Friday, June 10, 2011

Inmates Single and Married

My constant companion while researching My Old Confederate Home: A Respectable Place for Civil War Veterans was R. B. Rosenburg’s Living Monuments: Confederate Soldiers’ Homes in the New South (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1993). Using admission applications and inmate registers, Rosenburg assembled quantitative data about the men residing in several of the Confederate soldiers’ homes. From time to time I’ll discuss some of his findings.

Based on Rosenberg’s study of seven of the homes, most (49.7%) of the men were widowers. Fewer than one in five (18.5%) were married; almost a third (31.8%) had never been married. The percentage of widowers is quite a bit larger than the general population of same-age men in 1910, but that’s to be expected.

At a time when retirement plans and work pensions were virtually unheard-of, a widower who didn’t want to live off the generosity of his children might find a Confederate soldiers’ home an attractive option. A never-married veteran averse to spending his declining years with a sibling’s family—if they were even able to support him—would also be more apt to find refuge in a state soldier’s home.

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