The last recipient of a Civil War pension from the federal government has died, closing the book on a story that spanned more than 150 years and included a soldier who fought for both the Union and the Confederacy.
Irene Triplett, 90, died May 31 at a nursing care facility in Wilkesboro, North Carolina. Several improbable developments came together to make her the last pensioner; she received $73.13 a month from the Department of Veterans Affairs, according to news reports.
The story of how Triplett received the pension began with her father, Moses “Mose” Triplett. He fought on both sides during the Civil War, said Dennis C. St. Andrew, the past department commander of the North Carolina Department of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War. The group is dedicated to preserving the history and legacy of those veterans.
St. Andrew said he and his wife visited Irene Triplett several times at the care facility. “My wife and I would go a couple of times a year, especially Christmas and in the spring,” he said. “We'd bring her flowers, bring her a card with a nice gift in it, and visit her.”
Father switched sides on his way to Gettysburg
Although Triplett generally didn't discuss the war, the veterans group researched her family. Moses Triplett deserted the Confederacy in 1863, after becoming ill and being hospitalized while his unit was marching in Virginia. It was on its way to Gettysburg for the famous battle, St. Andrew said.
His timing for the desertion was fortuitous. The Wall Street Journal, in a 2014 story about benefits for families of veterans of long-ago wars, reported that 734 of the 800 men in Triplett's regiment died, were wounded or were captured at Gettysburg.
Triplett joined the Union Army in 1864. “He served his time out with the Union so he would get a pension,” his grandson, Charlie Triplett of North Wilkesboro, North Carolina, told the Journal. Moses Triplett was discharged in 1865.
Late-life marriage pushed pension into 21st century
In 1924, Triplett, at 83, married Elida Hall, who was nearly 50 years his junior. It was his second marriage, according to news reports; his first wife died in 1923.
Such an age disparity in marriages wasn't entirely unusual at the time. Researcher Jay Hoar told the Journal that he had uncovered 72 marriages of Civil War veterans in which there was at least a 19-year age difference between husband and wife. That included one union between a 93-year-old man and his 26-year-old bride.