Shamokin PA

Vet speaks out on pensions

A noncombatant’s criticism of pensions for Union Army veterans fired up an editor of Shenandoah’s Evening Herald in March 1892.

His response, published in the Monday, March 28 edition, is a gem:

“Let some man who thinks so take a blanket some cold, rainy night and go out and sleep in the pig pen.

“Let him get up in the morning and make his breakfast off a slice of the fattest, rankest salt pork he can find in the bottom of a barrel of brine; sandwich this between two ancient crackers, about as digestible as white-poplar chips, and wash it down with scalding hot black coffee, made in a quart cup over a fire of wet chips in a fence-corner.

“Let him pick up his dirty blanket, load himself down with about 30 pounds of odds and ends, and tramp off through the rain and ankle-deep mud until noon when he can stop for another snack of salt pork, hardtack and black coffee.

“Then let him resume his tramp, with no loitering, no picking out of dry places, no avoiding the mud holes in the middle of the road, no hunting around for dry crossings of the creeks in his way, until late at night, when he may stop for awhile to make his supper out of the same materials which comprised his other two meals.

“Then, as his every bone and muscle aches from the laborious march, let someone say to him, ‘Here, Jones, you had a good rest last night; you must go on picket to-night.’ And then let him stand the livelong night under a dripping tree, peering out anxiously into the dense darkness for skulking enemies intent upon putting a bullet or a bayonet into his weary body, and be kept awake by the fear that he will be shot either by friends or enemies if he dares to yield to fatigue.”

The writer noted this was a mere sample of what the soldier endured, not just for a day or a week, but for all the years of their enlistment.

“If he will go through this kind of picnicking, he will think that a pension of $8 a month for the rest of his life would be mighty poor compensation for all that he had to endure.”