Two decades after serving in the Civil War under the alias Franklin Thompson, Sarah Emma Edmonds Seelye sought a veterans pension from Congress. After investigating her case, the House Committee on Invalid Pensions issued this report and recommended passage of H.R. 5335, a private bill granting Seelye the financial relief she requested.
After running away from her family’s farm in New Brunswick, Canada, at the age of 15, Seelye traveled freely throughout the northern United States dressed in male attire and using the name Franklin Thompson. In 1861, at the start of the Civil War, Seelye found herself in Flint, Michigan, where she enlisted as a private in the United States Army under her alias.
Serving alongside men who were unaware of her identity, Seelye tended to the wounded as a field nurse, served as a regimental postmaster, and participated in combat. Two years into her three-year enlistment, she contracted malaria and deserted her post to seek treatment where her identity would not be discovered.
By the 1880s, her health issues created financial hardship, and a pension seemed the best option for relief. Supported by her old comrades, she went directly to Congress to explain why she deserved a veterans pension. Grateful for Seelye’s dedication to the Union as a soldier and a nurse, the House voted to grant her a pension of $12 per month on March 28, 1884. By the first week of July, the Senate and President Chester Arthur followed suit.