Beginning in 1818, the United States government created new pension acts meant to guarantee monthly payments to aging Revolutionary War veterans. Many of these former soldiers, though, had no evidence of their service, so they instead went to their local courthouses and magistrates and recorded detailed oral histories of their Revolutionary War service. More than 80,000 veterans applied for pensions, far more than the government imagineed would even still be alive. This amazing trove of oral histories of the nation's first veterans sat largely unutilized in federal archives for over a century.
By pairing those detailed Revolutionary War pensions with today's generation of veterans, the Museum's Pension Project asks veterans to reflect on similarities and differences between their service and that of people over two centuries ago.
Watch Pension Project Videos
Three living veterans, whose service spans from World War II to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, read the military pensions of Revolutionary War soldiers to connect the past with the present.
Matthew MidgettU.S. Air Force Reserves
Matthew Midgett reads from the Revolutionary War pension of Continental Army wagoneer and infantryman William Burnett.
Midgett served in the U.S. Air Force Reserves from 2015-2021. He is currently studying as a Literature Ph.D. student at Binghamton University, with a focus on labor and the Victorian novel. He completed his bachelor's degree in English at Temple University and his master's degree in English and Media Studies at Rutgers University-Camden. In his free time, he enjoys hiking, watching the Eagles, and spending time with his two cats.
Dr. Eugene Richardson, Jr.U.S. Army Air Corps
Dr. Eugene J. Richardson, Jr., reads from the pension of Continental Army soldier Jeffrey Brace, an enslaved Black man who found freedom through service in the Revolutionary War.
Richardson was born on Sept. 18, 1925, in Cleveland, Ohio. He served in the Army Air Corps during World War II as a member of the group that became known at the Tuskegee Airmen. He entered active duty in October 1943 and in 1944 went to Tuskegee, Alabama, for pilot training, subsequently receiving his wings and his officer's commission on March 11, 1945. After the war, he spent his career in Philadelphia, earning undergraduate and graduate degrees and working in education in the School District of Philadelphia.
Adam StrausU.S. Marines
Adam Straus reads from the Revolutionary War pension of Ezekiel Ayers, who served various tours in the Sussex County, New Jersey, militia.
Straus is a Marine veteran. As an infantry officer, he served with 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment and 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment from 2017-2021. He now lives with his girlfriend in New York City and works as an English teacher at a private high school in New Jersey.