"America's Oldest Civil War Veteran" - Edward Munroe (1809 - 1915)

+8 votes

I think it would be fair to say that the name "Edward Munroe" was forgotten to the great devourer that is time. However, in the second decade of the 20th century, he was quite a known man, and certainly one of the most famous centenarians of his time.

Claimed to have been born in Truro, Nova Scotia on September 3rd 1809, Munroe moved to Philadelphia at a young age and joined the US Navy when he was 17. He was in the navy, over a few separate stints, until he was 68 and continued in commercial sailing until he was almost 90. 

On his profile, into which I have put a lot of effort, you can read of his varied exploits which he talked about over dozens of press interviews. Some of his stories (including his most famous) are quite unbelievable and almost surely untrue or exaggerated but many appear to be true.

Whether he was really born in 1809 or actually 1819 is also a matter for debate but regardless I think this man is truly incredible in both his manner and actions. He was a favourite of the America Ambassador to Britain and met Kermit Roosevelt when he was Dean of Celebration at the US Embassy's 4th of July celebrations.

If there are any Canadian (Nova Scotian) specialists out there I'd love to see if you could find a baptism. Edward never married or had children so finding his parents would be the only way to connect to the global tree.

Additionally, if any American experts could find me some records from his time in the US/Union Navy that would also be wonderful.

Finally, I leave you with a photo of the man himself. He had many photos taken of him, this one published in America is one of few in the public domain.


WikiTree profile: Edward Munroe
in Genealogy Help by David Smith G2G6 Mach 7 (73.0k points)

1 Answer

+8 votes
Best answer

Thank you for the very well structured and researched profile.

Fold3 has his complete pension file available. Unfortunately, it's 128 pages long. I'll try to comb through it for useful information, but I don't have time at the moment. In case anyone who has access to Fold3 does have time, the file starts here.


by Harry Ide G2G6 Mach 6 (65.4k points)
selected by Andrew Payzant
It's quite late at night here but I shall also read through it in the morning. Thank you so much for finding this.
I've begun working through the file. He obviously encountered problems because he served under an alias, and couldn't prove that his disabilities were a result of his service. I'll place my notes on the first 31 images below. I've tried to take fairly complete notes, because I don't know what you'll be interested in. If you have any questions, please ask. (And I'll try to add more later today or tomorrow.)


Edward Munroe (seaman, U.S. Navy, Navy SC 9850), Navy Survivors' Pension Files (Approved) 1861-1910); Record Group 15 : Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs; National Archives, Washington, D. C.; image copy, Fold3 (https://www.fold3.com/image/41531809 : accessed 16 October 2021).

image 3 is a card recording correspondence and results. I couldn't read all of the notes, but here's what I found:

certificate issued Mch 31 1891, mailed Apr 23 1891, rate and period: $12 from Nov 20 1890. disability: 'Double inguinal hernia + fracture of left arm'

issued May 4 1908, mailed May 5 1908, rate and period $20, from Aug 10 1907, Act of Feb. 6, 1907

issued 16 May 1913, rate and period $30 from 22 July 1912, Act of 11 [?] May 1912

'July 11, 93 To pensioner c/o U.S. Consul London Eng. to show citizenship pursuant to Act Mar [?] [illegible date] 93 D.E.P'

'Oct 2/ 95 [?] To pensioner for evidence of birth in US GG'

[another note is illegibly light]

'Jany 5 1901 clmt + E S Semans as to rej [? sc. rejection] of genl law claim - Dec [?] 21'

'July 19 1902 Clt notified that letter of April 19 1902 with enclosed unsworn statements of Kelly + Aldheiser [??] will not be considered RKD'

'Apr 8 - 1905. Pensnr infd no further relief - + of ground of rejn. under gen law'


[image 4. letter to Mr John Davis, Bermondsey, London, England, 29 March 1915]

$21.90 was approved for reimbursement of Munroe's funeral expenses


[image 7, Drop Report]

Edward Munroe was last paid at $30 per month to 4 December 1914, dropped from the pension rolls because of death on 7 February 1915


[image 9 is the funeral director's bill]

[image 10 is a circular, dated 4 June 1898, on which Munroe reports that he was not 'Never was married']


[images 12-15 are the application for reimbursement for funeral expenses'

'21. What was the cause of pensioner's death? Old age he was 105 he fell asleep'

'22. When did the pensioner's last sickness begin? Wednesday 3d day of February 1915'

'24. Give the name and post-office address of each physician who attended the pensioner during last sickness he received the attention of the house Doctor of St Marys Infirmary Highgate Hill London N England'

'25 State the names of the persons by whom the pensioner was nursed during the period or any portion of the period of last sickness and the period covered by such service in each instance Mrs E Hunt with whom he lodged for this last 15 years'

'26. Where did the pensioner live during last sickness? St Marys Infirmary Highgate Hill 4 days'

'27. Where did the pensioner die? St Marys Infirmary Highgate Hill'

'28. When did the pensioner die? February 7th 1915 in the night'

'29. Where was the pensioner buried? Bow Cemetry [sic] Bow London E England'


[image 15: letter, Edward Munroe to Commissioner of Pensions, 8 July 1913, requesting information about increase of pension requested nearly a year earlier]


[image 18: 'Certificate of Discharge']


'This is to Certify That William Randolph is discharged from the naval service of the United States from March 27th, 1864, under the provisions of the Act of Congress approved August 14, 1888.

'By order of the Secretary of the Navy: ...



'WHEN 1863 January 10. TERM One Year RATING Seaman CITY, TOWN, OR COUNTY Boston Mass AGE AT ENLISTMENT 36 years OCCUPATION None EYES hazel HAIR [illegible] COMPLEXION florid HEIGHT 5 Feet 7 Inches

'Marks and Scars None'


[image 19 is a card listing correspondence about the requested increase under the Act of 6 February 1907]

'Application filed Aug. 19 1907

'Service, NAVY

'Nov. 30, 1907. Clmt. for names of vessels upon which he served prior to May 12, 1864. A. P.

'June. [illegible] 08 Report returned to Auditor for service on Norfolk Packet in 1866 A. P.'

'Feb. 17, 1908. Clmt. name not borne as alleged in 1862; if he served under an assumed name and for ctf. of discharge. A. P.

'March 13, 1908 Call of Feb. 17, 1908 repeated A. P.

'Mar. 20 1908 Reports (2) ret'd [illegible] for ser. on Norfolk Packet in 1862 under name Wm. Randolph A. P


[image 20, 'Declaration for the Increase of an Invalid Pension', Edward Munroe, stamped 'US PENSION OFFICE SEP 22 1897']

Edward Munroe, pensioner at $12 per month because of double inguinal hernia and fracture of left arm, incurred in naval service of US while an able seaman on the "Alleghany". believes he is entitled to an increase because of rapidly failing eyesight. 'Have been treated at the St Bartholomews' Hospital London about 12 months ago and also under Doctor Lunn at the Marylebone Infirmary Notting Hill, London about 2 months ago'


[image 22, letter, 8 April 1905 to Edward Munroe]

'In reply to your letter of the 13th ultimo, you are informed that your claim for pension under the genewral law, based upon double hernia and fracture of left arm, was rejected January 5, 1901, on the ground that the records showed that hernia of left side was not incurred in the line of duty, and you declared your inability to establish origin in service and line of duty of any disability alleged.

'Inasmuch as you are now in receipt of the maximum rate provided by the act of June 27, 1890, the only law under which you have title to pension, there is no further relief that can be afforded you by this Bureau'


[image 23: sworn, statement, Edward Munroe, 4 September 1902]

'I, Edward Munroe, do solemnly swear that I was discharged at the Philadelphia Navy Yard in 1866 as unfit for service, having a double hernia and fractured forearm, incurred in performance of duty on board the Receiving Ship "Princeton", at Philadelphia Navy Yard. My age would entitled [sic] me to a pension according to the act. The Doctors at the Rendezvous, Water Street, Philadelphia, Capt. Howell in charge, passed me without any trouble. They would not have passed me if there had been anything the matter with me. I was drafted to the double-ender "Metacomet" bound for the fisheries. I had a fall on board the "Princeton" from a "Jacob's Ladder", and it was after that that I felt the hernia, and my arm was very much swollen and painful. I was sent to the Naval Hospital and from there was discharged. I am now very old, being eight-five years of age, and I have now to attend the Opthalmic [sic] Hospital to undergo an operation. I expect to lose the sight of one eye altogether. This is my case. Without friends, and without employment, any increase of pension would be thankfully received.'


[image 24, letter to Edward Munro, dated 17 February 1908]

Navy record do not show his name on the North Caroline for 1862, or the Norfolk Packet from 1862 to June 1865, or the J L Davis from Jan 1862 to May 1865, or the Bomb Flotilla. If he served under another name, state that and why you did.


[image 25, letter, Commissioner to Edward Munroe, 13 March 1908. asking for alias, and asking him to send his certificate of discharge]


[image 26, letter, Commission to Edward Munroe, 30 November 1907, asking for the vessels he served on and the dates on which he served on them]


[image 27, letter, E A Herndon to Commissioner of Pensions, 30 March 1902 [?]. asking for Munroe's address]


[image 31 summarized the original pension application, under the act of 27 June 1890]

Edward Munroe alias William Randolph

application 14,181, file 20 Nov 1890

Helena St, Bishopgae, London, England

service: Seaman, N. Carolina, USS Norfolk, Augusta [?], Princeton, Alleghany, Cambridge, Malverd [?], Shamrock
Thank you very much for this Harry. I've been going through the pension too. Largely I've found the witness statements and the records from the Navy Department (at the end) to be most important to me since before I only had his word to prove that he served.
Good--I won't bother taking such detailed notes then. It is surely better for you to see the records yourself.

I'm actually interested in the process. For example, he was pensioned under the Act of 27 June 1890 (which greatly expanded eligibility). He must have established service to receive that pension. Why, then, did they have trouble finding his service record later. when he applied for an increase? In the US, many men used "pension agents" to apply; Munroe seems to have been representing himself, perhaps because no attorneys in London had the required expertise (or were willing to accept the small payment they were allowed). That presumably explains why he filed an unsworn statement supporting one of his applications (and later filed a presumably similar statement sworn before the US consul). Tracking the legal requirements must have been hard. I notice that he listed his postal address as care of the US Consul; I wonder how much the Consul helped.

It's an interesting file. I've looked at many pension files, but never one from outside the US.


My wife's great-grandfather Morgan Thistle Chisholm from Nova Scotia enlisted in the 18th Illinois Infantry as "John Chisholm". His service records are all marked "This man's name appears to be Morgan T Chisholm", and he received a pension later in life, as a retired master mariner, farming on the family land in Nova Scotia. So I was interested to read about another case of a Nova Scotian enlisting under an alias.

Apparently several hundred Nova Scotians served in the US Civil War.

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