After returning home to Upson County, Georgia, after 17 years in Texas, George Preston (“Pres”) Birdsong applied for, and was denied, a pension for his four years of service in the Confederate Army. His brother, Albert Hamill Birdsong, who had gone to Texas with Pres in 1884, returned to Upson County in 1903. Albert had served two years in the same unit as his brother during the war. He applied for and was granted a pension.
What of this apparent discrepancy? Like much in life, it was all a matter of timing.
Georgia had adopted its first Civil War pension law in 1866, styled “An Act for the relief of maimed indigent soldiers and officers, citizens of this State who belonged to military organizations of this State, in the State or Confederate States armies.” [The Confederate Records of Georgia, volume 4, p. 523. See reference to act in Governor’s Order appointing surgeons, 19 April 1866. Available at
This law seems to have extended benefits to persons living in the state who belonged to any Confederate unit anywhere. But in 1867, the pension law was amended as “An Act for the relief of maimed Officers and Soldiers who belonged to military organizations of this State, or of the Confederate States.” Apparently, under this law, there no longer was a requirement for Georgia “citizenship.” As funding was uneven over the years, Georgia amended its pension law numerous times between 1867 and 1910.
Pres Birdsong applied for his pension in 1903. The pension law then in effect was the 1897 Act. Under this law, an applicant had to be a resident of Georgia as of the effective date of the law, which was 6 December 1897.
On 6 December 1897, Pres Birdsong was residing in Milam County, Texas, where he had gone in 1884 with his “mulatto” consort, Matilda (“Mattie”) Manson. His pension application seems to have been properly denied.
George Preston Birdsong died, ill and indigent, in 1905. We don’t know the exact date of his death that year, except that it was likely before August 22. On that date in 1905, almost as if in reaction to Pres’s case, the Georgia Legislature reenacted the pension law, applying it to persons served in a Georgia military unit and “who are residents of this State at the date of the approval of this Act, . . . regardless of previous residence . . . .”
Albert Hamill Birdsong, who had accompanied Pres and Mattie to Texas and who remained there until 1903, applied for his pension in September, 1905, under the new law. His application was granted.
February 18, 2009 Wednesday at 5:30 pm