Lucinda Rugg and the American Civil War

The house where the Ruggs lived from 1825 to 1872. Andrew Jackson Rugg was born here on 21 September 1841. The photo was taken by Carleton Nims circa 1925.

As archival collections go, the papers of Lucinda (Beverstock) Rugg is small—consisting of six folders. Most of our collections pertain to life in Sullivan, but occasionally they shed light on events in the outside world and Lucinda Rugg’s papers provide such an example. Her life was touched by the cataclysmic events of the American Civil War.

Lucinda Beverstock was born on 16 March 1805 in Keene and grew up on the family farm in East Alstead. In 1826, she married Martin Rugg of Sullivan and they eventually settled on the farm that still stands at 32 Cross Road. They had seven children. The daughters married and moved away except for Emily who married Henry Davis and settled on his farm at 95 Apple Hill Road. Martin died in 1858 and left the farm to Lucinda and their two sons Charles and Andrew. For some reason, Charles expressed no interest in the farm. He married and worked on several farms around town before moving to Arkansas. The story might have ended there with Andrew marrying and continuing the farm, however, within 3 years he had enlisted in the defense of the union.

Abraham Lincoln’s election in November of 1860 set off a chain of events that led to the secession of the 11 states of the Confederacy. The attack on Fort Sumter, SC, in April 1861 meant that the conflict would not be settled peacefully and both sides soon raised large armies that collided on 21 July 1861 at the First Battle of Bull Run. Any thoughts that the war would be over soon quickly vanished and the call went out to the states to raise new regiments. In a sense, the Civil War became our first modern war as all of the population, economy, and society was mobilized to fight. People who might have spent the rest of their lives in small towns pursuing farming or skilled crafts dropped what they were doing to march off to parts of the country they would never have visited otherwise.

In Sullivan, many young men went to Keene to enlist in one of the several regiments being raised in the fall of 1861. Andrew Rugg signed up on 11 September 1861 as a band member. A few days later, he was posted to the Second New Hampshire Regiment of Volunteers. Upon arriving at his assignment, he was told that the regimental band was full. Without hesitation, Andrew Rugg became an infantry man and was assigned to Company D. A few months later, the regiment was assigned to Joseph Hooker’s Brigade, Army of the Potomac. By the end of the year, they were fighting skirmishes along the Potomac River. By spring the Army had a new commander—George McClellan—who had a plan to end the war quickly. [1]

In Sullivan, the first casualty—Silas Black—was brought home for burial in December of 1861 and others would follow. The Sullivan Female Circle of Industry (a group of women affiliated with the Center Church) reconstituted themselves as the Sullivan Soldiers Aid Society and went about raising money; making scarves, socks, and undergarments; and making jams and cordials. These were all shipped to soldiers in the field. Lucinda Rugg was a member of the group.

We have no correspondence between Andrew and his mother, but two letters in the collection recount what happened next. The first letter is written by Andrew’s Company Commander Samuel P. Sayles to Lucinda describing the action at the battle of Williamsburg. McClellan’s plan left about half of the army between Washington and the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. The other half of the army, including the Second New Hampshire, landed on the peninsula formed by the James and York Rivers in Virginia. McClellan planned a strike directly up the peninsula at the Confederate capital of Richmond. Outmanned and outgunned, the new commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, Robert E. Lee, directed a holding action against McClellan. Lee succeeded in convincing McClellan that he faced a much larger force and the union general proceeded cautiously. He took Yorktown, but waited for more reinforcements before proceeding toward the old colonial capital of Williamsburg. The Confederates had fallen trees across the roads and the weather was cold and rainy. As the Union forces dealt with the trees snipers and skirmishers attacked the troops. Finally, McClellan’s forces were able to attack Williamsburg on 5 May 1862.

Captain Sayles recounts the engagement in his letter and notes that Andrew fought bravely and “…acted in a conspicuous manner.” The letter goes on to say:

The battle raged with unabashed fury for thirteen hours, and, though so long under fire, he (Andrew) never flinched nor wavered. When, in the thick woods, the greater part of the little group had been killed, wounded, or scattered…he was one of the number whom I requested to look after me, if I fell, for I knew he would, to the utmost of his ability, fulfill every trust reposed in him.

The Confederates retreated, and the Union forces continued slowly and cautiously up the peninsula. Disease, exacerbated by poor food and unsanitary conditions also thinned the ranks of McClellan’s army. In August, Lee decided to gamble that McClellan would not risk bringing the second half of his army south from Washington, and turned most of the Army of Northern Virginia to crush the peninsula army at a place called Malvern Hill. The defeat ended the campaign. However, Andrew Rugg was not present. In July, he had taken ill and was evacuated to Yorktown and from there to a hospital in Philadelphia.

At this point, we come to the second letter in the collection. It was written on 25 July 1862 by Rev. James H. McFarland to Rev. Nelson Barbour who was the pastor of the Sullivan Center Church. “I became acquainted with Andrew J. Rugg,” the letter begins, “Immediately after his coming to this Hos. and frequently conversed with him in reference to the interests of his soul.” The letter describes the final days of Andrew’s life in some detail. Rev McFarland tells us that Lucinda was able to make the long journey to Philadelphia and arrived on 22 July. Andrew is described as in a “…very calm, and peaceful state of mind.” He desired to return home but realized the he probably wouldn’t and that he was “…in resignation to the will of God.” Andrew asked for a Bible and on the next day, “…at his request, I presented him to God in Christian Baptism.” Rev. McFarland then describes his final hours on 25 July.

He continued confiding and happy in God ‘till 1 O’clock this morning when he fell asleep in Jesus. Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord. His mother informed me that she asked him whether he had any thing to say to his young friends at home. His reply was tell them to strive to meet me in Heaven.

Andrew’s body was returned to Sullivan where the church was crowded with mourners. He was buried next to his father in the Meeting House Cemetery. Lucinda continued to run the farm as she had in Andrew’s absence. She had support from her family as well. In addition to her daughter Emily and her husband Henry Davis, two of her sisters had settled in Sullivan. Sophia had married Martin’s brother Harrison and Sybil had married David Holt. Both the Ruggs and the Holts lived nearby and could help during haying and planting seasons. Lucinda continued on the farm until she sold it to Ira Comstock in 1872. Eventually, she went to live with the Davis family. That might be the end of the story except that the papers indicate a little known effect of the Civil War on our town.

By 1865, some 2.2 million men had served an enlistment in the Civil War. New Hampshire alone provided over 20,000. In 1862, Congress debated various methods to get people to enlist and one of the methods was to offer pensions. Since colonial days, governments—national, state, and local—had given pensions to veterans in the form of one time payments, land grants, and continuing stipends. What made the Civil War different was an effort to expand military pensions to disabled soldiers, widows, orphans, as well as mothers and sisters who were supported by a deceased soldier. After the war, even fathers of deceased soldiers were included. The cost of the program was far greater than anything the government had ever undertaken. From the Revolution to 1861, there were over 140,000 pension claims and the government had paid out $90 million. In 1862, the federal government was paying about 11,000 pensioners. By 1866, the number had climbed to 126,000. From 1861 until 1890, there were over 700,000 claims on record. By 1890, the government was budgeting over $100,000 per annum for payments which amounted to about ¼ of the entire federal budget. The Department of the Interior administered the program through its Pension Bureau which maintained at least one office in every state. Attorneys specializing in pension law and regulations were in high demand. [2]

This knowledge of the pension program makes the purpose of the papers kept by Lucinda clear. The letter from Captain Sayles certifies Andrew’s service and makes it clear that he served honorably. Captain Sayles also provided a “descriptive certificate” of Andrew’s service that gives his physical description (5 feet, 5-½ inches tall, grey eyes, sandy hair) and notes that his last date of paid service was on 30 April 1862. The letter from Rev. McFarland serves as proof of Andrew’s death at a military hospital. All of this provided Lucinda with evidence of her son’s service and contributed to her claim to a widowed mother’s pension.

For some reason, she did not make the claim in 1865. This was somewhat typical according to the articles cited below. Because there was no time limit on making an application, many people did not apply until they needed the money. In fact most applications for Civil War pensions occurred in the years 1875-1890 as veterans aged.

In 1879, Lucinda made her application. At that point, she had sold her farm and was living with the Davis family. Her application may have been motivated by a change in the law that year. In addition to a monthly payment of $8, she could also receive her pension retroactive to her son’s death. Andrew had been dead for 18 years and a quick calculation places Lucinda’s benefit at $1700 which was a small fortune in those days. In any event, the papers contain a notice for Lucinda to appear before an examiner with her application on 11 August 1880 in Keene.

The examiner would have looked at Lucinda’s evidence and then consulted the rule book published by the Bureau of Pensions in order to determine her eligibility. She would have been classified under the section titled “mothers pension.” Lucinda had to prove that her son was the sole support of the family, that she had not remarried, and that her son was “celibate.” While we may have a specific meaning for that word, the Bureau of Pensions defined it as having no legitimate children who would have first claim on the pension. She also had to provide dates of service, evidence that he was honorably discharged or died in service, and, finally, a post office address where her money would be mailed. This entire set of documents would have been sworn before a notary public.[3]

All did not go smoothly. Although there is no explanation contained in the papers, Lucinda had to reappear before the examiner on 21 December 1883. There is another note two years later from the administrator in Concord telling Lucinda that the approval certificate had to be returned to Washington because it listed Andrew’s regiment as the 22nd instead of the 2nd. Finally on 7 May 1885, a nicely engraved, signed and sealed document arrived certifying Lucinda’s claim and entitling her to $8.00 per month (later increased to $12.00 per month) retroactive to Andrew’s death payable in quarterly vouchers. Lucinda collected the pension until her death on 21 February 1889.

Lucinda’s Certificate entitling her to a “mothers pension.” The item is contained within the Papers of Lucinda Rugg, drawer 6, folder 95, SPL Archives.

As we are learning with our current war in Iraq, fighting and paying for a war is only part of the total cost. In the aftermath, our society assumes obligations to those who remain—both veterans and their families. The Civil War pensions paid out huge amounts of money because of the large number of people touched by the conflict. In Sullivan, the papers of Lucinda Rugg provide us with details of one person’s story—her son’s bravery in the face of the enemy, his death from disease a few months later, the process of proving the claim, and finally the generous support from a grateful government.

[1] Haynes, Martin, A History of the Second Regiment New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry in the War of the Rebellion, Earlysville, VA, Old Books Publishing, 1996 (Reprint of the 1896 edition published in Lakeport, NH, [no publisher given]. The history also contains a photograph of Andrew.

[2] Skocpol, Teda “America’s First Society Security System: The Expansion of Benefits for Civil War Veterans,” Political Science Quarterly, Volume 108, Number 1, Spring 1993, pp 85-116

See also, McClintook, Megan I. “Civil War Pensions and the Reconstruction of Union Families,” Journal of American History, Volume 83, Number 2, September 1996, pp 456-480.

[3] While I don’t have the specific set of regulations for 1880, I was able to find the following: Bureau of Pensions, Department of the Interior, A Treatise on the Practice of the Pension Bureau Governing the Adjudication of the Army and Navy Pensions, Washington, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1896.