The Civil War Pension File of Anna Margaret Most

1863 Old Ford Road Bridge over Antietam Creek, Hagerstown, Maryland

My 4x great grandparents, Johann Christian Most (1799-1865) and Anna Margaretta Guenther (1806-1878) had two sons who enlisted into the Union Army during the Civil War. One son, Johann Christian Frederick Most (1840-1916) was wounded during the war but survived. He returned home and married, then moved on from the family home in Hagerstown, Maryland to Dayton, Ohio. He changed the spelling of his name to “Christian Must”. Unfortunately, their younger son, George Most, was killed during the Battle of Gettysburg, on July 3, 1863. His untimely death, coupled with his parent’s post-war financial situation, led his mother (called Margaret Most in most U.S. records) to apply for a pension based on his service. Pensions were available for dependents of Union soldiers, including wives, minor children, and the soldier’s mother.

Johann Christian Most and Anna Margaretta Guenther were born and wed in Schaafheim, Darmstadt, Hesse, a municipality that is about 40 miles southeast of Frankfort, Germany. Their families had been in that area since at least the early 1700s. Christian emigrated to the United States alone in October of 1832, and his family came shortly after. They lived in Hagerstown, Maryland as early as November of 1833, when their 4th child was born in the United States and baptized at St. John’s Lutheran Church in that city. In total they had twelve children, but only seven lived to adulthood: Dorothy Elizabeth Most (1828-1904, married Lewis Ernde); Mary Ann Most (1833-1920, married Augustus Lutz); Anna Catherine Most (1836-1887, married John Wolfgang Brey); Christian Must (1840-1916, married Catherine Metz); Elenora Most (1841-1925, married John W. Bowers); Anna Margaret Most (1842-1878, married Charles Smith); George Most (1845-1863) and William Henry Most (1847-1923, married Sybilla Eckels).

Civil War Pension files are a must-order item for family historians. Rather than just an acknowledgment of military service and payments made to the veteran or family members, it often includes multiple first person accounts of the soldier’s family and their circumstances. Women who received a pension had to prove their relationship to the veteran and their state of need. To do this, they furnished original documents, and sworn statements from friends and neighbors. The testimony of Margaret Most following the death of her son at Gettysburg, along with testimony from other community members, presents a full picture of the Most family in a way that census records do not.

On January 19, 1866 Margaret Most testified before the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Washington County that her son George had been her principal support at the time of his death. Before he joined the army in 1861, he was employed by Lewis Ernde’s brickworks. Her husband, Christian Most, had died a year before, on January 11, 1865. He had been sick for 10 years prior. Local witnesses Richard Schekels and William Witzenbacker confirmed her testimony.

Anna Margaretta Most’s Signature

Then, George Kealhofer, Cashier of the Washington County Bank testified that the late Christian Most had been employed in the Office of Discount and Deposit of the Washington County Bank at Hagerstown for about 10 years. Christian Most had been in “feeble health during the greater part of that time and entirely unable to perform any severe labor, not being able to saw the wood used in the office; he suffered from a pulmonary disease generally supposed to be Consumption [tuberculosis], and was kept at the Bank more as an act of charity to a needy and honest man who was unable to work for a living than any service he was able to render.” His annual salary from the bank was $125. Later in the document it is stated that Christian Most worked as a runner and night watchman for the bank during these 10 years. Kealhofer goes on to say that the widow Margaret Most “is an honest and respectable woman”.

The next affidavit in the file is from Dr. Frederick Dorsey, a physician in Hagerstown. He concurred on Christian Most’s health, saying he was unable to support his family sufficiently for many years prior to his death, and that his son George helped support the family. Following this statement, the bank supplied evidence that they voted to pay for Christian Most’s funeral expenses in the amount of $25.

Minutes of the Bank of Washington County

Many other witnesses came forward to testify that Margaret was in need and that George supported his parents willingly before his death. His sister, Ellen, testified that her brother worked for the brickyard before he enlisted and gave his wages to their mother. Once in the army, George regularly sent $10 to $20 or more as often as he was able, “because he considered it his duty to contribute to the support of his mother and invalid father.”

Following all the testimony from family and neighbors, William Biersling, Justice of the Peace for Washington County, included a letter testifying to the credibility of those who had spoken for Margaret Most. He said of her daughter Ellen, “Ellen Most is a respectable young lady and enjoys the reputation of being truthful and honest among all who know her. She is employed by Mrs. Franklin Heard in a Millinery and Trimming Store, and is highly spoken of for her industry and honesty. To the best of my knowledge and belief her character is without stain.”

Confirmation of George Most’s military service

Private George Most, Company F, 1st Regiment of Maryland’s Potomac Home Brigade, enlisted for the Union cause on September 1, 1861, for the term of 3 years. He was just 16 years old. He died at Gettysburg, probably at Culp’s Hill on July 3, 1863. The United States government granted his mother a pension in the amount of $8 a month. For many years she lived with daughter Catherine and her son-in-law John Wolfgang Brey, in Hagerstown. The Herald & Light noted her passing: “In this town, on Saturday last, Mrs. MARGARET MOST, aged 72 years, 7 months and 5 days.

Most Family, Rose Hill Cemetery, Hagerstown, Maryland

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