Do you have ancestors from Virginia who served as officers in the Revolutionary War? Come look for them in Fold3’s collection of Virginia Half Pay Pension Application Files!
During and after the Revolutionary War, in addition to the pensions offered by the federal government, states also typically offered their own pensions to soldiers and sailors who served in the war. Virginia was one of these, and in 1779 it authorized half-pay pensions for army and naval officers who served through the end of the war in Virginian units within the state’s borders or in the Continental Army.
However, after the war, a significant number of pension claims made by Virginia officers were rejected by the Virginia State Auditor. Many of these officers had served in territory northwest of the Ohio River that had not become part of Virginia until 1784. After years of court battles, the state courts ruled that the officers’ claims were valid and that they were entitled to pensions.
However, Virginia argued that the state was financially unable to satisfy the claims due to the cession of the northwest frontier territory, and it sought to have the federal government assume responsibility for the pensions, since the government had promised to reimburse Virginia for certain costs related to the northwest frontier. In an act of 5 July 1832, the federal government took on the responsibility of reimbursing Virginia for half-pay pensions paid to officers of the Virginia State Navy and certain units of the Virginia Line that had served in the Continental Army or in the northwest frontier.
The earliest records in this collection date to 1778, but most are from 1830 to 1875. The majority address Virginia half-pay pensions from the Revolutionary War, but a few pertain to pension claims under other Revolutionary War pension acts or claims from the Mexican, Indian, and Civil Wars.
Most of the 279 veterans whose records appear in this collection also have pension files in the Revolutionary War Pensions collection on Fold3, and the files in the two collections are often closely related. However, the files in this collection differ from the Revolutionary War Pensions in that the documents gathered in these files originally concerned applications for pension arrearages that had been submitted by the heirs of deceased pensioners and thus were handled by the Treasury Department’s Office of the Third Auditor rather than by the Bureau of Pensions.
On Fold3, the records are divided first by Army or Navy service, then by surname in alphabetical order. Files can range in length from less than 10 pages to more than 100 and may include military documents, pension applications, sworn statements, powers of attorney, correspondence, wills, pension certificates, payment vouchers, and other records.
If an individual’s file is more than 10 pages long, the documents may be arranged with “selected records” first, followed by “nonselected records.” “Selected records” are those deemed to have the most significant genealogical information, with “nonselected records” encompassing all the others.
Have you found ancestors in the Virginia Half Pay Pension Application Files? Tell us about them! Or get started browsing the collection here.