2013 marked the 150th anniversary of the midpoint of America’s Civil War, which raged between 1861 and 1865. Although that war was crucial in defining the nation we live in today, many people think of it, if at all, as ancient history. Yet, the time of the Civil War, with issues like human slavery and the nationhood of the United States still to be decided, was not really that long ago. Incredibly, there are children of men who fought in that conflict still alive today.
Several children of Civil War vets are still living
It may be hard to believe, but as of March 2013, the US Government was still paying pensions of $876 per year to two children of Civil War veterans. For privacy reasons, government officials would not disclose their names. But the Department of Veterans Affairs has confirmed that one of the two pensioners died during the summer of 2013 at the age of 93.
That means that as of the summer of 2014, there is still one child of a Civil War soldier alive and receiving benefits based on their father’s service in that war.
But that person is not the only child of a Civil War veteran still alive in 2014. A second known living child of a Civil War soldier, but one who does not receive pension benefits, is 87-year-old Juanita Tudor Lowrey. Her father was Union Army veteran Hugh Tudor. He married Juanita’s mother in 1920 when he was 73. Juanita was born in 1926.
We’ve come a long way
For me this puts some of the racial difficulties we still experience in the 21st century in perspective. It’s a reminder that, in human terms, we are not that far away from an era when the majority of Americans found it acceptable for black people to be held in slavery, and when a Chief Justice of the United States (Roger Taney in the Dred Scott decision) could issue a judicial opinion that a black man “had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”
Yet we now live in a time when an African American has twice been elected President of the United States.
To me the fact that there are still people alive who knew, and touched, and talked every day with soldiers who fought in the war that ended slavery gives perspective on where we are now as a nation. Race relations in this country still have a long way to go. But look how far we’ve come in what is, in terms of the life of the nation, a very short time.
Ron Franklin is a pastor, writer, radio broadcaster and producer, computer programmer, and musician. Now the founding pastor of Covenant Community Church in Harrisburg, PA, he was an engineer and manager for high-tech companies such as IBM and EDS. He is a graduate of the University of Tennessee and Denver Theological Seminary.