The Suitcase Lady


June 9, 2020, 9:10 pm

The other day my husband alerted me to a news item he knew I would find to be of great interest. The headline read, “Last Person to Receive a Civil War Pension Dies.”

Several decades ago, I read author Reynolds Price’s comments about reaching back and touching history. He described knowing a man who had been a slave as a child. For the first time in my life, I realized I could look back and make personal connections to America’s past. I wanted to know how far back I could go. As it turns out, it’s amazingly far… I can touch the Civil War. More on that later.

The last Civil War pensioner, Irene Triplett, died on May 31, 2020, at age ninety. The Department Of Veteran’s Affairs had been sending her a monthly pension check of $73.13 because her father was a Civil War veteran. Here’s the timeline.

Mose Triplett from North Carolina was both a Confederate and Union soldier, defecting from the Confederate forces halfway through the war and joining the Union army. When his first wife died, he remarried in 1924 at the age of 78. His daughter Irene was born on January 9, 1930, with mental disabilities. Mose died in 1938 at the age of 92 and Irene was eligible to get his pension.

These links a person can make through long periods of history are known as the Great Span. After learning about the concept, my next Memorial Day visit to the cemetery where my father’s family is buried took on a new dimension.

I never knew my paternal grandfather. His first wife died and he married my beloved grandmother who was years younger than he was. The fact that he passed away long before my birth makes him no less my grandfather. And he is my link to the Civil War.

Here is what is engraved on his tombstone:

Frank Horlivy
1864 – 1929

The Civil War was raging the year my grandfather was born. It officially ended on April 9, 1865.

William Faulkner said, “The past is never dead. It’s not even the past.” How powerfully his words resonate now. America is massed in the streets protesting injustices that began with slavery, flourished through the Civil War, Reconstruction, the Civil Rights movement and continue up to the current moment. Let us hope we can finally break this ugly chain and live up to our nation’s stated ideals.


1 Comment for this entry

  • Joan Bodden

    I enjoyed your linked blog. I enjoy family history. I had several great uncles that were born around the Civil War. There are Adam Bodden, 1857; John Bodden,1862 and Michael Bodden , 1865. My grandfather was the baby of the family born in 1881. The rest of the family of 14 were born in between those dates. I am lucky to have an extensive family tree done by several of my relation. I was excited when a family reunion Was held a few years back and met some of my extended family.