Pension Records of Westford's
The purpose of this section of our website is to present excerpts from the extant records of Westford veterans who filed for Revolutionary War service pensions or bounty-land warrants. During the Revolutionary War, the promise of pensions was used as an inducement to encourage enlistment and to help stem the rate of desertion and resignation. Following the conflict, pensions and the issuance of bounty-land warrants were used as rewards for service. Within the records of the National Archives a series of 2670 microfilm rolls can be found containing the pension applications and other pension related records of approximately 80,000 Revolutionary War veterans. The compilation is entitled Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, Microfilm ID, M804, and consists of records from veterans of each of the original states. While pensions were provided by both the states and the federal government, these records only consist of U.S. Government related pensions as specified by numerous acts of Congress.
The criteria for successfully obtaining a pension, either by the "survivor", widow or children, changed, and were generally relaxed over the years (see below). In general, however, each veteran needed to present some form of proof that he served during the war. At times this was done simply by submitting commission, discharge, or other service related documents. Many veterans had the misfortune of losing such documentation in the intervening years. In those cases, affidavits or other evidence needed to be provided to the pension office, which clearly has proven to be a matter of good fortune to later historians. These narratives generally contain details of a soldiers service, including the period and location of service, their rank, the names of officers under which they served, any battles they participated in, and injuries they may have incurred as a result of their service. In other instances, we are able to glean further detailed information relating to specific battles or duties they were asked to perform. In addition, we are sometimes able to find genealogical information that would otherwise be difficult to find.
It should be noted that due to a fire in the War Department on November 8, 1800, all of the pension related records submitted prior to that date were destroyed. Since most of the subsequent applications were made after 1818, we should keep in mind that we are often dealing with descriptions of service and events that occurred as many as 40 to 50 years earlier. As a result, we sometimes see discrepancies which must be addressed through corroboration with other sources.
A Summary of Revolutionary War Pension Legislation1
As we examine the documents found
in the pension applications, we often find multiple application efforts over
a span of decades. In order to better understand the reasoning behind
these efforts, it is instructive to review the many pension and bounty-land
acts passed by the Continental and U.S Congress between the years 1776 and
1878. The criteria for obtaining pension funds or bounty-land warrants
were changed many times over these years, generally becoming more relaxed
with each piece of legislation. A brief summary of each piece of legislation
is presented below.
August 26, 1776: A resolution by the Continental Congress provides half pay for officers and enlisted men who are disabled as a result of their service and who are incapable of earning a living. The pension was to continue for the duration of the disability.
May 15, 1778: Pensions are offered to officers who remain in the service until the conclusion of the war. Provides for half pay for 7 years after the end of the war. Enlisted men who serve for the duration are to receive a one time payment of $80.
August 24, 1780: The first national legislation for widow and orphans provides the same benefit as the 1778 resolution. (This act later expired in 1794).
October 21, 1780: The resolution of 1778 is amended to provide officers with half pay for life after the war.
March 22, 1783: The 1780 amendment is changed from half pay for life, to 5 years' full pay.
September 29, 1789: (1 Stat. 95) The first United States Congress specifies that invalid pensions paid by the States are to be continued for 1 year by the new Federal Government. The time limit was apparently extended by subsequent legislation.
March 23, 1792 (1 Stat 243): Veterans who are not yet receiving invalid pensions from the states can now apply directly to the Federal Government.
April 10, 1806 (2 Stat. 376): This act, which supersedes all previous Revolutionary War invalid pension legislation, extends the pension eligibility to those who served in state (provincial) and militia forces.
March 18, 1818 (3 Stat. 410): Pension eligibility is now extended to those without disabilities resulting from Revolutionary War service. Officers and enlisted men who had served for 9 months, or for the duration of the war, are now granted assistance, if needed. This includes naval and Marine service.
May 1, 1820 (3 Stat. 569): As a result of the large number veterans receiving pensions, Congress acts to require existing pensioners and future applicants to provide the Secretary of War with a certified schedule of the applicant's estate and income. Several thousand pensioners are subsequently denied pensions.
March 1, 1823 (3 Stat. 782): This act reinstates many pensioners who are now able to prove their need for aid.
May 15, 1828: (4 Stat. 269) Provides surviving officers and enlisted men full pay for life under the terms of the resolution of May 15, 1778, as amended. There is no requirement to document need.
June 7, 1832 (4 Stat. 529): This act opens the benefits of the 1828 legislation (full pay for life) to every officer and enlisted man who has served for at least 2 years in either the Continental, state, or militia. A lesser amount of pay is allowed for those who served between 6 months and 2 years. There is no requirement to document need.
July 4, 1836 (5 Stat. 128): Under this act, any widow whose husband's service fulfilled the provisions of the act of 1832 is eligible for his pension if she had married her husband prior to the end of his service.
July 7, 1838 (5 Stat. 303): This act provides 5 year pensions to widows who had married their veteran husbands prior to January 1, 1794. Several subsequent acts (March 3, 1843; June 17, 1844; February 2, 1848) extend these pensions.
July 29, 1848 (9 Stat. 265): Life pensions are provided for widows who had married before January 2, 1800.
February 3, 1853 (10 Stat. 154) and February 28, 1855 (10 Stat. 616): All marriage date restrictions are removed as a criteria for widow's benefits.
March 9, 1878 (20 Stat. 29): Eligibility for life pensions is extended to widow's of Revolutionary War soldiers who had served for as little as 14 days, or participated in any engagement.
Like the pensions described above, the promise of land through the issuance of bounty-land warrants (which could be exchanged for specified amounts of land) was used to both keep soldiers in the army during the war, and as a means of rewarding them after the conflict. It was apparently not unusual for those who were granted bounty land to simply sell their warrants, rather than unnecessarily uproot and move. While both the states and the Federal Government issued bounty land, the following legislation only summarizes the efforts of the U.S government.
September 16, 1776: A resolution passed by the Continental Congress allows the granting of land to officers and enlisted men who serve for the duration of the war. Should the soldier be killed, family members could be eligible for the land. The following schedule is assigned
Noncommissioned officers and enlisted men: Up to 100 acres Ensign: Up to 150 acres Lieutenant: Up to 200 acres Captain to Colonel: Proportionate up to 500 acres
August 12, 1780: The resolution of 1776 is extended to include generals, with up to 850 acres for a brigadier, and proportionately up to 1100 acres for a major general.
March 3, 1855 (10 Stat. 701): Extends the Continental Congress resolutions to provide up to 160 acres for all soldiers, regardless of rank, who had served for as little as 14 days or had participated in any engagement. Widows and children are also eligible for such bounty land.
May 14, 1856 (11 Stat. 8): Revolutionary War naval and marine soldiers, along with their widows and children, are included under the provisions of the 1855 legislation
List of Known Westford Revolutionary War Pension Applicants
The following list contains the names of Westford men who are known to have applied for service or invalid pensions, be they state or federal. Associated notes indicate the source of the information, and whether the records have been retrieved, and if so, the state of the transcription. Those records which have been transcribed can be accessed by clicking on the pensioner's name. This is a work in progress, so is likely to be updated on a regular basis.
U.S. Pension Records Recovered from M804
|Name||State of Records|
|Bixby, Jacob||Checking transcription|
|Chandler, Silas||Transcription completed|
|Dutton, Ephraim||Checking transcription|
|Dutton, William||Transcription completed|
|Fletcher, Jeremiah||Checking transcription|
|Fletcher, Joshua||Checking transcription|
|Fletcher, Soloman||Transcription completed|
|Foster, Smith||Records copied|
|Heald, Ephraim||Transcription completed|
|Heald, Oliver||Transcription completed|
|Hildreth, Jonathan||Records copied|
|Holden, Jonas||Transcription completed|
Pension Applicants Summarized
in Hodgman (pp. 136,137)
Note: Although it is not noted, these are most likely for both State and Federal pensions.
|Fletcher, Levi||On pension rolls in 1832.|
|Green, Isaac||On pension rolls in 1832.|
|Kemp, Jonas||Was receiving $8.00 per month in 1818. On pension rolls in 1832. See preceeding Table.|
|Leighton, Reuben||On pension rolls in 1832.|
|Parker, Aaron||On pension rolls in 1832.|
|Parker, Aaron, 2nd||On pension rolls in 1832.|
|Parker, David||On pension rolls in 1832.|
|Parker, Isaac||For eight months service starting in April or May, 1775, in Joshua Parker's company.|
|Parker, John||For eight months service starting in April or May, 1775, in Joshua Parker's company.|
|Parker, Levi||For eight months service starting in April or May, 1775, in Joshua Parker's company.|
|Patten, Isaac||On pension rolls in 1832.|
|Perry, Obadiah||For eight months service starting in April or May, 1775, in Joshua Parker's company.|
|Prentice, Nathaniel||For eight months service starting in April or May, 1775, in Joshua Parker's company.|
|Procter, Abel||For service in Captain Joel Fletcher's company. Moved to Littleton, MA.|
|Procter, Ezekiel||For service in Captain Joel Fletcher's company. Moved to Hollis, NH.|
|Procter, Silas||For eight months service starting in April or May, 1775, in Joshua Parker's company.|
|Procter, Simeon||On pension rolls in 1832.|
|Pushee, John||For eight months service starting in April or May, 1775, in Joshua Parker's company. On pension rolls in 1832.|
|Read, Oliver||For eight months service starting in April or May, 1775, in Joshua Parker's company.|
|Read, Stephen||For eight months service starting in April or May, 1775, in Joshua Parker's company.|
|Read, Thaddeus||For service in Captain Wyman's company.|
|Read, William||For eight months service starting in April or May, 1775, in Joshua Parker's company.|
|Reed, Abijah||Received 200 acres of land in Somerset County, Maine (Lot No. 2, 3rd Range) for service in Col. Brook's regiment.|
|Reed, Ephraim||On pension rolls in 1832.|
|Reed, Samuel||For service in Captain Joel Fletcher's company. Was receiving $57.98 per year for life in 1832.|
|Robbins, Benjamin||On pension rolls in 1832.|
|Robbins, Jeremiah||For service in Captain Wyman's company.|
|Robbins, Philip||For service in Captain Wyman's company.|
|Robbins, Thomas||For service in Captain Wyman's company.|
|Smith, Philip||For service in Captain Joel Fletcher's company.|
|Spalding, Soloman||For eight months service starting in April or May, 1775, in Joshua Parker's company.|
|Spalding, Ephraim||For eight months service starting in April or May, 1775, in Joshua Parker's company.|
|Spalding, Silas||For eight months service starting in April or May, 1775, in Joshua Parker's company.|
|Spalding, Thaddeus||On pension rolls in 1832.|
|Skinner, Robin||For eight months service starting in April or May, 1775, in Joshua Parker's company.|
|Senter, Simeon||For eight months service starting in April or May, 1775, in Joshua Parker's company.|
|Smith, Francis||For eight months service starting in April or May, 1775, in Joshua Parker's company.|
|Underwood, Joseph||For eight months service starting in April or May, 1775, in Joshua Parker's company.|
Except where otherwise noted, transcriptions of pension record documents have been performed in cooperation with members of the Westford Historical Society, namely Marilyn Day and Bob Oliphant, with a much smaller proportion performed by D.P. Lacroix.
1. A history of the relevant pension
legislation is presented in the introduction of M804, by Howard H. Wehmann,
and is also reprinted in:
Index of Revolutionary War Pension Applications in the National Archives, Bicentennial Edition, National Genealogical Society, Washington, DC, 1976.
© 2003 - D.P. Lacroix
Page added: 15 February 2003
Last modified: 9 September 2003
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