Diary of a Yankee Engineer: The Civil War Story of John H. Westervelt, Engineer, 1st New York Volunteer Engineer Corps

By John H. Westervelt; Anita Palladino | Go to book overview

Epilogue
On June 15, 1865, John Westervelt’s journal ends with his arrival at his Ninth Avenue residence, proclaiming “safe at HOME.” Sadly, John was less safe than he could have known, for the persistent bouts of fever, chills, and coughing that began in Virginia were the calling cards of the tuberculosis that was to claim him in three years time.While no diary entries exist for these final years an outline of John’s life can be sketched through documents that survive. Perhaps most revealing of these is the notarized declaration which notes “… he is confined to his room and has the constant attendance of a physician.” Without question this must have been extremely difficult; hating to be dependent upon anyone, invalid status was no doubt unbearable to a man of such self-reliance and pride.The initial “Certificate of Disability for Discharge,” prepared in May of 1865, certifies his condition as “… incipient Pulmonary Consumption. Disability ⅔rds.” Certificate No 66,616 set his pension at $4.00 per month.The progress of disease is detailed in subsequent affidavits:
Surgeon’s Certificate, January 1866: “said Westervelt is one-half incapacitated for manual labor”;
Officer’s Certificate of Disability of Soldier, May 22, 1866: [John Westervelt is] “unfit to perform manual labor”;
Notarized Declaration: “[Westervelt] was a carpenter; [and] has been unable to perform manual labor since January last” [January of 1868];
Claim for an Increased Invalid Pension, April 9,1868: “Dr. Chamberlain, April 2, 1868, says he [Westervelt] is in an advanced stage of consumption—emaciation, hectic fever, debility &c are well marked. Life will probably not be prolonged.” Following government review of this declaration, John’s condition was upgraded to “total disability.” His sti-

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