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Civil War Pension File

Elias Meeks a.k.a Peter Snider


Elias Meeks, born about 1847,was the son of Hiram Meeks and Julia VanDerbeck. He enlisted in the 86th NY Regiment, Company D. on October 19, 1861, along with his brother, Ephraim. Elias, however, saw a different journey than his brother during his service in the Civil War.


On November 2, 1862, he deserted the 86th New York. His whereabouts for the next month are unknown. He joined up with the 82nd Ohio Infantry Company H on December 4, 1862. On February 28, 1863, he was sent back to the 86th New York as he had unlawfully enlisted in the 82nd Ohio. He deserted the 86th New York again on either April 30, 1863 or July 31, 1863 (records are conflicting).


Four months later, on November 10, 1863, while living in Seymour, Indiana, he enlisted in Swift's Company C, 10th Indiana Cavalry, under the name of Peter Snider.


According to his affidavit, he had no recollection of when he left the 86th as he had “spells of rationality” which occurred about once a month. He had one of these spells during the first Battle of Bull Run, and left the regiment. The records do not indicate if he had another one of his “spells of rationality” which led to his subsequent desertions.


In a declaration for original invalid pension dated July 12, 1890, Elias is described as 5 foot 8 inches tall with a fair complexion, light hair and blue eyes. He stated that he had chronic diarrhea and difficulty of the bowels and head.


A medical examination performed February 11, 1891, stated that he had a sunstroke during the march after the Battle of Gettysburg, in which he claims he was a participant. The physician felt that this sunstroke was the cause of his affliction of his mind and the reason he was placed in an insane asylum in Kalamazoo, Michigan for three years. (The exact years of his stay at the asylum were not stated.) At the time of this examination, he was living on 30 West Genesee Street in Hornellsville, New York. Furthermore, he was found to have chronic diarrhea and nearly total deafness in his left ear. The method of the hearing assessment was placing a watch to his ear. He could only hear it when it was placed with pressure.


On May 17, 1892, his brother, Levi, was granted a hearing to declare Elias incapable of the “government of himself or the management of his affairs.” Levi was ultimately given the “appointment of a committee of the person and estate of said Elias Meeks.” Levi was given the consent of his mother, Julia, and brothers Evander and Oliver to take over the affairs of Elias.


In March of 1893, Abigail Ebner, age 58 of Bishopville, Allegany County, New York, provided an affidavit for his pension file. Abigail stated that she had known Elias since he was a child and had even lived with his mother during his time in service. She swore that Elias wrote letters home to his mother under the name of Peter Snyder and that his mother returned letters to him using the same name. She stated she had read the letters and could verify that they were in his handwriting.


By 1904, Elias was living in the Soldier and Sailor's home in Bath, New York. He had retained an attorney, Wallace Orcutt, to assist him in gaining his pension. He was denied the pension under the act of June 27, 1890. The rejection reads:


The records of the War Department show claimant deserted from his first service and received bounty for the last enlistment other than from the United States, in excess of that to which he would have been entitled had he continued to serve faithfully until honorably discharge from his first service. The joint resolution of July 1, 1902, affords no relief in this case.


When Elias died is unknown, but there is an Elias Meeks buried in the Veteran's Cemetery in Bath, New York.


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