Friday, May 1, 2015

Irvin Helpman, my one and only Union soldier

I first told you about my one and only Union soldier HERE.  His wife was one of the “Angerones” that I told you about HERE.  I have been taking a closer look at these two and I found Irvin on the 1890 Veteran’s Schedule.  You can look at this census page HERE. Scroll down to line 5 in the bottom section.  It says, “Shot in Right hand” I am not 100% sure about the rest of that line but the word “shot” intrigues me. The second line states he “contracted chronic Rheumatism” and we will see that again.

I have someone that pulls records for me at NARA and I just received Irvin’s pension file.*  His pension was denied (several times).  He tried to get a pension because of his rheumatism, dyspepsia, catarrh** and left inguinal hernia.

22 Aug 1892
19 Jul 1893
30 Apr 1894
21 Nov 1894

In a sworn affidavit he stated the he got the hernia in “March 1894” while “carrying a large sack of pea nuts and fell with the sack which caused me to rupture myself”  His rejection states, “No notable disability under the Act of June 27th” 

12 October 1895
He was approved and rejected on the same piece of paper.  He was approved for $6 a month for the inguinal hernia but rejected for the “alleged rheumatism, catarrh and dyspepsia.” Though the examiner approved him there is no record that the approval actually stuck.  There is an additional comment on this entry, “venereal disease eliminated.”  We will come back to that in a bit.

The pension record includes a transcription/extraction of his Union medical records which don’t exist anymore so this was a nice find.

“The medical records show him as follows, as Irvin Helpman, rank, —, Co. A, 8 Ills. Inf., Flesh wound Right hand, wounded at the battle of Pittsburg Landing, Tenn., Apr 6 & 7, 1862: treated Apr. 14 & 15 and 26 to 29 ‘62, Pneumonia: as I. L. Helpman, rank, —, Co. A, etc., Aug. 2 to 10 ‘64, Wounded, light duty: Oct. 10 to 13 ‘64, Dys. AC. retd. to duty: as Irvin L. Helpman, Corp, etc., Feb. 21 to Mch. 10 ‘65, Prim. Syphilis & Bubors: Mch. 10 to 13 ‘65 Syphilitis Bubs: as I. L. Helpman, Corp., etc., Mch. 15 to Apr. 3 ‘65, Bubs. Chancre, retd. to duty: as Irvin L. Helpman, Corp., etc., Apr. 9 ‘65, Syphilistic bubors: as priv., etc., Apr. 10 & 11 ‘65 Bubo Syphylitic: as I. L. Helpman, Corp., etc., Apr. 13 to May 7 ‘65, Syphilis secondary (diagnosis also shown as Gunshot wound), retd. to duty: and as Irvin L. Helpman, priv, Co. A, etc., July 3 to 7 ‘65, Mch. Fever Quot[?], retd. to duty: and Aug. 4 to 6 ‘65, Inter Fever Tertian, retd. to duty.  Nothing additional found.”

Interesting.  In 1862 he has a flesh wound to his right hand (shot?) and then in 1865 he has a gunshot wound.  I wonder why he told the census taker he had been shot but he never mentioned it on his pension apps. I would think gunshot wound(s) would carry more weight. 

The syphilis interests me too.  This was before he married Angie so he came into the marriage with it.  They married in 1871 and it appears his syphilis was in the latent or tertiary stage at that time.  Once it gets to the later part of the latent stage or the tertiary stage it is no longer contagious.  As far as I can tell, neither Angie nor the kids were infected.  If Angie had been infected the kids could have contracted congenital syphilis.  The line “venereal disease eliminated” in the pension file supports this (at least by 1895). Syphilis goes through stages and in the latent and tertiary stages it would appear that the disease was gone (but it really isn’t). This was long before antibiotics so he wouldn’t have been cured.  It is possible that Angie was infected and that she too when through the stages but my bet is on the first scenario.  The first mention of the Syphilis was in 1865.  Irvin was only 20. The first mention of his “rheumatism” was in 1890 at age 45. The joint swelling and pain he had as well as the catarrh were mostly likely due to tertiary Syphilis.  Tertiary Syphilis is the stage where your body starts to suffer major damage.  Why am I so interested in all of this?  Because I am a registered nurse.  I can’t help it. 

I still have some unanswered questions about Irvin and Angie’s life so I am still digging.


*Full citations to all records available on request.  Sometimes I am just too lazy to put them on the blog.
**Catarrh is a chronic sinus and nasal cavity inflammation with drainage.


Copyright © 2015 Michele Simmons Lewis


  1. As a regular reader of your blog, I was especially intrigued by the title of your latest post. I have a dozen or so Union ancestors and only one Confederate (to date). Could you elaborate on how you found someone to pull records at the National Archives and how the cost compares to ordering directly from NARA? Of these dozen men, I have just a couple of their Compiled Military Service Records and pension records. I'd like to get them all eventually, but will need to prioritize over time due to cost. Any tips would be appreciated. Thanks!

    1. I have a gazillion confederates so I was taken aback when I found Irvin :) If you send me an email to I will give you the name and email address of the person I work with at NARA. He pulls land entry files for me all the time. This is the first time I have asked him for a pension file. Confederate records are held at the state level so all my complied service records and pension files from from the state archives (and now Fold3). Fold3 doesn't have all the Union records yet so I went through my NARA guy to get my stuff :) As far as costs go, my 20 page pension file cost me $21.00 and I got it in less than a week. If I had ordered it from NARA it would have cost me $80 and it would have taken 6 weeks.