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Willis Slavens Civil War Pension Information.

The following information was extracted from various papers in the pension application for Willis Slavens of Parke County, Indiana. (This Willis was a son of Isaiah Slavens, and should not be confused with Willis B. Slavens, son of James Slavens, who lived in Hendricks County, Indiana.)

On November 5, 1886, Willis Slavens made an application for an invalid pension for disability contracted during his term of service in the Civil War. At the time, he was living in Elbridge Township, Edgar County, Illinois, although the declaration was sworn before the clerk of court in Vigo County, Indiana. According to his statement, Willis was 66 years of age, five foot six inches in height, with fair complexion, dark hair, and blue eyes.

Willis enrolled in Company B, 18th Missouri Infantry, on or about February 15, 1862, as a substitute for Edmond Clifton, and was honorably discharged at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, on or about June 21, 1862. Willis says that he contracted diabetes on or about the last day of April, 1862, as the result of exposure and overheating in the battle of Shiloh on or about April 6, 1862. He was treated at General Hospital No. 7 at Savannah, Tennessee, by Dr. Maryweather, M.D. and Dr. Griswold, then at another hospital that he didn't know the name of, and was finally sent to Jefferson Barracks where he was discharged.

Since leaving the service Willis had lived at Warsaw, Illinois, and Carodon (Corydon?), Iowa, where was a farmer and laborer. Prior to entering the service, he was a farmer. He is now totally disabled and unable to obtain his subsistence by manual labor.

On March 25, the Department of the Interior, Bureau of Pensions requested Willis's medical records from the War Department, and two days later the Surgeon General's Office at the War Department responded. The report stated that "Ed. Clifton, Priv. Co. B 18th Mo. Vols, was admitted to G.H. Savannah, Tenn., May 16, 62, diagnosis not given (no prescriptions on file) and transferred June 9, 62; that Edmund Clifton, Priv. said Co. and Reg., was admitted to Steamer "D.A. January" June 9, 62, and that he was admitted to G.H. Jefferson Barracks, near St. Louis, Mo. June 12, 62 with Debilitas and discharged from service June 22, 62. Cause: Debilitas. Records of Savannah, Tenn. April 1 to May 15, 62, furnish no evidence in this case."

A statement from the Adjutant General's Office on May 19, 1887, further illuminates Willis's somewhat confusing service record... According to it, Edward Clifton of Putnam (County, Missouri) enlisted for a period of three years on June 17, 1861. "This man on or about Feb. 20/62, was, by his officers, permitted to employee a substitute (one Willis Slavens) and he (Clifton) left the service on or about that date, the substitute assuming the name of Clifton on the records and serving from Feb. 20/62 to June 22/62, when discharged by reason of disability at St. Louis, Mo."

According the statement, Willis was on the muster rolls as present for February, March, and April 1862, and missing in action for May 1862, with the note that his company was in action at Shiloh April 6, 1862.He's listed as absent in May and June, entering the hospital in April without leave. A certificate of disability shows he was discharged June 22, 1862 at St. Louis as Edmond Clifton.

"Edmond Clifton" returned to the muster rolls in November/December 1863 as present, with the roll noting that a "discharge and final statement was given to substitute at St. Louis June 22/62. He returned to the service on or about Dec. 8/62, was tried by a G.C.M. for desertion, found not guilty of desertion, but of absence without leave from February 20/62 to Dec. 8/63, and sentenced to forfeit to the W.S. his pay and allowances while absent." January/February 1864 rolls show him absent in arrest for desertion at Pulaski, Tenn.; present sick for March and April, and absent sick at Decatur Junction in May and June. The soldier was on the rolls sick until his discharge.

While the document isn't perfectly clear on the point, since it states that "the substitute" was given a discharge in June 1862, it would seem that it was the "real" Edmond or Edward Clifton that returned to the service in December 1863 and not Willis Slavens. However, the general court martial finding was to cause problems for for Willis; specifically, the statement "So much of the record in this case as covers the period from Feb 20/62 to June 22/62 is cancelled."

A slip with the statement reads "This claim is respectfully submitted for rejection on the grounds that the War Department refuses to recognize this man as in the U.S. service at the time he alleges to have contracted his disability." As such, Willis Slavens's claim for disability was denied because of the punishment meted out to Edmond Clifton.

Willis made a second declaration for disability in June 1887 with the clerk of court in Parke County, Indiana, claiming that in the line of duty at Shiloh on April 6, 1862, he incurred rheumatism and paralysis. "I have no use of my left leg," the declaration states. "I also incurred diabetes and general debility caused by overheating on the battlefield. I also incurred inflamation of the brain at the same time." At this time Willis had an address of Ferndale, Parke County.

Willis and his agent appealed the rejection of his application, with a memo from the Pension Office dated March 8, 1888, requesting the Adjutant General to state whether Willis Slavens, serving as substitute for Edmond Clifton from February to May 1862, is considered as having been in the service. A month later the Adjutant General stated that the service of Willis Slavens as substitute for Edmond Clifton "cannot be recoginzed... as the whole transaction was without authority of law." A summary claim sheet, listing the claim in brief, is stamped "Rejected Jun 11 1888" so it appears that Willis did not succeed in obtaining a pension.

Copyright © 2003 Larry Slavens. All rights reserved.