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The Astonishing Tale Of The Last Civil War Pension

(U.S. Department of State/Flickr)
May 21, 2014

Though the Civil War ended on April 9, 1865, almost 150 years ago, one woman is still collecting a pension from it. Before we fret about the cost of a 19th century war continuing to mount in the 21st, understand who the woman is, and the series of unlikely of circumstances leading to her pension.

Irene Triplett was born in 1930, the daughter of a Civil War veteran Pvt Moses “Uncle Mose” Triplett.

Moses Triplett in the Civil War

Moses Triplett (1846-1938) joined the Confederate Army in 1862, at 16. In 1864, Triplett’s Confederate unit was headed to Gettysburg, PA, to engage the Army of the Republic in Union territory. The Wall Street Journal said:

Along the way, Pvt. Triplett fell ill with fever and went to a Confederate hospital in an old tobacco warehouse in Danville, Va. Eight days later, he disappeared. Pvt. Triplett was “present or accounted for until he deserted on June 26, 1863,” state records say.

He avoided a disastrous defeat at Gettysburg, which signaled the South’s final defeat. Of Triplett’s regiment’s 800 men at Gettysburg, 734 died, were wounded, or captured.

Joining the Union Army

There was a strong strain of Union sympathy in western North Carolina. Friendly locals often helped hide Confederate deserters. Pvt. Triplett crossed the mountains to Knoxville, Tenn., where on Aug. 1, 1864, he joined a Union regiment, the 3rd North Carolina Mounted Infantry. Military records listed him as a farmer, 5 feet 8 inches, blue eyes and sandy hair. He signed his enlistment contract with an X.

So Mose Triplett dodged a bullet, both literally and figuratively, by falling ill on the way to Gettysburg.

After the war, Mose lived near Elk Creek, in Wilkes County, N.C. Triplett and his first wife Mary were childless, according to the Journal.

A Second Marriage

After Mary Triplett’s death in the 1920s, Pvt. Triplett married Elida Hall, nearly 50 years his junior.
Born with certain birth defects, Irene was never able to live independently, residing in institutions her entire life.

The Journal continues:

Elida Hall’s 1924 marriage doesn’t appear to have been so blessed. She was mentally disabled, according to people who knew her. The couple lost three babies—Phema, Patsy, and Billie Coolidge. Irene was born in 1930 when her father was age 83 and her mother 34. Irene, too, suffered from mental disabilities, said past and current nursing home staff. Pvt. Triplett was just shy of his 87th birthday when Elida gave birth to a son, Everette, later the father of Charlie Triplett.


Civil War pension policy held that children of veterans who became disabled before 18 would receive a veteran’s pension. When Moses Triplett died in 1938, 8-year-old Irene and her mother began receiving a pension of $78 per month. She signs her pension over to the nursing home where she lives.

According to the Department of Veteran Affairs, Irene Triplett is the last child of a Civil War veteran (pdf) still receiving a pension.

Age of last pensioners:

American Revolution
Last Veteran, Daniel F. Bakeman, died 4/5/1869, age 109
Last Widow, Catherine S. Damon, died 11/11/1906, age 92
Last Dependent, Phoebe M. Palmeter,died 4/25/1911, age 90

War of 1812
Last Veteran, Hiram Cronk,died 5/13/1905, age 105
Last Widow, Carolina King,died 6/28/1936, age unknown
Last Dependent, Esther A.H. Morgan,died 3/12/1946, age 89

Civil War
Last Union Veteran, Albert Woolson,died 8/2/1956, age 109
Last Confederate Veteran, John Salling,died 3/16/1958, age 112
Last Union Widow, Gertrude Janeway,died 1/17/2003, age 93