Death of Irene Triplett, the last American Civil War pensioner

A surgeon is about to amputate a soldier's leg at a makeshift Union Army hospital in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

EIt was the last link between contemporary America and the American Civil War. Irene Triplett died on Sunday May 31 in a retirement home in Wilkesboro, North Carolina, local funeral director Miller Funeral Service and … Wall street journal. She was 90 years old.

Irene is the last person linked to this conflict that the United States still cannot digest, one hundred and fifty-five years after its end: every month, she received 73.13 dollars (65 euros) from the administration veterans, for a total of 877.56 dollars (775 euros) per year. It was the “reward” for the defection of his father, Moses Triplett, from the Southern camp before the Battle of Gettysburg (1863).

Irene Triplett was born sixty-seven years after this battle, on January 9, 1930, in America of the Great Depression and Prohibition, in the county of Wilkes, in North Carolina. She is the daughter of Elida Hall and Moses Triplett.

Southerner then Northerner

Moses was born in 1846 in Watauga County, North Carolina. He was 16 years old when the Civil War began (April 12, 1861 – May 9, 1865) which killed more than 600,000 people on both sides. At the beginning of the conflict, he fought alongside the Confederate army: in the 53e North Carolina infantry regiment and then in the 26e North Carolina infantry regiment. Often sick, he spends most of his time in the hospital. And then, on June 26, 1863, he was reported as a deserter. He thus avoided the battle of Gettysburg (1er July 3, 1863), turning point of the war during which 734 of the 800 men of 26e North Carolina infantry regiment are killed (86), injured (502) or captured.

But in the region of North Carolina where Moses Triplett hails, part of the population supports abolitionists and harbors deserters from the Confederate army. It reappears on 1er August 1864, in Knoxville, Tennessee, where he joined 3e North Carolina Mounted Infantry Regiment (Union Army). The Kirk’s Raiders, named after the leading Colonel George Washington Kirk, distinguished themselves in guerrilla actions against Confederate troops. Later George Washington Kirk will hunt for the Ku Klux Klan.

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A pension claimed twenty years after the war

Returning home, Moses Triplett was considered a pariah, a traitor. But still carrying a revolver on his belt and not hesitating to use it, he inspired fear. In 1885 he applied for a pension as part of his service in the Union army. It was granted to him the following year. Nothing is known about her relationship with his first wife, Mary, just that they have no offspring and that she died in 1920.

In 1886 Moses Triplett obtained a disability pension, which would benefit his daughter Irene, until the end of her life.

In 1924, he married Elida Hall. She is 34 years old, suffers from mental problems, he is 83. These unions between a veteran who receives a pension and a much younger woman are not uncommon: offers her a meager income, she takes care of him. They will have five children: Phema, Patsy and Billie Coolidge die, only Irene and Everette survive.

Like her mother, Irene suffers from a handicap: she suffers from cognitive impairment. In 2014, she told the Wall street journal that she had a difficult childhood, battered by her teachers and parents at home. At school, she is teased by students about her father, the “Traitor”. She dropped out of school in sixth grade, unable to read or write properly. She says that, “If she doesn’t get into alcohol, very young, she starts chewing tobacco.” A habit that will never let go.

Moses Triplett died in 1938 at the age of 92, a few days after attending a meeting of American Civil War veterans, attended by President Franklin Roosevelt, on the Gettysburg battlefield.

The mother and daughter lived together for a few years in a home for the poor in Wilkes County. On the death of her mother in 1967, Irene Triplett became a beneficiary of her father’s pension, due to her disability. She has never married and has been placed in several care homes, her costs being covered by Medicaid (health insurance for individuals and families with low income and resources) and her father’s disability pension. .

A conflict that still shapes the United States

More than sixty years after the death of the last American Civil War veteran, Walter Washington Williams, Stephanie McCurry, American Civil War historian at Columbia University in New York, explains to Washington Post that in light of the murder of George Floyd and the protests across the United States, the death of Irene Triplett is a symbol of a past that seems to be over but continues to shape America.

The debate on the legacy of the country’s slavery past, symbolized by the numerous monuments to the glory of the Confederate army during the American Civil War, is the best illustration of this. Virginia’s Democratic Governor Ralph Northam has just announced his intention to unbolt ” as soon as possible “ the statue of the Commander-in-Chief of the Southern Army, General Robert Edward Lee, which still sits in Richmond, the state capital (and of the Confederates during the Civil War). “In 2020, we can no longer honor a system that was based on the buying and selling of human beings”, explained the governor on Twitter, June 4.

Besides veterans of wars waged by the United States since the beginning of the XXe century – and their dependents – the Department of Veterans Affairs paid retirement benefits related to the Spanish American War of 1898 to thirty-three surviving spouses and eighteen children.

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