These ledgers contain the claims of blacks requesting compensation for wounds and injuries received or diseases contracted while serving in the Union forces during the Civil War. Most applicants had lived in Craven and surrounding counties prior to the Civil War and fled to Union-occupied New Bern after it fell to Union forces in 1862. The blacks subsequently enlisted in the U.S. Army or Navy and served in a variety of locations during the remainder of the war. Claims for disability pensions were handled by Frederick C. Douglass, a black lawyer, minister, and teacher of New Bern, N.C., who served as a government pension agent between 1889 and 1897.
The majority of claims were made by relatives of black Union soldiers. Many were filed by widows, minor children, and parents of deceased soldiers. Others were claims made by the soldiers themselves. In all cases, the petitioner was required to show proof that the veteran in question had received a disability while serving in the Union forces. The most common affliction seems to have been diarrhea, hemorrhoids, rheumatism, heart ailments, and gunshot wounds. In most cases, health afflictions were related to over-exposure rather than battle wounds.
In order to prove that these disabilities were service-related, petitioners furnished witnesses who testified as to the veteran's background before the war, the nature of his military service, and the health problem resulting therefrom. Testimony attempted to establish the identity of the veteran, and in the case of dependent claims, the relationship between the claimant and the veteran. In some dependent claims, witnesses also had to testify whether or not the claimant was able to support himself/herself. Most of the testimony recorded was given by neighbors, friends, relatives, and doctors.
The records reflect antebellum and Civil War conditions of blacks, slave marriages, births, and ownership. Details of military service are provided, as are the activities of the veteran subsequent to the war.
For related material, see Collections #248 and #323, and Mf. 40.