Pvt. Peter Maxwell of the 33rd U.S.C.T Co. A
by Amy Lyn Hedrick

Pension File Images

Peter Maxwell enlisted in the 33rd U.S.C.T Co. A as a private on 5 November 1862 and was discharged on 31 January 1866; he did not reenlist.  A second set of dates were given within the same pension file, enlistment date in October 1862 and discharge at Morris Island, South Carolina on 13 February 1866.  Originally this unit was known as the 1st SC Co. A and later changed to the 33rd under the command of Strobridge and Parker.  I believe the February discharge date was the official date of his honorable discharge, and that it’s likely he enlisted on 5 November 1862, but enrolled in October of same.

He was always present throughout his term of service except on 29 February 1864 when he was detailed on the steamer John Adams and a few other times due to illness.  The dates and types of illness were listed as follows:  4-6 August 1864 from debility related to duty; 24-25 March 1864, no diagnosis; 2-8 April 1865 diarrhea; 20-23 April 1865 variola [sic]; and 24 April to June 1865, variola.

Peter filed an original petition for pension on 20 September 1890 and then again on 8 August 1894 and lastly on 4 January 1897.  His first pension was to commence at $6.00 per month but his applications were rejected; the first one on 23 February 1892 and again in January 1896 because of no ratable disability under the Act of 27 June 1890.  He was given a physical examination on 30 August 1890 for his initial application.  It was stated that he was 57 years old, 5’8 ½” tall and 140 pounds.  The doctor wrote on the report “This old fellow is a grey haired darkey of about 57 as strong and able bodied as any negro of his age who has lived an exposed country life on our sea islands where it is windy and bleak during the winter months.”  The doctor believes Peter has the pains that he complains of due to his many years working in the timber industry on Doboy Island.  Other physicians attested to the same thing, that many formerly enslaved persons suffered from the same complaints and illnesses due to the years of toil in the seaside climates and that Peter was in better shape than many others who never served in the military.

On 2 December 1896 he was examined again, stating he was 62 years old, 5’8” tall and complaining of pain in the breast and shoulder and head and eyes.  At the present time he was slightly deaf and suffering from rheumatism pains in the ankle which caused him to be unable to walk for some time; swimming in head, and misery in body.

Another examination was conducted on 16 March 1898 where he complained about pain over right hip, shoulders, and left knee, ringing in ears, and short of sight.  On his claim for his “original” application he stated that he was coming down from lookout when changing guard he fell about three rungs down the ladder striking and bruising his right hip.  At another time while skirmishing he got his left leg caught in some vines, wrenching his left knee.  He was 5’9”, 150 pounds, and 65 years of age at the time of this examination.  The doctor stated that all of his problems were due to rheumatism, cataracts, and old age, recommending him to $8.00 per month.

The Bureau of Pensions requested personal information from Peter on 18 January 1898 stating the information “may be of great value to your family.”  He was asked if he was married, and if so, to whom, and when and where for which he replied to Nannie Bailey on 23 February 1890 on Sapelo Island by Rev. George Miller by license recorded in the Ordinary’s office of McIntosh County (said record was not found by me at the court house—ALH).

He was previously married to Susan Bailey who died 15 July 1889 on Sapelo Island (other interviewees said she died 9 July 1889).  He had four living children at this date (18 January 1898):  Phoebe Maxwell was born 18 November 1866; Rose Maxwell born 3 March 1874; Priscilla Maxwell born 4 August 1876; and March Maxwell born 19 December 1879.

Peter was married for the first time around 1861 to Susan Bailey with whom he had seven children.  Susan died on Sapelo Island 9 July 1889 according to several testimonies, but according to Peter, she died on the 15th of July 1889.  On 23 February 1893 Peter married the widow Nancy (Bailey) Hall who was married previously to Sandy Hall with whom she had seven children.  They were married by the Rev. George Miller at the Baptist Church on  Sandy was also known as Sandy Hogg by some of the witnesses, which was the family’s name during enslavement and for a time afterwards; the name was later changed to Hall by many of the descendants.  Sandy drowned and died on 8 January 1886.  Peter died 28 May 1899 on Sapelo Island and was interred at Behavior Cemetery.

Nancy was interviewed on 20 July 1903 at Inverness, McIntosh, Georgia by Dan McLelan upon which she states that she didn’t know how old she was because she could not tell her age but that she thought she was in her 50’s.  She confirms that she was married prior to the war as was her late husband Peter, from whose military pension she was receiving a widow’s pension of $8.00 per month.  She was born on Sapelo Island to Tom & Katie Bailey and enslaved by Tom Spalding; she and her parents remained his enslaved until freedom was declared; her father was currently deceased and her mother was living close by.  Mrs. McKinley, a white woman, confirmed Nancy’s statements and that she had known Nancy since her birth as Mrs. McKinley was Nancy’s “young misses” and her original witness.

Prior to the war, Nancy stated she had a “slave husband”, Sandy Hall, who drowned in 1886 and with whom she lived until his death in 1889.  She married Peter the next year, bringing together her seven children and his seven children; no children were born to their union.  Nancy had known Peter all her life because they were both enslaved by Tom Spalding and both grew up together.  She knew Peter was married previously and that his wife had died but that she did not attend the funeral.  Nancy never remarried stating “I am just as he leave me.”  She never knew Peter by any other name and did not know how he got the surname of MaxwellPeter was ill for one year prior to his death from dropsy; he never had a physician in attendance, for which Nancy explained that due to the remoteness of their home, it was hard to receive constant medical attention.  The interviewer inserted a personal opinion stating Nancy had an excellent reputation and that there was no question as to her chastity.

Witnesses to this testimony were Hercules Wilson and Alex C. Wylly who had known her for 37 years and 20+ years, respectively.  At the time of this interview, Nancy only owned 10 acres of land, paid $0.80 a year in taxes and had no other income other than from her own work (said type of work was never mentioned).  She had owned a horse but it had died prior to the appraisement.  The examiner seemed to question her qualification as a pensioner due to her marriage date and the cut-off date for a widow to be eligible for her husband’s military pension (witnesses said they were married in 1889, but they were married in 1890 and the Act was passed in June 1890).

To aid in the settlement of her claim, the Bureau of Pensions wanted testimony as to the standing in the community and general reputation of the witnesses:  Parry Walker, Benjamin Brown, Samuel Gary, and Harry Williams.  On the back of this form, S.S. McKinley, postmistress for Inverness, could not attest to the men listed, but could attest to Nancy’s character and marriage to Peter, who was a preacher.  She said that Nancy was a most deserving “negro” and that she was always considered Peter’s lawful wife and that both had belonged to her brother (that being Tom Spalding).

Several people were interviewed about their knowledge of Peter, Nancy, and their life together.  Ben Wilson was 62 years old living on Sapelo Island when he was deposed on 1 June 1892.  He stated that he was aware of Peter’s complaints and that it was his impression that the aches and pains were the result of Peter’s service during the war for the United States.  James Lemon (age 68 of Sapelo Island) was also deposed at the same time and he believes Peter’s current ailments were the result of injuries received during service.  The hip pains were the result of a fall from a ladder while on lookout duty on Coles [sic] Island, South Carolina and his other aches the result of injuries received from charging a batter on James Island.

Curry Walker (age 54) and Benjamin Brown (age 52, both of Sapelo Island) were deposed on 22 August 1899 stating they were both present at the wedding of Peter and Nancy and that said parties lived as man and wife until Peter’s death and that Nancy never remarried.  They were also both present at Peter’s burial and that he owned 4 acres of farm land on Sapelo worth $20, and one horse worth about $25 at the time of his death.  Nancy had no property or income except from her own labor.

Jerry Johnson’s affidavit from July 1900 said that he lived on Sapelo Island and that he was witness to Peter’s death and that he helped to bury him and that he was also present at the deaths and burials of Peter’s first wife and Nancy’s first husband.

Esau Bell (of Sapelo Island) was deposed in July 1900 and he also witnessed Peter’s death and helped with his burial as well as Susan’s and Sandy’s.  He was their nearest living acquaintance, living only a “stone’s throw” from the Maxwells.  He was also present at Peter and Nancy’s wedding.

Harry Williams submitted his general affidavit on 10 November 1900 when he was 49 years old.  He had been acquainted with Peter Maxwell and Nancy Hall for 40 years and that they had married in 1889.  Her first husband was Sandy Hall who drowned in the year 1886 and left Nancy a widow with seven children.  She married Peter who had lost his first wife, Sue, in 1887 and he too had seven children; no children were born to the union between Nancy and Peter, who died in 1899, leaving Nancy a widow yet again.  He was the first person to state that both couples had seven children each prior to marrying each other and that together they did not have any.

Samuel Gary (48 years old of Sapelo Island) also submitted an affidavit on the same date attesting to his knowledge of the Maxwells and confirmed the same statements made by Harry WilliamsSamuel was previously interviewed in July of 1900 and stated that he was present at Peter’s death and that he was the one who washed and dressed the remains to prepare for burial and helped lower his coffin into the grave and helped shovel dirt into the grave.  He was also at Susan’s and Sandy’s deaths and burials.



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