Thursday, January 6, 2011

Analysis of Confederate Pension Application: Roland Sweat

Roland Sweat was a brother to my maternal 3rd great grandfather, John Franklin Sweat, Jr. His Confederate Pension Application consists of seven pages.

On the first page, we learn that he applied in 1895 while living in Blackshear, Pierce County, Georgia. His disability is listed as total. His application was approved 22 Apr 1895 and he was granted a pension of $100 per year. Also on the first page, we see that he granted a power of attorney to Richard Johnson of Atlanta, Georgia. This document was signed 6 Feb 1895.

On the second page, is the actual application. Here we learn that he was a citizen and resident of Georgia continuously since 1 Jul 1845. He enlisted in the Confederate Army as a private in H Company, 26th Regiment of the Infantry Volunteers, Gordon's Brigade. He was wounded at the Battle of Winchester on 17 Aug 1863. His disability is listed as a gunshot wound to his leg, nearly severing it in two. He also states that on 28 May 1863, he sustained a gunshot wound to his head, which resulted in pressure on his skull when he exerts himself and destroyed his mind. He is also weakened with nervousness and is unable to work.

The third page contains affidavits by witnesses and a physician. The three witnesses were Holliday Sauls, JA Harper and John Aldridge. Holliday Sauls states that he served as a private with Roland Sweat in the same unit and certifies that the applicant was wounded in the head on 18 May 1863 during the Battle of Cold Rain. A second wound, an injury to the hip, occurred on 17 Aug following the Battle of Winchester. He finishes by stating that Sweat is completely disabled and unable to work due to his wounds.

JA Harper states that he served in the same regiment and brigade as the applicant, but in a different company (E). His statement pretty much mirrors that statement of Holliday Sauls with one exception. He states that Roland served in Company F.

Like JA Harper, John Aldridge served in a different company (D) than Roland. Rather than get into details, he simply agrees with the statement of the two previous witnesses. He also states that Roland served in Company F.

Two physicians were JL Smith and WP Williams. They state that he was infirmed by the injury to the head, which caused insensability, which resembled an epileptic stroke. Overexertion brings on these attacks. They are satisfied that he is unable to do manual labor. No mention is made of the leg injury.

The fourth page is another power of attorney document. This one grants William A Wright of Fulton County power of attorney. This is part of the 1896 Soldiers Pension Packet.

The next page is difficult to read. It appears to be a handwritten letter to Richard Johnson of Atlanta, Georgia and is on the letterhead of the Pierce County Court of Ordinary. From what I was able to make out, it seems that Roland neglected to answer questions regarding his service. In the letter, it is stated that Roland's mental condition is bad and he has very little memory. The letter closes with a statement that his physical condition is on par with his mental condition.

On the right side of the page appears to be what is probably a reapplication for pension. It's much briefer than the original application. His disability is listed only as wounded in head and hip. On the section that discusses his service, he is listed as in the same regiment and brigade, but his company changed from H to F.

The next page consists of two letters. The one on the left side is to Richard Johnson of Atlanta, Georgia from the Ordinary, presumably the same the appeared in the previous page. It in response to a letter from Richard Johnson, shown on the right side of the page. It is dated 24 Apr 1895 and states that he finds Roland Sweat totally disabled. He also thanks Mr. Johnson for approving the submitted claim.

The letter from Richard Johnson states that he finds Roland Sweat disabled, but he is unable to determine whether he is partially or totally disabled. He also states that the nurses almost say he is totally disabled. He asks for the opinion of the ordinary.

The final page consists of two letters on the letterhead of the Pierce County Court of Ordinary. Both letters are written to Richard Johnson. Both are dated 6 Feb 1895. The first states that Roland is in the condition he claims to be. The ordinary claims he has known him for 20 years. He implores Mr. Johnson to do as best as he can for the old man. From the way the letter is written, it appears that the ordinary was a friend or close acquaintance.

The second letter is from the representative of Pierce County. It talks about Roland's service and condition. It also states that in his opinion, the application is worthy of approval.

  • Four variations of his first name appear in the pension applications. These are Roland, Rowland, Rolland and Rowen.  On one document, his name is signed Rowen. However, a later one has his signature in another person's hand beside his mark. The names are written by various hands throughout the applications.
  • After researching the Battle of Winchester, it appears there may have been a mistake with the date. There were three Battles of Winchester. The first was fought 25 May 1862, the second 13-15 Jun 1863 and the third 19 Sept 1864.
  • I was unable to find a reference to the Battle of Cold Rain. 
  • It isn't clear whether the Richard Johnson, who was granted power of attorney by Roland Sweat on the first page, and the Richard Johnson, of the letters later in the pension application paperwork, are the same individual. Looking at the front page of the pension application packet, it appears there is a Richard Johnson listed as Secretary Executive Department. This may be the same individual as the one that is found in the letters.
Georgia's Virtual Vault, Confederate pension Applications 1879-1960 [database and images online], Record ID USAMILCONFEDGA_184974-00163. Georgia Archives

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