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The Good Soldier White
Modern G. I.’s will recognize a fellow spirit in the sergeant who wrote this account of life in General Washington’s army
June 1956 | Volume 7, Issue 4
The above was written merely to keep in memory, the great Struggle we had with Great Britain, in obtaining our Independence and Liberty!—May the Almighty continue them to us, “Till the sun grows dim with age, and nature sink in years.”
Charlestown, October, 1833.
With his departure in 1777, Sergeant White disappears from history’s sight until 1818. Then, only two weeks after President Monroe signed a pension act for Revolutionary veterans, White materializes in the pension records. On March 31, he appeared before a Massachusetts judge to file a declaration of eligibility. By May of the following year (then as now, government did not move at reckless speed), he had been certified a legitimate veteran. And he had established, as the act required, that he was in sufficiently “reduced circumstances” to deserve the $8 per month enlisted man’s pension. (Officers got $20.)
The schedule he submitted of his personal property, excluding only his clothes and necessaries, is a picture of indigence. There was an old printing press, worth $20; type worth another $10; and a cutting press valued at $1—the tools of the trade at which, apparently, he was a failure. “Books and ballads” came to $5; “toys,, &c.” to $3; four spoons to $2. The whole pathetic total is $61.55. He was owed $18, but his debts were $11.50. The judge who forwarded this document to the War Department added his comment that “A decrepit soldier 63 years old can not do much at any labor.” White got the pension.
∗∗ There was an old sea captain, whose name was Cook, enlisted in our company to do duty as a private; I told our captain, that I did not like to see such an old man stand sentry; I intend to get the men to do his duty, and they consented. I told him of it, and he was thankful. He happened to command the very galley that I went on board of, He treated me well.