Missouri and Ozarks History

Information and comments about historical people and events of Missouri, the Ozarks region, and surrounding area.

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I'm a freelance writer specializing in the history of the Ozarks and surrounding region. I've written sixteen nonfiction books, two historical novels, and numerous articles. My latest books are Wicked Women of Missouri, Yanked Into Eternity: Lynchings and Hangings in Missouri, and Show-Me Atrocities: Infamous Incidents in Missouri History.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Civil War Pension Application

In July of 1862, the U.S. Congress passed an act authorizing pensions for soldiers wounded and disabled during the war and for widows of soldiers killed during the war. It wasn't always easy to get a pension application approved, however, as the case of Maria Kansteiner of Benton County, Missouri, shows.
Her husband, Wilhelm Kansteiner had served in the German Regiment of Benton County (also called the Benton County Home Guards), which had been authorized by General Nathaniel Lyon in early June of 1861. Kansteiner was mustered into service on June 13 and took part six days later in the Battle of Cole Camp.
The battle, which could more accurately be described as a skirmish, occurred when the Benton County Home Guards gathered at two adjoining farms near Cole Camp to try to impede Governor Claiborne Jackson's Missouri State Guard troops, who were on their way south after their defeat at Boonville on June 17. Two groups of local Southern troops, called the Warsaw Grays and the Warsaw Blues, attacked the home guards on the early morning of June 19, surprising and overrunning the sleepy Union camp and thus clearing the way for Jackson's Missouri State Guard to march south. Casualties were high, considering the relatively small number of troops involved (about 450 home guards and about 350 Rebels). A reported 34 Union troops were either killed or mortally wounded and another 60 less seriously wounded. Only 7 Southerners were reportedly killed, while 25 were wounded. Wilhelm Kansteiner, whose first name was often anglicized to William, was among the home guards killed.
In April of 1864, his widow applied for a pension under terms of the pension act, but the application was not immediately granted. In support of her application, she obtained notarized statements from a couple of men who had known Wilhelm Kansteiner and who testified that they had been in the German Regiment of Benton County with him and that he had been killed at Cole Camp. She herself had to submit a statement swearing that she had never in any way supported the rebellion. She also had so offer proof of her marriage to the deceased, and she produced a statement from a minister of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Morgan County that he had married Wilhelm Kansteiner and Maria Schumacher of Benton County on October 1, 1860. Maria's application process dragged on for over a year. In June of 1865, the Missouri adjutant general's office verified that Wilhelm Kansteiner had, indeed, been a member of the German Regiment and had been killed at Cole Camp. However, the following month the United States adjutant general's office said that it could find no record that such an organization as the German Regiment of Benton County had ever existed. Maria or someone working on her behalf then appealed to the Treasury Department, saying that a record of Kansteiner's service was contained in a report of the Hawkins-Taylor Committee. The Treasury Department, however, said it could not locate any such report.
Despite all the obstacles, Maria's application was finally approved, or so it seems, shortly after this time, because the record of her application is found in a file of approved widows' Civil War pension applications. However, it is also known that Maria had remarried shortly after filing her application; so if the pension was granted, it might have been taken away some time thereafter.

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