In the winter of 1892, my great-great-grandfather, Charles H. Cloyd, applied for a Civil War pension. He cited ailments including, “rheumatism, spinal disease and bloody piles.”

He was rejected for failing to show “a notable degree of disability.”

The effort wasn’t cheap or easy. He spent $10 to hire a lawyer, rounded up friends to testify on his behalf and filled out a nest of paperwork with the details of his life and service.

Cloyd was born in 1844 and volunteered to join G company, 29th infantry of the state of New Jersey when he was 18. He listed his occupation as carpenter. He stood 5 foot 9 inches, had blue eyes, gray hair and a scar on his right hand.

He enlisted on Sept. 2, 1862 and was honorably discharged June 30, 1863. The closest he came to action was guarding a rail depot during the Battle of Chancellorsville.

On June 27, 1890, the government passed the Dependent Pension Act offering any Union veteran who was disabled for any reason a sum of about $12 a month. Prior to that, pensions were provided to soldiers injured during the conflict or widows.

The legislation came about three decades after the beginning of the conflict and had major economic, political and social consequences.

In just a few years, the number of veterans receiving compensation doubled to almost a million. Within another decade pensions would be consuming almost 40% of government expenditures. The costs were paid by imposing massive tariffs on imported goods.

The veterans, now in their 50s and 60s, had become a major political force.

There were two million Union veterans, most of them farmers or laborers who either bore wounds from battle or showed the effects of years of toil. They were “desperate for some kind of help from anyone”, according to historian Kathleen L. Gorman.

In 1907, the government sweetened the pot, offering to extend pensions to Union veterans older than 62. The amounts went up with age.

That prompted Cloyd, who was 63 at the time, to try again. This time he was awarded an initial pension of $12 a month starting in 1908.

By 1910, about 90% of the surviving Union veterans were receiving assistance and both political parties were bending policies to curry favor.

The amount Cloyd received went up in 1912 to $14 and then again in 1914 to $15.50. By 1919, he was receiving $22.50 a month.

In every conflict there are political, economic, social and personal costs that persist long after the fighting.

It took two decades for the U.S. to set aside money for Vietnam War vets affected by Agent Orange . Twenty years since the beginning of the U.S. conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan we are debating benefits for the victims of burn pits.

Charles Cloyd got his last check in early 1923. It was for $50. He died Feb. 8th of that year.

His son wrote to the Bureau of Pensions to inform the bureaucracy that his father had passed. He included the uncashed check for March.

Cloyd’s obituary began by harkening back to the war four decades earlier.

It began: “Charles H. Cloyd, Civil War veteran, met his death with a soldier’s courage.”