What Became His Wife’s War: The Battle for Civil War Pension

I am a researcher, yet some days I wish I were not. You see, I dive into multiple topics within African American history from slavery to the present encountering countless historical figures and seeking to learn their stories. The issue comes with time, a luxury I do not have. Despite this fallback, there exist a few stories and historical actors whose trials, accomplishments, and lives cannot be ignore. One of these stories include Rosa Pappy and the fight for her husband’s pension following the American Civil War. The Civil War was only one of the many wars African Americans undertook, both physically and mentally. This post will detail Rosa’s and her husband’s battle for pension. Her record number—394,141.

William Pappy was a friend of Harry Flowers, the father of Rachel Flowers, my primary research focus. These men both served within the 21st United States Colored Infantry. Pappy was a former slave of the Llambias family in St. Augustine, Florida and following the war he gained employment as a barber. He claimed pension for a war injury that ultimately cost him his life leaving his widow, Rosaline Goff,  to care for not only herself, but their three children. As Rosa continued her husband’s initial battle for pension, the special examiner assigned to the case denied her on multiple accounts based on the following claims: (1) allegations that excessive alcohol consumption led to the soldier’s death and (2) charges that the soldier’s widow, Rosalie G. Pappy, led an immoral life. We will first examine what happened to William Pappy during the Civil War.




What happen to William Pappy?

…on or about 5th day of February, 1865, while in the line of duty, and without fault or improper conduct on his part, at or near Morris Island, State of South Carolina said soldier incurred a disability by receiving a great nervous shock or injury to spine….and complained he was hurt by the horse jumping a ditch…

William Natteel, fellow soldier within the 21st USCT

During the fall of 1864, I was seriously injured while in the line of duty and in the service of the United States, by lifting solid shot and while under the immediate observation of the commissioned and non commissioned officers in charge.

William Pappy, 1881

I was the attending physician at the time of the above named soldiers death. He died on the 21st day of September, 1885. The immediate cause of his death was chronic disease of nervous system. I have been practining medicine for 22 years. I first knew the soldier about the year 1880. I first treated him professionally during, 1882. When he was suffering from general nervous disability and which was subsequently the cause of death and which had been of long standing.

L. Alexander, Pappy’s physician

His claim was first dismissed due to the various accounts given for his injury. Pappy’s fellow soldier claimed he was thrown off a horse. This said incident can be found in  witness statements. Pappy stated he was injured lifting weapons. Why two different stories? Personally, I believe he was ashamed of his injuries and the event that lead to them. Many heard the story of Pappy being thrown off the horse and only does Pappy give a different story. Perhaps, he did fall off the horse as oppose to being injured while lifting heavy weapons. One does sound more credible, even honorable if I might say, when fighting for pension. Regardless of the events which led to his lifelong injuries, his wife does provide further insight on why the event and injury may have been embarrassing and difficult to speak about.

I claim pension as the widow of Wm. Pappy who was a private in Co. A 21 Regt U.S.C Troops, and who died in this plae Sept 21, 1885 of fits of nervous toruble that appeared to come from his privates. All his misery appeared to come from his privates.

He was ruptured before I married him. He told me that he got ruptured while in the army but I cannot tell how he got ruptured that way, or in some other way, I cannot tell….and when I married him I knew he was then wearing a truss.

Deposition A. Case of Rosa G. Pappy, No. 394141. January 23, 1891
Deponent: Rosa G. Pappy

All I know about his being disabled is that I heard he had been sent to the Hospl. and when I asked about him I was told that he had been thrown from a horse and injured…I never [saw] his naked person, but after he got about while were there on Morris Island before Charleston surrendered after he got to be about you could see through his clothing that his bag was very large as large as your fist, I should say…

Deposition H. January 27, 1891. Ormand, Florida
Deponent: Harry F. Flowers

The first claim against Pappy was widely disputed,  hise xcessive drinking as the main cause of his death. His physician and most of his friends and family who testified remarked no; however, the special examiner sided with the few who commented on Pappy’s excessive drinking. Despite Pappy’s “drinking”, what was even greatly disputed was his wife’s rumored immoral lifestyle and the paternity of the children.

That she is unable to furnish any church record of Baptism of the children or the evidence of birth from the midwife relating to the time she said Arthur J. and Lotta Pappy were born as they were not christened in any church at the time of their birth…That affiant states that among her, the colored race, it is not the custom to carry children to churches for baptisms and when done any record is kept be such churches of the facts of record…

General Affidavit, 1891-93?

…do state that she (Rosa) has not remarried since the date of the death of the said Wm. G. Pappy that they have known her continuously since that period and know that she has not even been remarried, that their knowledge is attained from living where these facts would have been known to affiants.

Wm. H. Atkins and Lancaster Hall, neighbors of the Pappy

..That she has been well and truly acquainted with the claimant and knows she is now and always has remained the widow of the said Wm. G. Pappy since his death….the said Rosa G. Pappy never remarried.

Martha White Heifer, friend of the family

No sir I have not lived or cohabitated with any man since the death of my husband. I have supplements myself and cared for my children mostly by hard work, washing and ironing. Sometimes I rent a large house like this and rent-out rooms. I have two rooms rent out now…

Rosa G. Pappy, January 23, 1891

I cannot tell how long it has been since Wm. commenced to have those crazy spells, but it was not until after got married. His wife went off to NY at one time, and left him, and he got to fretting…

After awhile his wife…got running with a black man named Gabe William and Wm would try to break up that connection, and would fret about it and get to drinking…I think Gabe Williams got married shortly after my Wm died, but I do not know whether Rosa has been living with any other men since then or not. She does not visit here and I do not know anything about her doings.

Mrs. Harriet Pappy, January 24, 1891



On August 12, 1890, nearly 5 years after her husband’s death, Rosa Pappy granted her husband’s pension at $8 a month. Oddly enough the transcript I have read, link provided below, list this date as well; however, the testimonies are either undated or stated to be after 1890. No thoughts only the date could have been written wrong. What is concluded is the battle it took to receive pension beginning with her husband’s fight for what was rightfully earned continuing on to his widow’s fight after his death. Much of her private life was exposed in order to find some reasoning to justify a refusal to pay her pension. It was a sad fight, but she would not be alone. Most black soldiers had to fight another “war” simply to gain pension.

Until the next post,


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