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Letter from Representative Sereno E. Payne to Representative George Ray on behalf of Harriet Tubman Davis, February 5, 1898

Abolitionist Harriet Tubman Davis aided the Union as a scout, nurse, cook and spy during the Civil War. She received a pension as the widow of Union veteran Nelson Davis, but later petitioned Congress for additional benefits for her own service. Representative Sereno E. Payne of New York supported her claim with this persuasive letter.

I hand you herewith papers in the claim of Harriet Tubman Davis…Claim for increase is because of her own personal services in the war. She was employed as nurse, cook in the Hospital, and spy during nearly the whole period of the war.

Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, National Archives and Records Administration

Letter from Representative Sereno E. Payne to Representative George Ray on behalf of Harriet Tubman Davis, February 5, 1898 - Page 1 Letter from Representative Sereno E. Payne to Representative George Ray on behalf of Harriet Tubman Davis, February 5, 1898 - Page 2 I hand you herewith papers in the claim of Harriet Tubman Davis…Claim for increase is because of her own personal services in the war. She was employed as nurse, cook in the Hospital, and spy during nearly the whole period of the war.

Civil War Pensions

In 1861 Congress enacted legislation granting pension benefits to dependents of Civil War soldiers killed in action as well as to veterans with war-related disabilities. Over the next three decades, Congress expanded the program and the pension office became the largest government department outside the military. Those denied pensions—including women who had served as scouts, disguised themselves as soldiers, or provided auxiliary support—petitioned Congress directly with their claims.