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Benjamin turned and glanced upward toward his mother as she wept. Grabbing onto her hand to provide strokes of comfort, the seven-year old boy stood guard next to his family. Assuming the role of protector, the little dark headed boy somehow had taken on a much older appearance. Like a soldier standing at attention, Benjamin kept a close eye on his younger siblings, providing direction for their childish behavior. But when his mother's tears rolled softly onto his hand, he struggled to maintain his grown-up composure. And suddenly breaking free from his stance, Benjamin wrapped his arms around his mother's legs and cried.

Walking toward the freshly dug soil, Harriett held out her trembling hand and tossed the daffodil onto the grave. She turned to look at her three young children as they dashed to her side, grabbing tightly to her dress, providing an instant sense of security.
Benjamin and Permelia's grandfather Capps provided a kiss for both as he gently swept them up in his arms and placed them in the back of the wagon.

Harriett held little Jessie as she stepped into the front seat. Suddenly turning, she took a long glance back at the cemetery: 'How odd', she thought to herself, 'to bury two husbands only a few feet from the other.'

As the wagon slowly rolled towards their home, Harriett wondered if she had ever expected such a life. Falling quickly in love with Larkin, the couple was married by his father Benjamin. With help from both families, the teenagers purchased their small acreage where Larkin prepared their land for farming. Within the year, their first child Benjamin was born and the young family was beginning to take root in the low rolling hills of Ozark Missouri.

With the birth of their second child, Harriett and Larkin had firmly established themselves in the small community of Phelps. But news of the War of the Rebellion had found its way to their town and the state of Missouri had become divided in it's loyalties. And Larkin H. Capps found himself drawn to the duty of war.

As a young wife with the responsibility of two small children, Harriett quietly accepted Larkin's sense of duty and attempted to prepare herself for managing the farm and her family without her husband by her side. But there was no preparation for the life she was soon to have: A Civil War widow, early in life, at the age of 21.

One year after Larkin's death during the war, Harriett remarried John McCleary and she felt certain her life would change. Finding a husband to work the farm and provide support and guidance to her children, Harriett finally had a new sense of stability. But the reality of their present day world could not be denied and with many men of John McCleary's age, the toils of a bloody, brutal war ended his young life. And so this now 24-year old woman, a Civil War widow for the second time, found herself faced with burying two husbands only three years apart from the other.

The Civil War brought tragedy to so many of our ancestors but with the loss of thousands of men, the widow's stories often lay silent to the more horrific accounts of war. In an earlier time when women were raised without an education and assumed a duty of motherhood and support to their husbands, the Civil War widow was often left unprepared. And as we search for heroic military histories of their husbands, we tend to pass over the widow's untold story found hidden beneath the words of war.

The Civil War Widow's Pension Record is a great source for documenting a military ancestor but what is often left unsaid is the 'back story': The widows and their children whose lives were quickly changed from stability to loss. Their experiences, their grief, can only be imagined from the pages documenting the soldier's life, leaving it to us to fill in the blanks.

Study the profiles of great women such as Clara Barton to learn some of the contributions made by women during the Civil War. But to gain a deeper understanding of your female ancestor's experiences, read what is hidden inside her widow's pension record: The 'back story', the struggles and life of the Civil War widow.

Keep searching for answers,

Cheryl