Revolutionary War Pensions

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Congress authorized three types of pensions for Revolutionary War veterans and their dependents:

  • Invalid Pensions
  • Service Pensions
  • Windows’ Pensions

The law required veterans to appear in person before a court of record in their state of residence to establish proof of service, and if necessary, proof of disability. Congress did not enact any laws prior to 1818, except for the relief of officers and soldiers disabled in the line of duty, so anyone who died before March 18, 1818, and was not disabled in the line of duty, did not receive a pension.

A soldier’s widow had to appear in person before a court of record to establish her late husband’s service and that they married prior to the date set out in the enabling legislation, with documents if possible. Sometimes widows appeared to provide property schedules.

Provisions of Pension Laws

Date Enacted Major Provisions
August 26, 1776 Half pay for officers and soldiers disabled in the line of duty for the duration of the disability.
May 15, 1778 For Officers:
Half pay for seven years following the conclusion of th war to all who remained in Continental service for the duration of the war.

For Enlisted Men:
A gratuity of $80 for those who served for the duration of the war.
August 24, 1780 Half pay for seven years to widows and orphans of officers who qualified under the Act of May 15, 1778.
October 21, 1780 Half pay for life to officers. Reduced to five years by the Act of March 22, 1783
September 29, 1789 The federal government assumed responsibility for all state pensions.
March 23, 1790 Veterans not yet receiving a state pension are authorized to apply directly to the federal government.
April 10, 1806 Pensions authorized for veterans of state regulars and state militia.
March 18, 1818 Pensions for life authorized for veterans with nine months Continental service in need of assistance.
May 1, 1820 Certified inventories of a pensioner’s estate and income were required to establish need of assistance for all pensioners placed on the rolls under the act of March 18, 1818. Any pensioners unable to prove need were removed from the rolls, but were allowed to reapply.
May 15, 1828 Officers and enlisted men eligible for pensions under the Act of May 15, 1778 were granted full pay for life.
June 7, 1832 The most comprehensive pension law, this act authorized full pay for life to all officers and enlisted men who had served at two years, and partial pay for all officers and enlisted men who had served at least six months. Widows and children were allowed to receive payments due the pensioner that had not been paid before his death.
July 24, 1836 Widows were authorized the pension that would have been available to their veteran husbands when they were living, so long as they had married before he left service.
July 7, 1838 Widows who had married Revolutionary War veterans prior to January 1, 1794 were authorized a five-year pension.
July 29, 1848 Widows were authorized a pension for life if they could prove they had married the veteran prior to January 2, 1800.
February 3, 1853 All widows of Revolutionary War veterans, regardless of their date of marriage, were made eligible for a pension.
March 9, 1878 The final Revolutionary War pension act authorized pensions for widows of veterans who had served at least fourteen days or had participated in any engagement.


Have a Lineages staff member conduct a record lookup of a Revolutionary War Pension File or the Revolutionary War Pension Abstract.

 

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