The Wall Streeet Journal has an amazing story, by Michael M. Phillips, but I take a different point from it. Here’s the lead:
WILKESBORO, N.C.—Each month, Irene Triplett collects $73.13 from the Department of Veterans Affairs, a pension payment for her father’s military service—in the Civil War.
… Pvt. Mose Triplett joined the rebels, deserted on the road to Gettysburg, defected to the Union and married so late in life to a woman so young that their daughter Irene is today 84 years old—and the last child of any Civil War veteran still on the VA benefits rolls.
That is mind-blowing. But perhaps because it’s the Wall Street Journal, its mind is blown by the financial side of the story:
Ms. Triplett’s pension, small as it is, stands as a reminder that war’s bills don’t stop coming when the guns fall silent. The VA is still paying benefits to 16 widows and children of veterans from the 1898 Spanish-American War.
For most of us, I’m going to guess the thing that causes our brains to twirl is that there’s a living daughter of someone who fought in the Civil War.
And if there is a daughter of a man who fought in the Civil War, then there could also be a daughter of slave still among us. (There is controversy over when the last American slave died.)
Michael Phillips, the author, does an excellent job recounting the life of the father, and notes that in 1938, 1,800 veterans of the Battle of Gettysburg showed up for a 75th anniversary commemoration. That means that some good percentage of them lived to open a newspaper one day and read about the first use of the atomic bomb.
It’s like their lives were time machines.