The Civil War may have ended 152 years ago, but for Irene Triplett, it still continues in a way far more tangible than recent fights over Confederate monuments.
For Triplett, 87, the Civil War means a monthly check for $73.13 from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Triplett is the sole surviving person receiving a Civil War pension from the VA.
It was not uncommon during the Great Depression for elderly Civil War veterans to marry much younger nurses or caregivers for financial reasons. Often, those veterans adopted their new wives’ children, making them eligible for survivors benefits.
That was not the case for Triplett.
Triplett’s father Moses (or Mose, documents vary as to his name) Triplett, was born in North Carolina in 1846, started the war as a Confederate soldier who deserted just before Gettysburg, according to a 2014 story about Triplett in The Wall Street Journal.
According to that report and others, Moses Triplett’s first wife died sometime in the early 1920s. He married Elida Hall, Irene’s mother in 1924. Triplett was nearly 50 years older than his wife.
Moses Triplett died in 1938.
According to the Journal, both of the Triplett women had mental disabilities. Unable to support themselves, the two moved into a poorhouse in Wilkes County, North Carolina in 1943. When that facility closed in 1960, the two moved into a private nursing home.
Elida Triplett died in 1967.
Irene Triplett lived in the same nursing home until 2013, when she moved to a nearby skilled-nursing facility, the Journal reported.
Citing privacy laws, the VA wouldn’t say where Triplett is living now, but it confirmed that she is alive and continues to receive her monthly pension benefits.
The last surviving Civil War veteran died in 1956 at the age of 109, according to the VA. The last Civil War widow died in 2008 at the age of 93.
Triplett is not the only person receiving benefits tied to service in 19th century wars. According to the VA, 84 surviving spouses and children receive benefits tied to the Spanish-American War, which was fought in 1898.
Triplett is an extreme example that the costs of war don’t end with the final battle.
Triplett’s pension reflects a call Abraham Lincoln made at the conclusion of his Second Inaugural address, which was delivered in the final weeks of the Civil War. Lincoln called on all Americans to care for veterans and their survivors.
“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”
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