Ann Bradford, a colored woman who served in the Union Navy, was the first woman during the Civil War to receive a pension for her military service. Ms. Bradford was born a slave in Rutherford County, TN.
She was taken onto a Union ship following the Emancipation Proclamation as a contraband. She volunteered to serve as a nurse and was given the rank of “first class boy”. She received pay from her service on board the U.S.S. Red Rover hospital ship. She served on active duty from January 1863 to October 1864.
Following her service, she married Gilbert Stokes, a black man who had also served on the same ship. When he died in 1866, she applied for his pension. Her inability to read and write complicated her pension request, which was rejected.
By 1890 she had learned to read and write and filed again. This time she filed for a pension based on her own military service. She was awarded $12 a month, the same pension given to Union nurses.
Ann Bradford Stokes was unique in that she was one of the first women who ever served in the U. S. Navy. Of the two dozen or so black women who served in the U. S. Navy, she is the only one who received a pension based on her personal service in the military.
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