The information in this database was originally compiled by Samuel Sistler in a book called "Index to Tennessee Confederate Pension Applications." The following informative introductory text was originally published in that book.
In 1891 the state of Tennessee enacted legislation, which established a Board of Pension Examiners. The membership consisted of the State Comptroller, the Attorney General, and three ex-Confederate soldiers recommended by the Tennessee Division of Confederate Veterans and appointed by the Governor. These men had the authority to decide (a) if a Confederate veteran applying for pension was incapable of "making a support," and (b) if his service was honorable. The burden of proof rested with the veteran, who was obliged to prove disability and/or indigency and separation from the service under honorable conditions.
Both Federal and Confederate veterans who were residents of Tennessee for at least one year before making application were eligible for pension, provided they met the qualifications set forth by the Pension Act. However, the Federal Government's earlier and more liberal pensions to their veterans prompted men who had served both sides at one time or another (a surprising number did change sides in mid-stream) to apply to that government rather than to the Tennessee Board. There was a common agreement among states granting pensions to Confederate veterans that the applicant should apply to the pension board of the state in which he resided when making application, although this was often not the state in whose forces he served.
Most pension applications and their supporting papers contain information of much interest to soldier's descendants, to genealogists, and to other researchers. They are more informative than official service records because they give more detailed information about a soldier's military, personal, and family history. The application lists the veteran's place of enlistment, unit, period of service, battles participated in, and whether he was wounded or captured. Made out in questionnaire form, it also asked such information as place of birth, number of children, and value of personal and real property owned by veteran.
Pensions for soldiers' widows were first issued in 1905. Their applications show place of birth for both widow and husband, and in many instances the names and ages of children. As proof of marriage was required for admission to the pension rolls, a copy of the marriage certificate is often found in widow applications. Supporting papers consist of correspondence between the applicant and the Pension Board, letters or sworn affidavits from old comrades and neighbors attesting to the veteran's character and the nature of his military service, and abstracts of the soldier's service record furnished by the Federal War Department.
The Board kept three separate rolls, one for soldiers, one for widows, and one for so-called "colored" soldiers.