Irene Triplett Civil War pensioner

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The U.S. Civil War ended in 1865 after four grueling years of conflict, but the Confederacy’s surrender at Appomattox Court House didn’t instantly bring closure to a tattered nation.

Instead, it marked the beginning of the laborious task of rebuilding a divided country, one that had more than 2 million newly minted veterans. Many were injured from battle or suffered war-related illnesses, and those who didn’t survive the war often left behind families with few ways to support themselves.

As a solution to a growing health care and social crisis, the U.S. government created a pension system to financially aid Union soldiers and their widows for the rest of their lives. (Confederate soldiers did not qualify, though some Southern states funded their pensions.) By 1956, the last surviving Civil War veteran had died, but the Department of Veterans Affairs would continue issuing pension payments for decades to come — up until 2020.

Irene Triplett, a 90-year-old North Carolina woman, was the last person to receive a Civil War pension, thanks to her father’s service in the Union Army.

Mose Triplett was originally a Confederate soldier who deserted in 1863 and later joined a Union regiment, a move that kept him out of the fight at Gettysburg, where 90% of his former infantry was killed. Switching sides also guaranteed Mose a pension for the remainder of his life, which would later play a role in him remarrying after the death of his first wife. At age 78, Mose married the 27-year-old Elida Hall — a move historians say was common during the Great Depression, when aging veterans needing care could provide financial security to younger women. The couple had two children, including Irene, who was diagnosed with cognitive impairments that allowed her to qualify for her father’s pension after both parents’ deaths.

By the time of Irene’s own passing in 2020, the U.S. government had held up its duty, paying out Mose Triplett’s pension for more than 100 years.


Irene Triplett


Irene Triplett was the last living recipient of a Civil War pension. Her father, Mose Triplett, enlisted in the 53rd North Carolina Infantry Regiment in May 1862, then transferred to the 26th North Carolina Infantry Regiment early the following year. He fell ill as his regiment marched north toward Gettysburg and remained behind in a Virginia military hospital. Records show he ran away from the hospital, made his way to Tennessee and, in 1864, enlisted in a Union regiment, the 3rd North Carolina Mounted Infantry which carried out a campaign of sabotage against Confederate targets in eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina. That decision earned his daughter, the product of a late-in-life marriage to a woman almost 50 years his junior, a pension of $73.13 a month from the Department of Veterans Affairs, qualifying for federal financial support as a helpless adult child of a veteran. Both mother and daughter suffered from mental disabilities and lived for years in the Wilkes County poorhouse. Irene later moved through a number of care homes, her costs covered by Medicaid and her tiny VA pension. Irene died from complications following surgery for injuries from a fall, according to the Wilkesboro, NC, nursing home where she lived.

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