We, Americans, generally take our rights for granted. We are given the rights to speak our own minds, to have our own religious beliefs, even dress as we individually prefer. We are also given the right to get ensnared in bureaucratic "red tape".
A majority of Americans have found themselves tangled in it's web at one time or another. I am sure it is a necessity in order to get all the pertinent facts correct and to attain some semblance of honesty. Unfortunately, this world has never been at peace. Military conflict has gone on somewhere around the clock forever. To create our own country it took a major military engagement.
President John F. Kenndy made the famous statement, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country." There is no doubt that each of us can do something, but after that what -- "red tape?"
I have seen this with friends who have gone through a "hell" on earth in Viet Nam. They have come home to be swept under the carpet of "red tape.".
I imagine some of our troops returning from both World Wars have found themselves in similar predicaments. Belive it or not, this "red tape" existed 134 years ago, during the ghastly war within the confines of our own nation.
Andrew Wells was born March 24, 1824, along the shores of the slowly meandering Mississippi in Pike County, Missouri. He was the second of nine children born to John Wells, a wheelwright and his wife Sarah "Sally" Edwards.
With the shelling of Fort Sumter, the division was made and a nation went to war amongst themselves.
Andrew was busy at this time caring for Eliza, his wife, and four children. I am sure he was involved in discussions of the war, as everyone was, both north and south.
Autumn 1862 found three brothers donning haversacks, bidding ado to family and starting on an odyseey that would lead them deep into Dixie. George would return home whole, while Joel would find his final resting place under the shade of a cedar tree on the battlefield at Stone River, Tennessee, placed there by his own brother George's caring hands. Andrew would eventually return to home in Mt. Carroll, Illinois, maimed for life.
In the days prior to the advent of modern medicine and medical technology, disease would ravage an army as much as guns and cannons. In the case of the American Civil War more men died of the elements, food water and disease than actual battle wounds.
Andrew was a disease victim. In January 1863 he was to be found in a field hospital in Franklin, Tennessee. Typhoid fever had taken him out of combat. He laid there for a long period of time, sometime delerious, probably getting very little attention if any. Typhoid did one of two things to a soldier....He was either strong enough to eventually fight it off, or he died. From January to early summer, he remained there, possibly due to the fact that they were so far south and transportation was always an issue. Eventually, he was transported north to Morene, the city hospital in Chicago, Illlinois.
Doctors and nursing staffs were so limited through out the war, both north and south. Finally, his wife Eliza left their children, Jerome 10, Warren 6, Harriet Isabelle, 4 and little two year old Martha "Mattie" at home in Carroll County, Illinois. She herself made the journey to Chicago, where she undertook Andrew's care, nursing him back to health the best she could until he was able to go home to his family.
Andrew would be crippled for life, getting around with the use of a cane. The massive abcess in his groin area, left untreated, possibly starting from a sliver, a bug bite or even a bedsore as he lay there in the throes of typhoid, did either muscle or nerve damage to his leg.
Only July 23, 1863 Andrew was given a disability dischare from the Army of the United States. He would be considered 1/2 disabled. His first love, horses would have to be given up, as he was unsure that if he tangled with an unruly one or got into a possible emergency situation that he would not be able to move fast enough to avert problems. He would become a bee keeper.
The "red tape" then began as he attempted to secure his disability pension. How soon after his return to civilian life the applictions began is unknown.
A communique from the Adjutant General's Office on July 13, 1874, some ten years after his discharge states that they were acknowledging receipt of application for pension. It is doubted if this was the first application.
At age 51, on February 16, 1882 some 19 years after his discharge, Andrew was still in "red tape." He filed a declaration for original pension paper. On July 15, 1890 he filed a form known as a declaration for invalid pension. In Andrew's case the "red tape" won as he died four days later on July 19, 1890. One would think this would be the end of the "red tape." His death would only create more.
In 1874 Andrew's wife Eliza fell victim herself to typhod and did not survive. Four years later he married the widow of Stewart Benefield, Martha, of Carroll County, Illinois.
Upon his death, "red tape" was created for Martha, who attempted to qualify for her widow's pension. In June of 1891, an affidavit from Andrew's physician stated he had known Andrew, his first wife (which was actually his second wife, as he had been married less than a year in 1848) Eliza and his second wife Martha. On October 1, 1891 an affidavit was filed on Martha's behalf by William L. Gayetty and Arthur Williams, stating they had known Andrew and Martha. These were sent to the government when Martha filed her declaration for widow's pension on November 3, 1891.
On January 14, 1892, Martha filed a supplemental declaration for pension. By this time Andrew had been dead 17 months and still "red tape." In July 1896 more documents were filed from acquaintances of Andrew and Martha.
Sometime after 1896, six years after Andrew's death the "red tape" finally ran out and Martha became a Civil War widow pensioner.
She didn't enjoy her $8 per month pension for long as sh passed away between July 4th and July 15, 1898.
Andrew had fought for his country and in the end fought his county and it's endless "red tape."
I am proud that my great-great-grandfather served his country. I am only sorry that his country didn't serve him a little better in his time of need.
The "red tape", it seems has always been there in some form or another........problem is it probably always will be.