The Traveling Genealogist

Why Is John’s Diary in his Pension Packet?

During my June visit to the National Archives (Washington, DC), I pulled the Civil War pension packet for John B. Creps. The find of this trip was cousin John’s diary, kept by him during his Civil War service and found in his pension packet1.  See this article Introducing John B Creps, and this article to read the entire (its short) diary. John wrote in his diary daily sharing gossip and news of friends, conveying the mundane drudgery of a soldier waiting to be deployed. Some entries are long, while he has just a brief sentence or two on other days. But the question remains, why or how did his diary end up in his pension packet?

John himself died of rubella less than three months after enlisting in the Union Army, never receiving a pension, so why is there a pension packet? The military stored any pension granted to the veteran, his widow, minor children, or his parents under the veteran’s name. This simplified the clerk’s task of tracking claims related to a soldier’s service while enabling them to identify potential fraud. John was unmarried when he enlisted and did not leave any minor children to survive him. With no other heirs, the pension laws permitted an elderly parent, in dire straights being too infirm to support themselves and who could prove their son supported them (sent money home for the family’s needs), could claim his pension.

Pages 5 & 6 in the diary of John B Creps
Pages 5 & 6 in the diary of John B Creps

On the 9th of January 1865, John’s entry states: “Went to esepress my money home but was to late. Sent it at last $65 dollars am to get my receipt at 7 seven oclock this evening Went up and got my receipt an other squad left to day”2 His mother, Eliza, submitted his diary, this entry to the Pension Bureau as proof that he sent money home to support the family.

Letter from Dad to John
Letter from Dad to John saying we received the money

The pension packet also contains this letter3, provided as documentation, where his father confirms that they received the funds John sent home.

These two pieces of documentation remain in the pension packet 140 years later as evidence that John was supporting his parents, making his mother eligible to receive his pension benefit.


1 Diary of Jacob B. Creps, “Jacob B. Creps, Civil War Pension File Mother Application #332696″, Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs (RG 15), National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), Washington, DC. (hereafter Jacob B Creps Pension File #332696)
2 Diary of Jacob B. Creps, page 5 entry dated 9th,  “Jacob B Creps Pension File #332696″ 
3 Letter from Joseph A Creps to son John B Creps,  “Jacob B Creps Pension File #332696″