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In Mourning

The Wall Street Journal.

Last Person to Receive a Civil War-Era Pension Dies

Michael M. Phillips 3 June 2020

Irene Triplett, the last person receiving a pension from the U.S. Civil War, has died at the age of 90.

Ms. Triplett’s father, Mose Triplett, started fighting in the war for the Confederacy, but defected to the North in 1863. That decision earned his daughter Irene, the product of a late-in-life marriage to a woman almost 50 years his junior, a pension of $73.13 a month from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Ms. Triplett, who suffered from mental disabilities, qualified for federal financial support as a helpless ((CQ)) adult child of a veteran. She died Sunday from complications following surgery for injuries from a fall, according to the Wilkesboro, N.C., nursing home where she lived.

The Triplett family was the subject of a Page One article in The Wall Street Journal in 2014.

Pvt. Triplett enlisted in the 53rd North Carolina Infantry Regiment in May 1862, then transferred to the 26th North Carolina Infantry Regiment early the following year, according to Confederate records. He fell ill as his regiment marched north toward Gettysburg and remained behind in a Virginia military hospital.

He ran away from the hospital, records show, while his unit suffered devastating losses at Gettysburg. Of the 800 men in the 26th North Carolina, 734 were killed, wounded or captured in the battle Pvt. Triplett missed.

Now a deserter, he made his way to Tennessee and, in 1864, enlisted in a Union regiment, the 3rd North Carolina Mounted Infantry. Known as Kirk’s Raiders, the 3rd North Carolina carried out a campaign of sabotage against Confederate targets in eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina. The unit was named after Tennessee-born commander Col. George Washington Kirk.

After the war, former Kirk’s Raiders were despised in areas of the former Confederacy. Pvt. Triplett, by then a civilian with a reputation for orneriness, kept pet rattlesnakes at his home near Elk Creek, N.C. He often sat on his front porch with a pistol on his lap.

“A lot of people were afraid of him,” his grandson, Charlie Triplett, told The Wall Street Journal.

Pvt. Triplett married Elida Hall in 1924. She was 34 when Irene was born in 1930; he was 83. Such an age difference wasn’t rare, especially later, during the Great Depression, when Civil War veterans found themselves with both a pension and a growing need for care.

Both mother and daughter suffered from mental disabilities. Irene Triplett recalled a tough childhood in the North Carolina mountains, beaten by teachers at school and parents at home.

“I didn’t care for neither one of them, to tell you the truth about it,” she told The Wall Street Journal in 2014. “I wanted to get away from both of them. I wanted to get me a house and crawl in it all by myself.”

Pvt. Triplett died in 1938 at age 92, days after attending a reunion of Civil War veterans, attended by President Franklin Roosevelt, on the fields of Gettysburg.

Ms. Triplett and her mother lived for years in the Wilkes County poorhouse. Irene later moved through a number of care homes, her costs covered by Medicaid and her tiny VA pension.

She saw little of her relatives. But a pair of Civil War buffs visited and sent her money to spend on Dr Pepper and chewing tobacco, a habit she picked up in the first grade.

“She’s a part of history,” said Dennis St. Andrew, one of Irene’s supporters and a past commander of the North Carolina Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War. “You’re talking to somebody whose father was in the Civil War, which is mind-bending.”

The number of what the group calls true sons and daughters of Civil War soldiers is fast heading toward zero. Mr. St. Andrew expects that as word spreads of Ms. Triplett’s death, the Sons of Union Veterans will, as is customary, declare a 30-day mourning period. Members will wear a black band on their membership badges.

Write to Michael M. Phillips at


Our Story

The Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW) is a fraternal organization dedicated to preserving the history and legacy of veteran heroes who fought and worked to save the Union in the American Civil War. Organized in 1881 and chartered by Congress in 1954, SUVCW is the legal heir and successor to the Grand Army of the Republic. In 1866, Union Veterans of the Civil War organized into the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) and became a social and political force that would control the destiny of the nation for more than six decades. Membership in the veterans’ organization was restricted to individuals who had served in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, or Revenue Cutter Service during the Civil War, thereby limiting the life span of the GAR. The GAR existed until 1956. In 1881 the GAR formed the Sons of Veterans of the United States of America (SV) to carry on its traditions and memory long after the GAR had ceased to exist. Membership was open to any man who could prove ancestry to a member of the GAR or to a veteran eligible for membership in the GAR. In later years, men who did not have the ancestry to qualify for hereditary membership, but who demonstrated a genuine interest in the Civil War and could subscribe to the purpose and objectives of the SUVCW, were admitted as Associates. This practice continues today. Many GAR Posts sponsored Camps of the SV. In 1925 the SV name was changed to Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW), under which its federal charter was issued in 1954. The SUVCW is legally recognized as the heir to, and representative of, the GAR. Today, the National Organization of the SUVCW, headed by an annually elected Commander-in-Chief, oversees the operation of 32 Departments, each consisting of one or more states, a Department-at-Large, a National Membership-at-Large, and over 200 community based camps. More than 6,360 men enjoy the benefits of membership in the only male organization dedicated to the principles of the GAR — Fraternity, Charity, and Loyalty. It publishes “The BANNER” quarterly for its members. The SUVCW National Headquarters is located in the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The SUVCW is one of five Allied Orders of the GAR. The other four Orders are: Ladies of the Grand Army of the Republic, Woman’s Relief Corps, Auxiliary to the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War and Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War.

Allied Orders of the Grand Army of the Republic

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Why You Should Support Our Organization

When you join the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, you enter a network of more than 6,000 men who form lifelong bonds, honor their heroic ancestors, and promote historic preservation, education, and patriotism in their communities. There are hereditary members, who trace their lineage to those who served honorably in the Civil War, and associate members, who do not have the requisite ancestry but wish to join the fraternity. Each is described in greater detail below.

Men and juniors interested in joining the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War should make every effort to connect with their local or nearest Camp or Department, as this will greatly accelerate the application process. Please visit our National SUVCW page to find the one that is closest to you. We currently have 32 Departments, representing the whole of the United States of America, as well as one International Camp that exists in England. Click here to go to the Departments page in order to connect with someone close to you. The Brothers of the Order stand by to assist you and make your application process as easy as possible.

Membership Application (pdf) for a Form 3 membership application. If you are not able to find a local Camp or Department. Further questions regarding eligibility or the application can be directed to the Junior Vice Commander-in-Chief at Please understand that if you apply through the National Organization, you may experience delays in the processing of your application. All applicants are encouraged to apply in the closest Department or Camp that is within his geographical location.

Hereditary Membership (Member & Junior)

Hereditary membership is available to a male descendant, 14 years of age (6 to 14 for Juniors), who meets the following requirements:

You must directly descend from a Soldier, Sailor, Marine or member of the Revenue Cutter Service (or directly descend from a brother, sister, half-brother, or half-sister of such Soldier, etc.) who was regularly mustered and served honorably in, was honorably discharged from, or died in the service of, the Army, Navy, Marine Corps or Revenue Cutter Service of the United States of America or in such state regiments called to active service and was subject to the orders of United States general officers, between April 12, 1861 and April 9, 1865.

You must never have been convicted of any infamous or heinous crime.

You, or the ancestor through whom membership is claimed, must never have voluntarily borne arms against the government of the United States.

The Sons of Veterans Reserve (SVR) is the ceremonial uniformed military element of the SUVCW. The SVR consists of a General Staff and several military districts across the nation. The SVR is overseen by the National Military Affairs Committee of the SUVCW. SVR elements participate in ceremonies, parades, living history programs, and re-enactments. All Members and Associates are welcome to join the SVR; however, SVR membership is contingent upon maintaining SUVCW membership.

Associate Membership

Associate membership is available to men who do not have the ancestry to qualify for hereditary membership. Associate membership is available to any man who demonstrates a genuine interest in the Civil War and can subscribe to the purpose and objects of the SUVCW.

Although an Associate is not required to meet the lineage requirement of a Member, he is still subject to the second and third provisions of hereditary eligibility. An Associate may vote and hold any office except those of Commander-in-Chief, Senior Vice Commander-in-Chief, Junior Vice Commander-in-Chief, National Secretary, National Treasurer and Commanding Officer of the Sons of Veterans Reserve. Associates may not exceed one-third of the total membership of the Camp at the time of election.

Why Donate?

The Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW) is a fraternal organization dedicated to preserving the history and legacy of not only Veteran heroes who fought and worked to save the Union in the American Civil War, but all wars. Help us to continue honoring our fallen with Historical Markers, Grave markers, education, grave stone maintenance and replacement, and initial requests there of. Thank you in advance for your generous contribution to our cause.

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