Application of Sarah E. E. Seelye for Back Pay

Application of Sarah E. E. Seelye for Back Pay/tiles/non-collection/c/c_087imgtile1.xml
Image courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration
Application of Sarah E. E. Seelye for Back Pay/tiles/non-collection/c/c_087imgtile2.xml
Image courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration

Description

Under the alias Franklin Thompson, Sarah Emma Edmonds Seelye fought with the Second Michigan Infantry during the Civil War. In 1863, she fell ill and deserted her post. Nearly 20 years later, she used this form to apply for the back pay and volunteer bounty—or enlistment bonus—that she never received for her service.

Serving alongside men who were unaware that she was a woman, 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. Rather than seek medical treatment at a military hospital and risk revealing her true identity, Seelye deserted the army to find care elsewhere. In doing so, she sacrificed her pay and the $100 bonus promised to honorably discharged volunteers.

During the 1880s, Seelye submitted this Application of Discharged Soldiers for Arrears of Pay explaining her situation and requesting her back pay and bonus. Representative Byron M. Cutcheon, a former colonel in the Michigan Infantry, who knew Seelye as Franklin Thompson during the war, consistently advocated in the House for her. On February 25, 1884, Cutcheon introduced two bills: one to remove the desertion charge from Seelye’s military record and one to add her to the pension roll.

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. The House did not take up the bill regarding the desertion charge until the following Congress. When it passed during the summer of 1886, Seelye was able to collect her back pay and bonus.

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