Monday, November 21, 2016

MILTARY MONDAY ~ Civil War Pension File–Private John Gillen–Killed in Action 31 Dec 1862 at the Battle of Stones River

Civil War header
Today’s post is about Private John Gillen, age 21, who was killed in action on 31 Dec 1862 at Stones River, Tennessee.  He was a Union soldier.

John is the son of John Gillen (about 1804-1880) and Nancy Miller (1815-1913).  He was the 4th child born to this couple.  

Here is the family group sheet.

Gillen family group sheet

Private Gillen was the second oldest son.  He was one of three sons to serve in the Union Army during the Civil War.  Both his brothers, Isaac and Martin also served. Those brothers survived the war. However, neither lived past their early 40’s.

Private Gillen was born about 1841 in Ohio.  His family was farming in Union, Lawrence, Ohio in the 1850 census.  By the 1860 census the family had moved to Champaign, Illinois and his father was farming and had real estate worth $600. The family is found in Champaign in the 1870 and 1880 census.  John Gillen (Sr) dies in November 1880.  By the time of the 1900 census Private Gillen’s mother Nancy is living in a home at 420 E. Clark St., in Champaign.  Her daughter, Ella is living with her.  The home is owned and free of a mortgage.

Here is a map and a current street view of E. Clark St. today.

402 E Clark 402 E Clark street view

John’s mother, Nancy Miller Gillen, applied for his pension on 22 Apr 1882, as indicated on this pension index card.

GILLEN_John_pension card applied for by his mother on 22 Apr 1882

I ordered the pension file, my first for a soldier killed in action.  This was the third Civil War pension file I have received, and all of them are full of wonderful genealogical information.

NOTE:  Rather than going directly through NARA for my orders, I use the services of Deidre Denton.  You may access her services via 

I have no affiliation nor do I receive any remuneration from any referrals.  Just letting you know how I got copies of the pension files.

Through the various statements in this pension file I learned that the young John Gillen was responsible for helping to support his family, including sending a large portion of his soldier pay home.  It seems his father, the older John Gillen, was in feeble health and not able to earn a good enough living to support his family.  Once the older John died in 1880, Nancy had no means of support and applied for the pension from her son’s service and death in the war.

Here is her application.  The Green arrow gives Private Gillen’s cause of death.  The Blue arrow gives the date of his father, John Gillen’s death.  And the Red arrow gives the name & exact dates of birth of his three siblings who were under age 16 at the time of Private Gillen’s death.
GILLEN_John_Private_Civil War Pension file 12_annotated

I would certainly say that on that one page alone we have some wonderful genealogical information.  (The entire pension file is 63 pages) The form is signed by Nancy Gillen so we can surmise she is the one who provided the information.  Do we still need to verify those dates?  Yes.

Two of the surprises contained in this pension file are letters written by Private John Gillen to his sister, Ella (Louella Gillen 1848-1942).  I will be transcribing those letters in another post so as not to make this post exorbitantly long.

Private John Gillen is buried at Stones River National Cemetery in Murfreesboro, Rutherford, Tennesse.  There are more than 6,000 Union soldiers buried at this cemetery.  His FindAGrave memorial is #68723997.

There is quite a lot written about the Battle at Stones River, which took place from December 31, 1862 to January 2, 1863.  The casualty percentage at this battle was second only to Gettysburg in all major engagements during the Civil War.

I hope one day I will find a photo of young Private Gillen, as he talks about family photos in his letters to his sister.  In the meantime, I hope that I’ve honored his memory and his service to our country.


What I Learned from One Single Page of a Civil War Pension File - 1864 - Edith E. Thorp

The Civil War - How our Country Dealt with the Aftermath - Creation of our National Cemeteries

If you are related to anyone mentioned in this post, please contact me.  I’d love to hear from you.  We might be cousins.

Happy hunting,
Michigan Girl

Copyright ©  2010-2016   Diane Gould Hall


  1. Great post, Diane, so much information. I haven't needed, unfortunately, any pension files myself yet, but they look fascinating. So many hardships in this family. You have indeed honored your ancestor's memory.

    1. Thank you Anna. I had wanted to obtain some CW pension files for the last 10 yrs. But, cost kinda prohibited me. Once I began, now I may not stop. Just rec'd another one and have more waiting in the wings. Deidre is running a special and I may as well take advantage of it.
      Thanks for reading my blog.


I look forward to reading your comments. If you have any connection to the people mentioned in this blog, please let me know. I write about mine and my husband's ancestors and would welcome new information or meeting a new cousin or two. Thanks for visiting and come back soon.