George Preston Birdsong (1841-1905), known as “Pres” to family and friends, is my presumptive great-great-grandfather. He was the scion of a prominent Upson County, Georgia, family. Pres’s father, George Lawrence Forsyth Birdsong (“Larry”), was a sportsman and land owner. Larry also served for a time as Upson County Sheriff.
When the Civil War began, Pres enlisted in Company K, 5th Georgia Infantry, the so-called Upson Guards. Larry had been captain of the company, but had to resign because of his duties as Sheriff.
In little more than a year of duty, Pres was appointed first sergeant of the unit. Two years after Pres enlisted, his younger brother Albert Hamill Birdsong, followed suit. But the causeof the Confederacy was a doomed one, and in April of 1865, the Upson County men surrendered to Federal forces near Greensboro, North Carolina.
Pres and Albert returned home to Georgia. Larry was soon taken ill and died in 1869.
I’m not sure of all that exactly happened between 1870 and 1880 concerning the Birdsong family. I do know that in 1880, Pres was a never-married 39 year old, living apparently alone, but “next door” to my gg-grandmother, Matilda Manson, and her son Otis, who had been born in 1874.
In 1884, Pres, Matilda, and Otis, left Upson County, Georgia, and ended up in Milam County, Texas. Pres’s brother, Albert Hamill Birdsong wrnt with them. Young Otis eventually married and had children, one of whom he named Preston.
Pres Birdsong returned to Georgia in 1901. His brother Albert followed him back home in 1903. I had not known the circumstances of their return. But now, thanks to Ancestry.com, I’ve seen their Confederate pension applications made after their homecomings, and there are significant bits of information there. (Note: there is a Confederate Pensions file at the Georgia Archives’ Virtual Vault; however, it appears to be incomplete and does not contain information about Preston or Albert Birdsong.)
Pres filed his application for a pension in July,1903, a number of months after his return to Georgia from Texas. He stated that he was applying for the pension on the grounds of “infirmity and poverty,” and “blindness and poverty.”
A physician’s affidavit accompanied the application. Dr. A.H. Black and Dr. K.S. Williams stated that Pres had “chronic Rheumatism of shoulders and arms” and that “his vision is very impaired in both eyes.” They concluded that “His general health is very poor; and he is very feeble and infirm.”
Pres said in the application that he had been in Texas starting in 1884. He said he had been a night watchman in Texas, but that since 1901, his employment amounted to “not much of anything.”
Answering several questions consistently, Pres denied he had a family.
Pres got an answer to his pension application rather swiftly: DENIED.
This man has only been a citizen of this State since 1901–Is not entitled to this Ga Pension–Was not a bona fide citizen of Ga on 6 Dec 1897. Cannot allow this pension.
Apparently, 6 December 1897 was a jurisdictional limiting factor to receive a pension under the law in effect when Pres applied.
Albert had remained in Texas a few years longer than had Pres. He filed for a pension in 1905. Albert’s petition was not much different from that of Pres. He applied on the grounds of “infirmity and poverty,” saying,
My constitution is broken down and I suffer from my heart and have pains in my head and general debility to such an extent that I am not able to earn a support. My brother, Geo. P. Birdsong, who was with me in Texas died this year in Upson County and had a similar trouble of the heart.
Albert’s answer came as swiftly as Pres’s had: APPROVED.
Albert received his pension for fifteen years until he died in October, 1921.
So what was the difference?
I know that Georgia had several pension acts passed by its legislature. Perhaps a legislative change occurred after Pres was denied and before Albert applied.
Or may be George Preston Birdsong was singled out for “special treaetment”?
We’ll dig a bit deeper and report our findings.
February 16, 2009 Monday at 6:39 pm