Cyrus J. Hardaway (Co. D, 1st USSS) pension application
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Author:  Bill Skillman [ Sat Mar 02, 2024 10:27 am ]
Post subject:  Cyrus J. Hardaway (Co. D, 1st USSS) pension application

Fellow Sharpshooters;

After I posted the Cyrus Hardaway (Co. D 1st USSS) letters it took me a few days before coming back to finish the “Historical Notes” section, and I’m glad I did.

The authors provide a biographical sketch of Cyrus’ life after being discharged in 1865.

At the age of 44, Cyrus Hardaway married Delia White Hardaway. During this time Cyrus was employed as a clerk in the U.S. Census department in Washington DC.

In 1885, Hardaway suffered from an illness that progressed into complete paralysis (poliomyelitis?) that left him an invalid for nearly a year. Cyrus partially recovered, but his legs were permanently weakened, requiring him to walk with a cane or assistance. Prior to this, Hardaway enjoyed good health.

In 1890, Hardaway filed an application for a pension. Affidavits accompanying his application were from his wife, surviving brother (Nathan Summers Beardslee), treating physicians and former sharpshooter tent mate (and New Berlin attorney) Henry Harrington. Hardaway underwent several medical exams to ‘rule out’ possible illnesses or ‘habits’. But Cyrus maintained he never had any other medical conditions or diseases to account for his disability.

Cyrus Hardaway’s pension claim stands out as truly unique: “that his physical disability was caused, at least in part, by the exotic calfskin backpack equipment provided to Berdan’s Sharpshooters. He claimed “the sharpshooter backpack was poorly designed and caused severe back strain on all sharpshooters. He was particularly critical of the sharp edges and the positioning of the backpack which constantly caused him to fight against the weight of the pack”.

Hardaway repeatedly expressed frustration (at his inability to prove the knapsack design led to his disability), while admitting he had “no other witnesses or evidence” to confirm his injuries (his mother and brother were deceased, and his Company D comrades had been killed in the war or had died since then).

The authors/descendants suggest his wartime letters may have helped his case, (these were at the family farm in New York, and their existence unknown/forgotten). Cyrus was finally granted his pension. In 1910, Pittsfield Sharp Shooter, Cyrus J. Hardaway, died.

This is the very first complaint I’ve ever read about the Tiffany-imported calfskin knapsacks used by the U. S. Sharp Shooters. When I began re-enacting I wore my Frank Packer knapsack, but never with a full load for any distance. Remembrance Day parades (http://guernseymemoriallibrary.org/images-supplementing-the-letters-of-cyrus-j-hardaway/) were the longest march I made in mine. I always looked forward to “getting out of the harness” to relieve my aching back muscles once the dedication ceremony at the Angle ended.

Bill Skillman
Michigan Companies
Berdan Sharpshooter Survivors Association

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