Did you have the measles as a child? Or, perhaps you’ve had the measles vaccine. In today’s society, an adult catching the measles is rare. However, during the civil war, measles played a deadly role.
The article, The Impact of Disease on the Civil War, provides some statistics regarding the impact of this disease.
From the records during the Civil War, we know that two thirds of the soldiers died from infectious diseases. In the Union army over 67,000 men had measles and more than 4,000 died
Thus, finding that an ancestor had the measles should not be surprising. However, finding that the disease caused lifelong disabilities is somewhat surprising.
Declaration for Original Invalid Pension
State of Kansas
On the 2 day of June, A.D. one thousand eight hundred and ninety personally appeared before me, clerk of the District Court, a court of record within and for the County and State aforesaid, George Mentzer aged 51 years, a resident of ______, county of Woodson, State of Kansas, who being duly sworn according to law, declares that he is the identical George Mentzer who was enrolled on the 15 day of Sept, 1861, in Company C of the 24 Mass Regiment of Vol Inft Commanded by Colonel Stephenson and was honorably discharged at Petersburg on the 15 day of Sept, 1864,that his personal description is as follows: Age, 51 years; height 5 feet 8 inches; complexion, light; hair, brown; eyes, Grey. That while a member of the organization aforesaid, in the service and in the line of his duty at Annaplis in the Sate of Maraland on or about the ____ day of November, 1861, he contracted measles and tool cold resulting in lung disease & kidney disease resulting heart decease and efection of eyes.
That he was treated in hospitals as follows: did not go to any hospital but was treated on board of boat think the name was [Videtoe]
That he has not been employed inthe military or naval service otherwise that as stated above.
That since leaving the service this applicant has resided in Northborough Mass, Kewanee Ills and in the State of Woodson Co Kas, and his occupation has been that of a farmer. That prior to his entry into the service above named he was a man of good, sound physical health being when enrolled aa Private. That he is now wholy disabled from obtaining his subsistence by manual labor by reason of his injuries, above described, received in the service of the United States; and he therefore makes this declaration for the purpose of being placed on the invalid pension roll of the United States.
He herby appoints with full power of substitution and revocation, Hugh Brady of Yates Center, Kans his true and lawful attorney to prosecute his claim. that he has never received nor applied for a Pension. That his Post-Office address is Yates Center county of Woodson State of Kansas.
Late Pri Co C 24th Regt Mass Infty Vols
Attest: W. E. Hogueland
G. R. Stephenson
This pension was followed by an affidavit given by John Minnick of Kewanee, Henry County, Illinois.
State of Illinois, County of Henry
In the matter of the application for pension of George Mentzer, late Pri Co C 24th Regt Mass Infty Vols
On this 27th day of June A.D. 1890, personally appeared before me a notary public in and for the aforesaid County, duly authorized to administer oaths, John Minnick aged 68 years, a resident of Kewanee in the County of Henry and State of Illinois whose post-office address is Kewanee, Ill and Jacob P Keneval aged 56 years, a resident of Kewanee in the County of Henry and State of Illinois whose post-office address is Kewanee, Illinois well known to me to be respectable and entitled to credit, and who, being duly sworn, declare in relation to the aforesaid case as follows: That we have been well and personally acquainted with George Mentzer for five years, and ____ years respectively, and that he then lived in Kewanee, Our acquaintance with him began in the year 1866 and continued till in 1871, when he left here for Kansas. He complained of having had measels while in the army and in conversing with him we became satisfied that he had some lung trouble; the kind and ext[eal] of which we cannot now remember fully. We are confident his lungs were affected.
We also remember that his eyes were weak and looked somewhat inflamed.
In Nov 1890, the Bureau of Pensions sent a request for additional information:
Department of the Interior
Bureau of Pensions
Co. C 24 Mass Vols
Washington D.C., Nov. 29, 1890
It is alleged that George Mentzer enlisted Sept 15, 1861 and served as a _____ in Co. C, 24th Reg’t Mass. Vols. and was discharged at Petersburg, Sept. 15, 1864.
It is also alleged that while in duty at Annapolis, Md. on or about Nov. 1861, he was disabled by measles, resulting in lung, kidney and heart diseases and affection of eyes and was treated in hospitals of which the names, locations, and dates of treatment as follows: on board boat ‘Vidette’
In case of the above-named soldier the War Department is requested to furnish an official statement of the enrollment, discharge, and record of service so far as the same may be applicable to the foregoing allegation, together with full medical history. Please give the rank he held at the time he is claimed to have incurred the disability alleged, and if records show that he was not in line of duty during that period, let the fact be stated.
[Green] G Raum
The Officer in Charge of the Record and Pension Division, War Department
In December of 1890, George Mentzer filed an additional statement regarding his military service.
Yates Center Dec 28 1890
[8 am Claim of Pension]
In reply to your call no 13 will pay 1st after my discharge at Petersberg, Va in the fall of 1864 I went to Boston Mass remained there the fall of 64 & 65 from there to Northborough Mass remained there the Spring of 66 moved to Kewanee Ills remained there for about five years removed from there to Kas Woodson County in 1871 and have lived hear ever since. I am board a boat think it was the [vinelette] going form Anaplas Maryland to Roanoak Island was taken with measles and the settled on my lungs and eyes. have had but little treatment from physicians only such as I have furnished. Have continually suffered with my disabilities
According to the web site, Naval Illustrators, the boat mentioned in the above affidavits was likely the Vidette. The Vidette was an armed US troop transport that carried Companies A, C and F of the 24th Massachusetts Infantry. So far, I haven’t been able to find a source to verify a measles outbreak aboard the Vidette. However, HathiTrust has the regimental history, The Twenty-Fourth Regiment Massachusetts Volunteers 1861-1866 by Alfred S. Roe which does include information about the use of the Vidette by the regiment.