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Remarkable photos discovered in Civil War pension files

Every now and then we receive some terrific surprises in the files our FamilySearch partners are digitizing at the National Archives. Recently, several 19th-century photographs were literally brought to light as they’ve been tucked away for decades in the Civil War Widows’ Pension files. The photos and some interesting related documents and certificates have been scanned and now can be found on Fold3.

Application William Carman served in Company A of the Pennsylvania 115th Regiment. His widow, Emeline (McDermott) Carman, applied for a widow’s pension (#48977) after William died of wounds received at Chancellersville, Virginia. She included this colorized tintype of her husband in the 217-page file.

When viewing these images on Fold3, be sure to adjust the brightness and contrast by choosing tools on the left side of the viewer. You’ll be amazed at how well the faces and details emerge from these aged and faded photographs.

There are two photographs in the 197-page pension file (#49991) for Annie L. (Palmer) Kimball after her husband, William S. Kimball, died of a gunshot wound at a hospital in Richmond, Virginia. He served in Company A of the 5th New Hampshire Regiment. The images include this framed daguerreotype and a photograph of Martin Giles, alias Thomas Wilson.

This tintype of William J. Crawford was a delightful discovery in the pension application file for his widow, Margaret E. (Scott) Crawford. The page previous to the photo has a handwritten request to return the picture to Charles N. Crawford, a request that was obviously not heeded. William served in the 11th Missouri Regiment, Company L, and died of a bowel infection on 8 October 1864 at Lake Bluff, Arkansas. The file, WC #51588, contains 195 pages.

The pension application file for Frank Zimmerman’s widow, Eliza (Reden) Zimmerman is the largest at 354 pages (WC#52873). Frank Zimmerman, of Company I, 16th New York Cavalry, was accidentally shot near Falls Church, Virginia, “by the carelessness of a comrade in handling a carbine.”

Civil War Tintype with Yellow TintsThere are four photographs in this file including a tintype with yellow tints added, a similar tintype, heavily scratched, a black & white headshot with writing on the back, and the same photo in sepia, also with writing on the back by his comrade William F. Von Deyn of St. Paul, Minnesota.

Each of these pension applications are large and intriguing files, and each tells a unique story. While most of the Civil War “Widows’ Pensions” are filmed in greyscale, Fold3 scanned these four files in color to bring the full details of the images to light. We hope you enjoy these peeks into the past. And, if you’re related to any of the men whose photos were discovered here, we hope you’ll let us know.


  1. Regina Sass says:

    So nice to see they are coming across these pics when digitizing records. Sadly, I am sure there are many more sitting in folks attics, old trunks, etc and folks just don’t realize what they have.


  2. jam says:

    I am having trouble getting in. Please help. My grandfather was in the civil war and I have a lot of his medals however; I wasn’t able to get any of his pictures nor his uniform because another member of our family ended up with them. Not sure were he served but was from Tuskegee, Al. Macon Co. A place they named Little Texas. He was 30 years older than my grandma and never had been married before meeting her. My grandma drew a pention from the civil war and there were only two widows drawing when she died. She and another lady from Al. I find that Fold 3 is very interesting but have not been able to sign in.

  3. Gordon says:

    Jam, Please give us a call at 1-800-613-0181 and we can help get you signed in.

  4. Debbie says:

    That is so awesome!! I have loved the information I have gotten from several of my ancestors pension files. Civil War & Revolutionary War & War of 1812! But how cool it would be to get an actual picture. I thought it was great just getting a written description of what my ancestor look like:)

  5. Nancy says:

    My ancestor, George W Lawhead, has a tin-type picture in his pension file as well. I have actually been able to see it and photograph it myself at NARA. His pension file is also rather large – 3 folders. Can’t wait for Fold3 to get his digitized. 🙂

  6. Darla Hudson says:

    I would like to find out if there is anything for Richard Harvey Morris, or any of his family in these files. Also, is there anything for family members to Marion Columbus Dollins? I am the 4th and 3rd great granddaughter to these two men. Richard Harvey Morris was married to Ro Anna Duke, and she was registered as a daughter of the American Revolution, and she had family members in the civil war, they were from North Carolina, and Virginia, and some were from Tennessee, Georgia, and Arkansas. Thank you for finding these and posting them, it is great to see that we are connecting our American History to us in a real and personal way.

  7. Neil says:

    Is it possible to have access to these (search for our ancestors photos)?

  8. Barbara Hathaway says:

    I linked some Muster Rolls I found on Fold3 to a person in my Ancestry Family Tree. Now, I can’t access this information unless I join Fold3. If I decide to join, and save information again to my online tree, but allow my membership to expire, does this mean I just lose that information?

  9. Michel says:

    I bought a copy of my gr-great grandfather’s Civil War pension record. He survived the war, died in 1901 and my gr-great grandmother filed a widow’s pension (she died in 1907). If there had been a photo associated with both pensions, would that have been sent to me with the rest of the file?

  10. Darla Hudson says:

    Is there anyway that we may have access to some of the photos, if there are any, I know you said that one of the wives, put her husband’s photo in with his military file, so how can we know if our family members have any photos?

  11. Sharon says:

    I have my Great Great Grandfathers muster in records, also his pension records. Do the veterans usually have their photo in the pension records also. I’ve never been able to locate a photo. I do belong to The Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War and would love to locate one.