 19th-century correspondence series. The first pertinent series is Letters Sent, 1800–1866 (RG 15, NM-22, Series 1), which consists of 496 bound volumes. Although most correspondence sent by the War Department about a particular pensioner will be found in his pension file, additional correspondence may be found in this series. The letters are arranged chronologically. Some of the volumes contain an index indicating the name of the person to whom the letter was sent, which may be someone other than the pensioner discussed in the letter. Thus, if the researcher has made a note of the persons who wrote to the pension office on the pensioner's behalf, using these indexes will make research easier but does not guarantee that all pertinent letters will be found without a page-by-page search. On June 17, 1826, the pension office wrote to William McCuller to advise him that "Before your name can be transferd [sic] from the roll of revolutionary Pensioners of the Vermont agency to that of New York, you must make an affidavit agreeably to the enclosed blank form. The proof of your Identity is satisfactory."5 This letter is not in McCullar's pension file, but McCullar refers to it in his own pension file letter of July 3, 1826. The indexes for several volumes were consulted for the names of family members and several Vermonters who wrote to the pension office on behalf of others, but the pension office letters to those persons do not mention McCullar.6

RG 217, Records of the Accounting Officers of the Treasury

The records created and collected by the Treasury's accounting officers are rich in data and worth exploring even though identifying and searching through them requires much time and patience. The most accessible published guide to these records is William F. Sherman, comp., Records of the Accounting Officers of the Department of the Treasury, Inventory 14 (Revised) (Lovettsville, VA: Willow Bend Books, 1997).7 The officer involved in accounting for the payment of army pension claims was the Third Auditor of the Treasury, originally established as the "Office of the Additional Accountant for the War Department" by the act of April 29, 1816 (3 Stat. 322). The structure of the office varied over the years.

Pension Payment Ledgers

The logical starting point in Treasury records is National Archives Microfilm Publication T718, Ledgers of Payments, 1818–1872, to U.S. Pensioners Under Acts of 1818 Through 1858, from Records of the Office of the Third Auditor of the Treasury (23 rolls). This publication reproduces oversize ledger books that provide basic information about the amount, duration, and changes in a pensioner's payment. The information is arranged by act of Congress, then by pension agency, then in rough alphabetical order by the first letter of the pensioner's surname. For each pensioner, the following information is given: name, rank, monthly allowance, semiannual allowance, date of commencement of payments, a mark (or number) in a column for each month and year in which paid, and miscellaneous remarks such as date of death or transfer to another pension agency.

Revolutionary soldier pensioners from both the Vermont and New York agencies are listed in volume A on roll 1. Under the Vermont agency listing on page 37, William McCuller's pension is shown as $8 per month, $48 semiannually, commencing April 1, 1818. There is a "1" marked for each March and September semiannual payment from March 1820 to March 1826. There is a "3" marked for the September 1818, March 1819, and September 1819 payments. The meaning of the "3" is not immediately obvious. There is also a notation that his pension was transferred "to New York from 4 March 1826."

Turning to the New York agency, on page 152, McCuller's pension is again shown as $8 per month, $48 semiannually, and transferred "from Vt. from 4 March 1826." There is a "1" marked for each March and September payment from September 1826 through September 1830, a "4" marked for March 1826, and a "3" marked for each of March 1831 and September 1831. Again, the meaning of the "3" and "4" is not immediately obvious. There is also the notation that McCuller "Died 3 Feby 1832 [sic] pd 2d qtr 1831."

Chloe is listed in volume Q on roll 18 with other widow pensioners under the Acts of July 7, 1838, March 3, 1843, and June 17, 1844. On page 294 she is shown as Chloe McCuller, widow of William, $40 half yearly allowance, commencing March 4, 1836. There is a "1," "2," "3," or "4" marked for each semiannual payment from September 1836 through March 1840, September 1840, and September 1843 to September 1845; these numbers correspond to the quarter for which the payment was made. The notations "39," "40," "44," and "45"—for 1839, 1840, 1844, and 1845—that appear above certain semiannual installments indicate if the year of the payment was different from the one stated in the column heading. The September 1840 column has no mark, which indicates no payment was made for this semiannual payment even though she was entitled to it. Her date of death is not noted, which suggests it was not reported to the pension agent. It is likely she died between September 4, 1845, when she executed her "mark" on her pension payment voucher paperwork, and March 4, 1846, the date when she could collect her next semiannual payment. Chloe (and most other Revolutionary War widows) received no semiannual payments from September 1841 to March 1843 since there was no law authorizing them pensions.

A second, less complete set of Registers of Pension Payments, ca. 1811–1868 (RG 217, Inventory 14, Series 206), also exists. These 14 oversize volumes contain entries of payments made under the pension acts of 1816, 1818, 1832, 1838, 1843, 1844, 1848, and 1862, showing location of pension agency, soldier's name and rank or pensioner's name and relationship to soldier, pension rate, and dates of payment. Dates of death, final payments, and transfers of pensioners from the rolls of one agency to another are also sometimes shown. Some volumes contain information about payments made under more than one pension act; coverage for some pension acts is incomplete, such as the lists of pensioners paid under the 1818 act. Chloe McCuller was named on page 306 of volume 5 in a list of Ohio pensioners paid under the acts of 1843, 1844, and February 2, 1848, that indicated she had received payments in the quarters ending September 1843, March and September 1844, and March and September 1845. William McCullar could not be located in this set.

 index to selected final pension payment vouchers

The index to selected final pension payment vouchers provides the basic information aboutthe pensioner s last payment. (Records of the Accounting Officers of the Department of the Treasury, RG 217)

Index to Selected Final Payment Vouchers, 1818–1864

Researchers should next consult the Index to Selected Final Payment Vouchers, 1818–64 (RG 217 Inventory 14, Series 722A). This card index was created by Archives staff decades ago. The cards are arranged alphabetically by state, then by name of pensioner. For each pensioner, the following information is given: name, pension payment agency, date of pension act, date of payment, and date of death. Most cards have a rubber-stamped star on them, which indicates that a final payment voucher is included in the Selected Final Payment Vouchers. William McCuller's card indicates Albany, NY; 1818; 2 qr 1832, February 3, 1832 [sic]; and has no star.

Selected Final Payment Vouchers, 1818–1864

If an index card with a star is found, the researcher should next request the veteran's final payment voucher file from the Selected Final Pension Payment Vouchers, 1818–64 (RG 217, Inventory 14, Series 722). The records in this series were culled by Archives staff in the early 1960s from the voluminous Settled Accounts of Pension Agents, apparently to make servicing reference requests for these records easier.8 The records typically consist of the paperwork relating to the last pension payment made to the pensioner, or to the surviving widow, or to the pensioner's heirs. The widow or heirs could collect the amount owed to the pensioner upon death by submitting an affidavit identifying the pensioner, date of death, and relationship to the pensioner. Likewise a power of attorney would be signed and submitted if a third party personally visited the pension agent to collect the funds.

For many veterans without a widow, or for widow pensioners, the final payment voucher file includes an authoritative list of their surviving children. For example, the file for Dinah Chamberlain, widow of Wyatt Chamberlain, identifies six children—Calvin C. Chamberlain, Zadock B. Chamberlain, Wyatt Chamberlain, Israel Chamberlain, Lucy Whalen, and Charlotte Phelps—and includes their places of residence.9 Sometimes the widow or heirs did not collect the arrears if the amount was too small to warrant the trouble or expense involved, particularly if the pensioner's heirs lived far away from each other.

Vouchers for Delaware and Georgia have been microfilmed as M2079, Final Revolutionary War Pension Payment Vouchers: Delaware (1 roll), and M1746, Final Revolutionary War Pension Payment Vouchers: Georgia (6 rolls). Vouchers from several states have been abstracted by Alycon Trubey Pierce10 and Kathryn McPherson Gunning.11

Final pension payment vouchers are in specific Revolutionary War pension files in M804, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files (2,670 rolls) that have the statement "This Envelope Includes FINAL PAYMENT VOUCHER Received from GAO" printed on the file jacket (envelope).

Quarterly Abstracts of Pensions Paid by Pension Agencies, July 1818–September 1907

The researcher will next consult the Quarterly Abstracts of Pensions Paid by Pension Agencies, July 1818–September 1907 (RG 217, Inventory 14, Series 723), if the appropriate pension agency is in this series. Quarterly abstracts for selected pension agencies were removed from the Settled Accounts of Pension Agents, described below, and then bound into volumes.12 Pension agencies included are Albany, New York, 1831–1832, 1835–1864; Boston, Massachusetts, 1905; Concord, New Hampshire, 1865 and 1885; Hartford, Connecticut, 1824–1850; Indianapolis, Indiana, 1892 and 1907; Knoxville, Tennessee, 1865–1884; Middletown, Connecticut, 1818–1823; Nashville, Tennessee, 1877–1882; New Orleans, Louisiana, 1879–1882; New York, New York, 1819–1830, 1832–1835, and 1862–1864; Norfolk, Virginia, 1877–1882; Raleigh, North Carolina, 1877–1882; and Wheeling, West Virginia, 1877–1882. The abstracts are arranged by agency, then quarter year, then by type of pension, then roughly alphabetically by the pensioner's surname. The voucher number and amount of payment are indicated. Locating the voucher numbers in these abstracts makes finding the related voucher in the Settled Accounts less time consuming.

Quarterly abstracts of pensions paid by pension agencies

Quarterly abstracts of pensions paid by pension agencies provide the pension payment voucher (PPV) number needed to locate the PPV in the related series of Settled Accounts of Pension Agents. (Records of the Accounting Officers of the Department of the Treasury, RG 217)

McCullar's pension was automatically transferred to the Albany agency upon its creation in 1831. His name is listed in the third quarter 1831 abstract (September 1831) with this information: William McCuller, $8 per month, [to be] paid from September 4, 1830, to September 4, 1831, $96 for 12 months, voucher 825. The "$96" is written in red ink.13 McCullar is not listed in the fourth quarter 1831 (December 1831) or first quarter (March 1832) quarterly abstracts, but he is again listed in the second quarter 1832 (June 1832) abstract as follows: William McCuller (decd.), $8 month, [to be] paid from September 4, 1831 to February 3, 1832, $40 for 5 months, voucher 351. The "$40" is written in red ink.14 There are a few other "red ink" dollar amounts throughout the abstracts; the most reasonable conclusion is that these amounts were not claimed and not paid, even though it is odd for a voucher number to be assigned to a claim that was not paid. The related vouchers, 825 and 351, could not be found in the Settled Accounts discussed below. Someone apparently reported McCullar's death to the pension agent, but the year was incorrectly recorded.

Settled Accounts of Pension Agents, Jan. 1813–June 1899

The Settled Accounts of Pension Agents, January 1813–June 1899 (RG 217, Inventory 14, Series 721), comprise 5,000 feet of records. These are more commonly known as "pension payment vouchers" (PPV) and are arranged by pension agency, then by quarter-year, then by type of pension (such as invalid, Revolutionary, widow, or by act of Congress), then in voucher number order, which, happily, also means they are in rough alphabetical order by the first letter of the surname. If voucher numbers were obtained from the bound Quarterly Abstracts, then it is a relatively simple matter to identify the desired voucher. For pension agencies not included in the Quarterly Abstracts, the unbound abstract, if extant, is usually the first trifolded record for that quarter. If no abstract is available, then the researcher will need to examine the outside of each trifolded PPV until the correct pensioner is located. Repeat the process until each quarter's payment is found. The researcher must understand, however, that not all payments were made in the first (March) and third (September) quarters of the year. If the pensioner was "slow" in submitting paperwork, the payment might have been made in the second or fourth quarter of that year, or even in the next year. Sometimes two or more semiannual payments were paid at one time with just one related voucher.

These records are delicate and require careful handling. They are trifolded with the pensioner's name, amount of pension, quarter or dates for which paid, and voucher number written at the top on the outside. If the pensioner appeared in person, the PPV consists of the pensioner's oath of identity and receipt of payment. If the pensioner sent an agent to collect his money, the PPV consists of the pensioner's oath of identity, appointment of attorney-in-fact (his agent), and acknowledgment of receipt of payment by the attorney-in-fact. The witness(es) to the appointment of agent may be a public official or a relative.

The Vermont agency was in Burlington, about 78 miles from McCullar's home in Ira, Vermont, and 96 miles from his subsequent home at Salem, Washington County, New York. He traveled three times to Burlington and five times appointed a non-relative agent to collect on his behalf. Because the New York City agency was more than 200 miles from McCullar's home in Salem, he never traveled to there but relied upon relatives or friends of his son-in-law, Isaac Bininger.15 In the accompanying table, "Date Paid" is the date that McCullar or the attorney-in-fact collected money from the pension agent. The date of witnessing the oath of identity and the power of attorney was several days or weeks before the "Date Paid," and it is omitted from this table due to lack of space.

pension payment voucher dated September 6, 1819

In a pension payment voucher dated September 6, 1819, pensioner William McCullar authorized James E. Cheney to collect pension monies owed him retroactively to April 1818. (Records of the Accounting Officers of the Department of the Treasury, RG 217)

Analysis of the pension payment vouchers shows that McCullar relied upon his own business contacts during the time he received his pension from the Vermont agency. After it was transferred to the New York agency, he had to rely upon his son-in-law's relatives and business contacts to collect his pension. Two Biningers and another son-in-law, James Hayford, witnessed the execution of powers of attorney. Chloe McCuller's execution by mark of her oath of identity and powers of attorney were frequently witnessed by relatives in addition to a justice of the peace. These relatives included her daughter Nancy Blake; son-in-law William Ward Blake; and granddaughter Mary Jane Blake. After another granddaughter, Roxana, married James W. Ward of Cincinnati, he was appointed Chloe's agent to collect her pension. In executing her second quarter 1839 PPV paperwork on April 18, 1839, Chloe noted that she had resided in Alexandria, Licking County, Ohio, for two years, and that she had previously lived in Columbus, Franklin County, Ohio. This useful tidbit helps trace her movements in an era when few women left records.

Pension Reports, January 1818–December 1869

The Pension Reports, January 1818–December 1869 (RG 217, Inventory 14, Series 591), were sent to the Third Auditor by the Pension Office showing names of persons added or dropped from the pension rolls. Also included are some pensioners' dates of death or changes in rates. Copies of similar reports from pension agents were sometimes included. Portions of this series are arranged by state, while other portions are arranged chronologically, then by pension office. The series is not comprehensive; not all agencies or all years are included. McCuller is mentioned in one 1819 Vermont report and in an 1832 New York report.16

Pension Correspondence

Just as the War Department has many correspondence series, so did Treasury officials. Correspondence relating to Revolutionary pensioners is found in Miscellaneous Letters Sent by the Pension Division, November 1838–April 1887 (RG 217, Inventory 14, Series 571), which consists of 60 volumes of chronologically arranged copies of letters to pensioners, their heirs or legal representatives, and to pension agents. Each volume has an index that lists both the name of the pensioner and the name of the letter writer. Many of the letters relate to payments made under the act of April 6, 1838, discussed below. Additional correspondence is found in a series called Claim Files Relating to Service in the Revolutionary War, November 1775–June 1851 (RG 217, Inventory 14, Series 636), which relate to military service during the American Revolution and the early years of the republic. The files are arranged alphabetically by the soldier's surname and consist of correspondence, affidavits, and other documents submitted either by the veteran or his heirs. Letters Received Relating to Pensions, June 4, 1819–November 5, 1842 (RG 217, Inventory 14, Series 202), is a single volume that has letters of an administrative nature from the War Department's Pension Office. Specific pensioners are rarely mentioned.

Records Created as a Result of Special Acts of Congress

Act of May 15, 1828

The act of Congress of May 15, 1828 (4 Stat. 269), "An Act for the relief of certain surviving officers and soldiers of the army of the revolution," set in motion the creation of several record series relating to these claims. This act pertained to American officers who had been entitled to half pay under the resolve of October 21, 1780, and noncommissioned officers, musicians, and privates who served until termination of the war who had become entitled to the $80 reward under a resolve of Congress passed May 15, 1788. The 1828 act granted full pay by rank, not to exceed the pay of a captain, to eligible veterans beginning March 3, 1826, and continuing to the end of the veteran's life. In Record Group 15, there are several correspondence series.17 In Record Group 217, pertinent records include registers and abstracts of these claims, auditor's reports, and payment vouchers.18

Act of July 5, 1832

The act of Congress of July 5, 1832 (4 Stat. 529), provided for the payment of claims based on Revolutionary War service made against Virginia by officers of the Virginia line and the Virginia navy. Pension files have been published in National Archives Microfilm Publication M910, Virginia Half Pay and Other Related Revolutionary War Pension Application Files (18 rolls). In addition, Record Group 15 includes a register of claims received and several correspondence series.19

Act of April 6, 1838

The Settled Accounts for Payment of Accrued Pensions (Final Payments), August 1838–September 1865 (RG 217, Inventory 14, Series 724), relate to pensions claimed under the act of Congress of April 6, 1838 (5 Stat. 225), that allowed heirs of pensioners to claim—directly from the Treasury Department—the amount of pension accrued to a pensioner between the date of last payment and the date of death. These records frequently show the pensioner's date and place of death and names of heirs and include supporting documents, such as proof of identity of claimant, pension certificates, power of attorney, and related correspondence. The records are arranged by year of payment [updated Jan 25 2010], then by account number. An alphabetical name index was published as Craig R. Scott, The "Lost" Pensions: Settled Accounts of the Act of 6 April 1838 (Lovettsville, VA: Willow Bend Books, 1996).

Other Wars and Records

Researchers may follow a similar process in researching pension payments to veterans and widows of other wars or the Regular Army and Navy since there are many other record series relating to 19th-century pension payment claims that postdate claims of Revolutionary War veterans and widows. Researchers would follow the process outlined in this article, starting with the basic RG 15 and RG 217 series described above, and then use National Archives finding aids to identify other pertinent record series. In addition, there are pension-related records in other record groups.

The Records of the Bureau of Accounts (RG 39) contain additional payment records, including the ledger of accounts of the pension agent, depository at Louisville, Kentucky, 1860–1864; register of pension moneys deposited with the assistant treasurer at New York, New York, 1891–1902; journal of Navy pension fund accounts, 1798–1830; register of investments for the Navy pension fund, 1807–1829; and record book of Army pensioners and of activities of the Santa Fe Gazette Joint Stock Company, 1858–1869.

The Records of the Office of the Secretary of the Interior (RG 48) contain many records relating to pensions, including letters sent, 1849–1883 and 1896–1908, with indexes, 1849–1869 and 1896–1907; registers of letters sent concerning Navy pensions and hospitals, 1832–1833; letters received, 1849–1883 and 1896–1907, with registers, 1855–1886, 1896–1907, and indexes, 1881–1883 and 1896–1907; miscellaneous letters received, 1849–1880; miscellaneous letters received, reports, and other records concerning bounty-land claims, 1842–1879; pension appeal docket books, 1867–1920, with indexes, 1881–1911; registers of pension appeals, 1849–1883; digest of decisions of the secretary of the interior in pension appeal cases, 1852–1875; and reports of the commissioner of pensions concerning appeals, 1849–1881.

The Records of the United States Senate (RG 46) and the Records of the United States House of Representatives (RG 233) include petitions, correspondence, legislation, and other records relating to veterans' and widows' claims. Many veterans and widows who were unable to secure an increase in pension from the Pension Office sought the assistance of their senator or representative to obtain an increase in pension through legislative action in the form of a private bill.20

The Records of the Bureau of Land Management (RG 49), which include its predecessor, the General Land Office, contain records relating to the exchange of the bounty land warrant (BLW) issued by the Pension Office for title to property in the federal domain. Many veterans who received BLWs sold them to speculators instead of taking the land, but researchers who follow the paper trail will discover "the rest of the story"—to whom the veteran sold the warrant and the location of the land that person received as a result.21

Publications of the U.S. Government (RG 287) includes lists of pensioners that were occasionally published by the U.S. Government. Some of these have been commercially republished.22 McCuller was included in the 1835 list along with the incorrectly reported February 3, 1832, death date.23

Claire Prectel-Kluskens is a projects archivist in the Research Support Branch of the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, D.C. She specializes in records of high genealogical value and writes and lectures frequently.

Table of Pension Payments Made to Revolutionary War Pensioner William McCullar and Widow Chloe McCullar


1. Researching Navy veterans involves a similar process and would also include using naval record groups.

The two unpublished National Archives finding aids that are useful for these records are Preliminary Inventory of the Financial Records and Pension Control Registers of the Bureau of Pensions and the Veterans Administration, 1805–1933 (NM-21), and Preliminary Inventory of Bureau of Pensions Correspondence and Pension and Bounty-Land Case Files Relating to Military Service Performed Between 1775 and 1861 (NM-22), both compiled by Evelyn Wade in 1964.

McCullar clearly signed and spelled his name as "McCullar" but most records written by other people, including those described in this article, spelled it "McCuller."

2. Researchers should avoid using its sister publication, M805, Selected Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files (898 rolls), since it has—as its name hints—only selected records from each file. Researchers relying on the "short" file in M805 may miss clues contained in the full file in M804. For more information, see Claire Prechtel-Kluskens, "Revolutionary War Pension Files—An Introduction," NGS NewsMagazine 32 (April–June 2006): 34–37.

3. For more information, see John P. Resch, Suffering Soldiers: Revolutionary War Veterans, Moral Sentiment, and Political Culture in the Early Republic (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1999).

4. "Deaths," Vermont Chronicle, February 18, 1831.

His estate was settled in Rutland County, VT, by July 1831. See Margaret R. Jenks, et al., Rutland County, Vermont, Probate Extracts, Rutland District, Part 3, Volumes 13–1, 1827–1828, pp. 268, 270 (2007), citing vol. 14, pp. 159–160, 218, FHL Film No. 28786.

Declaration for Pension by Chloe McCuller, Jan. 22, 1839; William McCullar/McCuller (widow Chloe) Pension File W5363; Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files; National Archives Microfilm Publication M804; roll 1674.

5. Letter from Pension Office, War Department, to William McCuller, Salem, NY, June 17, 1826, [Pension Office] Letters Sent, Vol. 18 (Mar. 27, 1826–Oct. 31, 1826), p. 263; NM-22, Series 1; RG 15.

6. Specifically, Vols. 8–11 (Nov. 15, 1819–Feb. 15, 1822), 18 (Mar. 27, 1826–Oct. 31, 1826), and 26–27 (aka Vols. 5–6) (Aug. 13, 1830–June 7, 1832).

7. An earlier version (which omitted several hundred "undescribed" series and lacked an index) was published by the National Archives as William F. Sherman, comp., Inventory of the Records of the Accounting Officers of the Department of the Treasury, Inventory 14 (microfiche, 1987).

8. The basic archival principle of retaining original order frowns upon rearranging records or culling records from series to create another, since doing so damages the completeness of the records as they were originally created. Therefore it is difficult to understand the rationale that resulted in this artificial series. The "early 1960s" date for the creation of this series is based upon the charge-out card for Henry Louck, Act of 1818, 4th Quarter, New York Agency, RG 721, which indicates it was removed to the "GAO small collection" on 7-29-63.

9. Pension Payment Voucher File for Dinah Chamberlain (widow of Wyatt Chamberlain), New York; Series 722, Final Pension Payment Vouchers; RG 217.

10. Alycon Trubey Pierce, Selected Final Pension Payment Vouchers, 1818–1864, Alabama: Decatur, Huntsville, Mobile, Tuscaloosa (Lovettsville, VA: Willow Bend Books, 1997); Selected Final Pension Payment Vouchers, 1818–1864, District of Columbia (Leesburg, VA: Willow Bend Books, 1998); Selected Final Pension Payment Vouchers, 1818–1864, Louisiana: New Orleans (Athens, GA: Iberian Publishing, 1996); Selected Final Pension Payment Vouchers, 1818–1864, Maryland: Baltimore (Lovettsville, VA: Willow Bend Books, 1997); Selected Final Pension Payment Vouchers, 1818–1864, Mississippi: Natchez and Jackson (Athens, GA: Iberian Publishing Co., 1997); Selected Final Pension Payment Vouchers, 1818–1864, New Jersey: Trenton, 2 vols. (Westminster, MD: Willow Bend Books, 2000); and Selected Final Pension Payment Vouchers, 1818–1864, South Carolina: Charleston (Athens, GA: Iberian Publishing Co., 1996). She also wrote about these records in "Adding 'Final Pension Payment Voucher' Records to the Researcher's Toolbox," NGS NewsMagazine 34 (April–June 2008): 42–47.

11. Kathryn McPherson Gunning, Selected Final Pension Payment Vouchers, 1818–1864, Pennsylvania: Philadelphia & Pittsburgh (Westminster, MD: Willow Bend Books, 2003) and Selected Final Pension Payment Vouchers, 1818–1864, Rhode Island (Westminster, MD: Willow Bend Books, 1999).

12. It appears that some agencies' abstracts were culled and bound by Treasury officials. Some agencies' abstracts were bound by the National Archives; it is unclear whether Archives staff culled them from the Settled Accounts.

13. Entry for William McCuller, p. 20, of "Abstract of payments to Revolutionary Pensioners, by the President of the Mechanics & Farmer's Bank in the City of Albany, agent for paying pensions, in Albany, State of New York, for the Quarter ending 30th Sept. 1831," Albany Vol. 1831–32, Series 723, RG 217.

14. Entry for William McCuller, p. 8, of "Abstract of payments to Revolutionary pensioners, by Benjamin Knower, President &c and acting agent for Paying pensions in the City of Albany, State of New York, for the Quarter ending June 30, 1832," ibid.

15. Chrisfield Johnson, History of Washington County, New York, p. 132B (Philadelphia, PA: Everts & Ensign, 1878).

16. "Vermont. Heman Allen, Esqre, agent for paying US Pensioners at Burlington. Names of Pensioners under the Law of the 18 of March 1818, which have been added to the roll of this agency, between the 4th of March and the 4th of September 1819," box 7, Series 591, Pension Reports, Jan. 1818–Dec. 1869, RG 217.

"New York. Statement of the Alterations which have taken place on the Rolls of this Agency (including the late Albany agency) since the 4th of March 1832," New York folder, box 9, Series 591, Pension Reports, Jan. 1818–Dec. 1869, RG 217. His "3 Feby 1832" death date is noted on page 6 (unpaginated).

17. RG 15, NM-22, Series 2, Letters Sent, June 1828–January 1836 (22 vols.); Series 3, Letters Received, May 1828–Jan. 1836 (18 vols.); Series 4, Letters Received from State Officials, June 1828–March 1834 (1 vol.); Series 5, Letters Received by the Secretary of the Treasury from the War Department Pension Office, July 14, 1828–Sept. 19, 1834 (1 vol.); and Series 6, Letters Received and Miscellaneous Papers Relating to the Prosecution of Pension Frauds in U.S. District Courts in Virginia and Ohio. (2 vols.).

18. RG 217, Inventory 14, Series 505, Indexes to Letters and Settled Claims for Revolutionary War Service, ca. 1828–May 28, 1835 (2 vols.); Series 506, Register of Audits for Revolutionary War Claims, May 31, 1828–Apr. 22, 1835 (1 vol.); Series 507, Audit Reports on Revolutionary War Claims, May 31, 1828–Apr. 28, 1835 (19 vols.); Series 508, Auditor's Reports on Revolutionary War Claims, Aug. 5, 1828–Feb. 17, 1835 (2 boxes); Series 509, Abstracts of Settled Revolutionary War Claims, Jan. 1831–Sept. 1833 (1 box); Series 510, Register of Vouchers for Revolutionary War Claims, Mar. 3, 1831–Mar. 3, 1834 (1 vol.); Series 511, Vouchers for Payments for Revolutionary War Claims, September 1829–March 1834 (9 boxes); Series 512, Settled Accounts for Revolutionary War Claims, July 1828–March 1831 (12 boxes); Series 513, Claims Filed by Revolutionary War Veterans, Sept. 16, 1828–Aug. 3, 1835 (53 vols.); Registers of Pay Certificates Issued in Settlement of Revolutionary War Claims, Aug. 3, 1829–Aug. 7, 1835 (2 vols.).

19. RG 15, NM-22, Series 7, Register of Claims Received, July 1832–November 1856 (1 vol.); Series 8, Name Index to Series 9 and 11 for July 1832–May 1835 (1 vol.); Series 9, Letters Sent, July 1832–December 1835 and January 1851–January 1861 (5 vols.); Series 10, Register of Letters Received, July 1832–May 1835 (1 vol.); Series 11, Letters Received, July 1832–December 1835 (3 vols.); Series 12, Letters Received from the Auditor of Virginia Enclosing Copies of Revolutionary War Records, July 26, 1832-Mar. 14, 1835 (1 vol.); and Series 13, Correspondence, Memoranda, and Lists of Virginia State Officers, 1832–51 (1 vol.).

20. For additional information, see Charles E. Schamel, et al., Guide to the Records of the United States House of Representatives at the National Archives, 1789–1989: Bicentennial Edition (H. Doc. No. 100-245), and Robert W. Coren, et al., Guide to the Records of the United States Senate at the National Archives, 1789–1989: Bicentennial Edition (S. Doc. No. 100-42) both available at

21. For an example, see Claire Prechtel-Kluskens, "The Robert Archibald-Elizabeth McCormick Marriage and Other Details about the Archibald-McCormick-Johnson Families of Virginia, Ohio, and Indiana in a Bounty-Land Warrant Application," NGS Quarterly 92 (September 2004): 221–227.

22. The Pension List of 1820: U.S. War Department (Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1991; The Pension Roll of 1835 (Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1968; reprinted with a new index, 1992); A Census of Pensioners for Revolutionary or Military Services; with their Names, Ages, and Places of Residence, Returned by the Marshals of the Several Judicial Districts, Under the Act for Taking the Sixth Census (Washington: Blair & Reeves, 1841); List of Pensioners on the Roll, January 1, 1883 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1883).

23. The Pension Roll of 1835, II: 348 (Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1992).


Articles published in Prologue do not necessarily represent the views of NARA or of any other agency of the United States Government.