Notes from the past…


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The government does… move… slowly…..

The father-in-law of my first-cousin-three-times-removed was loyal to the United States during the Civil War. Dr Francis B Appling lived in or near New Lexington,Tuscaloosa County, Alabama most of his life. Though of eligible age (age 8-80, so it must have seemed as the war took its toll) for service with the Confederate Army, he apparently never served. His tombstone reads; “Dr F B Appling”, but I have found no evidence that he was actually a physician. He apparently did not support the Southern cause, either as a soldier or as a physician. Life must have been very difficult, living in the heart of Dixie!

In 1873, Dr Appling filed a claim with the Southern Claims Commission for compensation for “supplies or stores alleged to have been taken by or furnished to the military forces of the United States for their use during the late war for suppression of the rebellion.” That amount of $150 was disallowed in Dec 1873.

A bit about the Southern Claims Commission:

The United States Congress created the Southern Claims Commission on March 3, 1871 so that pro-Union Southerners who had lost property to invading Union armies could request compensation. Congress most likely took this step to help calm the sectional tensions of the Reconstruction era. There were also some clear political motivations underlying the creation of the Commission–northern Republicans had long hoped that Southern Unionists would join the Republican Party, and they hoped to cement their allegiance as the former Confederate states returned to full representation in Congress.

Congress initially expected the Commission’s duties to last for two years, but they extended its life until 1879 due to the overwhelming number of claims they received. During those nine years, Southerners filed 22,298 cases, claiming more than $60 million in damages. Special Commissioners were appointed to take testimony in cities and towns throughout the former Confederate states, so that claimants did not have to travel to Washington, D.C. Each claimant filed a petition and testified before the Special Commissioner, answering a list of fifty-seven to eighty standing questions that the Commission had created. The claimant then called witnesses, who also testified before the Special Commissioner. Many claimants also sent notarized letters from acquaintances who were not available to testify. The three members of the Claims Commission, Asa Owen Aldis, Orange Ferris, and James B. Howell (all northern Republicans), read each file and made a recommendation to the House of Representatives, who ultimately had the power to grant remuneration.

In order to receive compensation, claimants had to satisfy four general requirements:

  1. Claimant held United States citizenship
  2. Claimant resided in a state that had seceded
  3. Claimant could prove his or her loyalty to the United States throughout the Civil War
  4. United States troops had taken the claimant’s goods for official army purposes

The testimony that accompanied each claim addressed both the loyalty of the claimant and the circumstances under which the property had been confiscated. Ultimately, only 7,092 claimants–or about one third–satisfied all four requirements and received compensation for their property. The total cost of satisfying these claims came to $4,636,930.

A few of the disallowed claims received a second consideration in the 1890s. Under the terms of the Bowman Act (March 3, 1883) and the Tucker Act (March 3, 1887), claimants could transfer their cases to the Congressional Court of Claims and ask for an appeal on unfavorable findings.

This is what Dr Appling did. On 21 Feb 1889, he filed with the Court of Claims: Francis B Appling vs The United States. This time, in a preliminary hearing, it was decided that Francis B Appling, “the person alleged to have furnished such supplies or stores , or from whom the same are alleged to have been taken, was loyal to the Government of the United States throughout said war.”

On 30 Nov 1896, this claim was transmitted to the Court by the Committee on War Claims of the House of Representatives, for a full hearing on its merits, mainly that “the United States forces, by proper authority, took from his quartermaster stores and commissary supplies of the value of $150 and appropriated the same to the use of the United States Army, as follows:
1 mule…………………………………….$150

The Court’s findings of 4 Apr 1898 were that the United States Army did in fact take the above-described property, “reasonably worth the sum of one hundred and thirty dollars ($130).

29 years after his original claim was filed…on 27 May 1902, Under the General Claims Appropriation Act (the Bowman and Tucker Acts), authorized by the Court of Claims, Francis B Appling was allowed $130.

Did Dr Appling ever see the $130? I’m guessing not, since he died on 28 Jul 1900 and is buried at Sterling Cemetery in Tuscaloosa County, Alabama.

And what of the mule…?

The above cited documents pertaining to Dr Appling’s claim were obtained from GenealogyBank.com’s Historical Documents 1789-1980.


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GenealogyBank to the rescue (again!)

I don’t have a standing subscription to GenealogyBank.com, but I do stop by every few months, since I have found so many newpaper clippings there, mostly involving my Stanley and Kennedy ancestors.

This evening I wondered about the ‘Net, looking for anything new on Francis B Appling of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, from my Stanley line. Nothing from Ancestry or Footnote, but when I got to GenealogyBank, I struck pay dirt!

I filled in Francis Appling, keyword Tuscaloosa, and up popped his Southern Claims Commission report from 1898:

A reference to Francis B Appling’s SCC claim from 1873 indicated that the claim had at that time be disallowed. But this new document indicates that in 1898 the claim had been judged to be legitimate.

“It does not appear that any payment has been made therefor.”

By the way, the new search function at GenealogyBank is tons better than the old one! In addition to Appling, I have also found several new newspaper clippings for my Kennedy line! The one-month trial is only $9.95.


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A little town in Pennsylvania…

On a cold, blustery day in November, President Abraham Lincoln was asked to make a few comments at the dedication ceremony for a new cemetery. And possibly the most eloquent document in our country’s history was born…

Gettysburg, Penn., Nov 19, 1863:

Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation: conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war. . .testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated. . . can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war.

We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate. . .we cannot consecrate. . . we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.

It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us. . .that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion. . . that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain. . . that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom. . . and that government of the people. . .by the people. . .for the people. . . shall not perish from the earth.