February 23, 1866
Early in 1866, Maine Governor Samuel Cony speaks to the first post war Legislature. He identifies critical issues facing the state in the aftermath of the war, including the demobilization of Maine's volunteers, and the costs and debts the state and Maine's towns and cities incurred in raising and supplying troops.
Gov. Cony also notes the personal financial hardship of Maine households brought about by the death of soldiers, or the on-going disability of those veterans who survived their wounds or illnesses. Many disabled veterans or their families receive a U.S. pension, Gov. Cony explains, but he informs the Legislature that the money is too little to meet the families’ needs.
"Under such circumstances I conceive that an imperative obligation rests upon the State to interpose and ameliorate the condition of the sufferers," Gov. Cony writes.
The Maine Legislature responded to Cony’s call to aid Maine's Civil War veterans and their families by passing an Act authorizing pensions for disabled soldiers and seamen. The State would pay up to $8 a month to a veteran or his family, depending on need and circumstances.
Mary Bowen, who had lost her husband and three sons in the war, took note of the opportunity. Mary and William Bowen lived on a small farm in Perry with their 10 children, ages 19 to 1. In November, 1861, William and his second oldest son, George, enlist in the First Maine Battery. They report to Camp Butler in Portland, and in December, move to Camp Chase in Lowell, Massachusetts. Ordered to New Orleans in February, William Bowen, however, remains behind. Very sick, Bowen dies in a Lowell hospital in March.
George Bowen survives his father by 18 months, dying in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in September, 1863. Two months later, younger brother John Quincy Adams Bowen joins the 2nd Maine Cavalry. His regiment is ordered to the Department of the Gulf in Louisiana. By August, 1864, the 2nd Maine Cavalry is in Florida, encamped at Barrancas. There, Private Bowen dies of tuberculosis in October.
Benjamin Bowen, George and John’s brother, also joins the Union Army, enlisting in the First District of Columbia Cavalry. Benjamin is killed in action on June, 1864, in a skirmish outside Petersburg, Virginia.
Governor Cony signed the Pension Act into law on February 23, 1866. Mary Bowen immediately writes to apply for a pension.
"I have lost a Husband and three sons in the War of 1861," she writes to Gov. Cony, claiming that she is unable to support herself and her remaining children, and that her application for a U. S. pension has not yet been approved.
- How might the sum of $8 in aid be calculated?