WAR OF 1812
(from Child's Gazetteer(1890) - pp. 141-171)
For 30 years after the independence of the colonies was acknowledged by the mother country peace brooded over all the land, and the free American states had rapidly advanced in prosperity. The troubles which preceded the declaration of war in 1812 are familiar to all. England, seeming to forget that her American offspring had arrived at maturity and was able to protect its own institutions, and looking upon herself as mistress of the ocean, during her wars with Napoleon, utterly disregarded the rights of the United States as a neutral nation. Her cruisers would stop and search American vessels and seize such able-bodied seamen as were needed, on the pretext that they were British subjects. An American frigate, not in condition to resist, having been subjected to this indignity almost within sight of an American port, after receiving several broadsides for denying the right of such search, the President issued a proclamation ordering all British ships of war to quit the waters of the United States. Congress also laid an embargo on American vessels, detaining them at home, but afterwards substituted a non-intercourse act, prohibiting trade with Great Britain. Notwithstanding all this, England persisted in her offensive course. All hopes of obtaining concession on the impressment question from her were at length abandoned. George III, who was still on the throne, had become insane, and the men who managed affairs were as short-sighted as his advisers had been 40 years before, whose folly had provoked the Revolution. Longer submission to England’s arrogant and tyranical (sic) treatment was deemed unworthy of a free nation, and war was therefore formally declared June 18, 1812.
Jefferson County early became the theater of active military and naval operations. Sackets Harbor was then the most important point on Lake Ontario. It was made the headquarters of the northern division of the American fleet, and here were fitted out numerous important expeditions against the British in Canada. The main incidents of this war, as connected with this territory, are generally given in the “Gazetteer of Towns,” following the County Chapter. It was the intention of the publisher of this work to give a detailed account, under this heading, of all the military and naval operations originating and transpiring on the frontier of Jefferson County; but the materials at hand, and not previously published, regarding other matters of importance, have taken so much space that we deem it advisable to curtail this subject here, and refer the reader, for a full account, to Hough’s History of Jefferson County, published in 1854, and also to Evert’s History of 1878.
Many of the exciting incidents of the Patriot War, 1837-40, are also given in the “Gazetteer of Towns.” For the reasons mentioned above we will omit further mention of the subject here, and respectfully refer the reader to the histories previously named, in which will be found detailed and interesting accounts of this foolish and abortive attempt to revolutionize the Canadas.
WAR FOR THE UNION.
For nearly half a century after the War of 1812 the angel of Peace gave her sweetest smiles to the industrious and patriotic inhabitants of the Empire state. No affairs of the nation called them from their peaceful avocations, and nothing disturbed the tranquil serenity of their busy lives. The sun rose each day and smiled on a happy, prosperous, and contented people; but alas! on the morning of April 21, 1861, it awakened no answering smile in their hearts, which were touched with the fire of patriotism and burned with martial ardor. The dreams of peace were forgotten; naught was remembered but the insulted flag, --the flag purchased by the blood of their fathers, --to which they owned their liberties, homes, and the plenty that surrounded them.
Side by side with her sister states New York endured the weary marches and bore the brunt of battles, and side by side their sons sleep the long sleep--some ‘neath the sun-kissed plains of the willful South, and some rocked in the bosom of the broad Atlantic, “held in the hollow of His land.” Others have been borne to rest among their kindred by sympathizing friends, who, year by year, to muffled drum-beat, wend their way to their consecrated tombs to deck their graves with beautiful spring flowers--a national tribute to the gallant dead. Jefferson County gave liberally of her treasure, and quite 5,000 of her sons went forth to battle for the preservation of the nation’s unity, and to free our country from the curse of slavery, so long a foul blot upon her fair fame. From the beginning of the war until the close of 1864 the county had paid, according to the report of the Bureau for 1865, bounties to the amount of $333,475.16.
Following is a brief account of the regiments in which residents of Jefferson County served, taken from Evert’s History of Jefferson County. In part II. of this work, in the general directory, will be found the individual record of many of the soldiers of the war now living in the county. Space will not permit of a complete and separate roster of all: --
“Company K of this regiment was organized at Ellisburgh, by Andrew J. Barney, who became its captain. The regiment was organized and numbered by the State Military Board, May 16, 1861, and on July 2 it was mustered into the service of the United States, leaving Elmira the same day, fully armed and equipped, and proceeding via Harrisburg and Baltimore to Washington, where it arrived July 3, and camped on Meridian Hill till July 21, at which date it received long Enfield rifled muskets in exchange for the percussion muskets with which it had left New York state. During the winter of 1861-62 the regiment was encamped on Upton’s Hill. After being brigaded differently several times it was, in March, 1862, assigned to the 1st Brigade, 1st Division, 1st Corps, and in September, 1862, the brigade was known as the ‘Iron Brigade,” commanded by General Hatch and Colonel Sullivan. Col. Phelps, of the 22d Regiment, took command of the brigade September 14, and continued in that position until its dissolution by reason of the expiration of the terms of service of the 22d, 24th, and 30th regiments.
“After various minor engagements a sharp skirmish was had in May, 1862, called the battle of Falmouth. August 10 they left Falmouth for Cedar Mountain (sometimes called Slaughter Mountain), where they stayed four days under artillery fire, the regiment losing one man killed in Company D. On August 28 they were under fire at Groveton, but were not engaged. On the 30th they were sharply engaged at Bull Run for about an hour and 20 minutes, losing several men. Between four and five o’clock on Sunday evening, September 14, 1862, they went into the fight at South Mountain, Md., to which point they had been moved via Washington, Rockville, New Market, and Frederick City. After several times changing position, and constantly skirmishing, they forded Antietam Creek on the morning of the 16th and moved to the right, abreast of the celebrated cornfield. On the morning of the 17th they became hotly engaged, and lost several men, among them Captain J. D. O’Brien, of Company A, and Ensign John S. McNair. The regiment next participated in General Burnside’s unfortunate Fredericksburg battle, December 13, 1862. In the battle of Chancellorsville they were also engaged, and about the middle of May, succeeding that engagement, were ordered home, and mustered out at Oswego at the expiration of their tem of service--two years.”
“This organization, known as the ‘Jefferson County Regiment,’ was organized at Elmira, June 3, 1861. The following companies were raised in Jefferson County: --
“Company A, recruited at Watertown; Capt. Stephen L. Potter; accepted May 9; mustered into service at Elmira, July 9, 1861.
“Company C, Theresa; Capt. George W. Flower; accepted May 15; mustered in at Elmira, July 9.
“Company E, Watertown; Capt. John Lacy; recruiting commenced April 15, and ended June 11; accepted May 9; mustered in at Elmira, July 10.
“Company G, Adams; Capt. Sidney J. Mendal; accepted May 7; mustered in at Elmira, July 10.
“Company I, Redwood; Capt. Edgar B. Spalsbury; accepted May 20; mustered in at Elmira, July 9.
“Company K, Brownville, Capt. Newton B. Lord; accepted May 9; mustered in at Elmira, July 10.
“At a meeting of the State Military Board, held May 24, it was, on motion of Lieut.-Gov. Campbell,
“’Resolved, That the companies commanded by the following named captains, viz.: Capts. Lacy, Lord, Potter, Mendell, Angle, Flower, Spalsbury, Todd, Nutting (Co. D), and Elwell, be organized into a regiment, to be numbered No. 35, and an election of field officers ordered to be held therein.’
“June 11 the election of William C. Brown, as colonel, Stephen L. Potter as lieutenant-colonel, and Newton B. Lord as major, was confirmed, and on the 10th of July the field and staff were mustered into the service of the United States for the term of two years from June 11, 1861. Flags were presented to the companies as follows: Co. A, by citizens of Watertown; Co. E, ditto; Co. K, by citizens of Brownville; and Co. C, by citizens of Theresa. The first regimental flag was obtained by subscription among the officers. Subsequently the regiment was presented with colors by Hon. A. W. Clark.
“July 11, 1861, the 35th left Elmira for the seat of the war, arriving at Washington on the 13th, and encamping on Meridian Hill. It was finally brigaded with the 21st, 34d, and 80th (20th militia) N. Y. Vols., the brigade being known as the First Brigade, First Division, First Army Corps.
“The regiment was commanded from June 3 until August 2, 1861, by Col. William C. Brown; from August, 1861, to February 10, 1863, by Col. Newton B. Lord; and from February 10 to June 5, 1863, by Col. John G. Todd.
“Soon after the arrival of the regiment in Virginia it furnished details to work under Lieut.-Col. Alexander, U. S. engineers, in forming abattis. Col. Alexander placed the work in charge of Col. Lord, and the regiment felled timber from the forests surrounding the camp, and formed abattis-several miles in length and 400 feet in width. After this it worked on the lunette forts near the Arlington House, and built one seven-gun lunette fort. The forts upon which the regiment performed most of its labors were afterwards named Forts Tillinghast and Craig. For five and a half months after this the regiment was kept on picket duty, losing in the entire time but one man wounded and none killed. It captured two lieutenants and 23 men, and killed three men.
“In January, 1862, the muskets supplied the regiment by the state were exchanged for Austrian rifles, calibre 54. From March until August the 35th participated in a series of weary marches and occasional skirmishes, and became greatly depleted by disease. At Rappahannock Station, August 30, it was a support for Battery L, of the First New York Artillery, which was sharply engaged. At the battle of Warrenton Springs it was exposed to a fire of artillery and sharpshooters. At Gainesville but two companies were engaged as skirmishers, and after the battle the regiment was placed on picket duty, losing five men captured by the enemy the next morning. At the memorable second Bull Run fight, August 29, 1862, the 35th lost nine men killed and 13 wounded. It was also fired into through mistake by the 23d, with a loss of five killed and eight wounded. On the second day the 35th lay behind a stone wall, near the turnpike, where it lost 72 men in killed and wounded, although it did not fire a gun during the day, the position being upon the ground in front of the artillery. When the retreat commenced it was withdrawn, and reached Centerville about 7 in the evening. During the battle of Chantilly in lay in the rifle pits on the right of the turnpike, and was not under fire. After this battle it marched via Fairfax to Falls Church, arriving on the 3d of September, and camping near its camps of the previous winter. On its arrival at Falls Church it had for its music two drums and one bugle, the regimental band of 24 pieces having been discharged, and the drum corps having lost its drums while attending the wounded at Bull Run. It was also without knapsacks, coats, or blankets, these having been left at Centerville and destroyed on the retreat.
“At the battle of South Mountain, September 14, the regiment was deployed as skirmishers, one company being left at the foot of the hill with the colors, while three moved on the left and six on the right of the turnpike, under strong support. The three companies on the left lost, during the day, 19 men in killed and wounded. After the enemy was driven from the hill the regiment was relieved, and reached its colors at the foot about 3 A. M. of the 15th. On the 15th the regiment passed through Turner’s Gap, and on the morning of the 16th reached the bank of the Antietam, where it was exposed for an hour to artillery fire, and lost three or four in wounded. During the forenoon it changed position, and in the evening, while moving across an open field to take up its position in a belt of woods, received a fire from a battery of the enemy, losing three men killed and five wounded. On the 17th it was marched, with the 1st Brigade, to the right, across the turnpike and into the woods in the rear of Dunker’s Church, where it remained about one hour. It was then formed parallel to the turnpike, in the rear of a cliff, for the purpose of attacking the flank of a line of the enemy, which had advanced against the 2d and 3d Brigades. Here it lay down behind the fence and ditch of the turnpike, and opened fire on the enemy’s line, which had been reformed and reenforced, and kept it up until the line gave way, after which it moved forward its left wing and captured the battle-flag of the 7th Alabama. Just at this time the enemy formed a line on the right and rear, and opened a galling fire, forcing our line to fall back to the cliff, where it returned fire. Ammunition was soon exhausted, and the 35th and 23d were marched by the left flank towards the rear of the army. On reaching the hill where the batteries were posted the two regiments were halted and faced about in the edge of the woods to give General French an opportunity to form his division. The fire from the enemy became intensely severe, and French’s division was again thrown into confusion. The two regiments then moved back for cartridges, and on being supplied were placed in support of two batteries, where they remained until the morning of the 18th. In this action the 35th lost 32 killed and 43 wounded.
“On the 19th the regiment went into camp a mile and a half from Sharpsburg, near the bend in the Potomac, where it remained a month, during which time it suffered much for want of clothing and shoes, and from disease occasioned by its occupation of a battle-ground and the vicinity of the mounds of the dead. Half its officers and men were unfit for duty.
“At the battle of Fredericksburg, December 12 and 13, the regiment lost heavily, being exposed for six hours on the 13th to a fire from the enemy’s artillery without an opportunity to retaliate. Not a shot was fired by it until subsequent to this on the 13th and during the 13th, when it was placed on picket, losing, on the night of the 15th, six men prisoners. The duty of the 35th after this was comparatively light. The total number of men on the rolls of the regiment was 1,250, of which number 593 were mustered out on the 5th of June, 1863, at Elmira, N. Y. For the first time in four months the regiment assembled on dress parade on the 19th of May previous, and General Patrick shook hands with each man as an earnest of the feeling with which he bade them good-by. The next day they took the cars for Aquia Creek, proceeded thence by transport to Washington, where they were received by Capt. Camp, of Co. K (then on detatched (sic) duty as aide-de-camp to General Martindale), with a full band. The regiment reached Elmira May 22, and, as mentioned, was mustered out June 5. It had lost 130 men killed in battle, 70 by deaths from disease, 90 discharged for wounds, and 140 for disability.”
“This regiment was organized at Sackets Harbor to serve three years. The companies composing it were raised in the county of Jefferson. It was mustered into the United States service on the 10th of March, 1862, and in March, 1863, was consolidated with the 105th Infantry. On the expiration of its term of service the original members (except veterans) were mustered out, and the regiment, composed of veterans and recruits, retained in service until July 18, 1865, when it was mustered out in accordance with the orders from the War Department. The 94th was actively engaged while in the service, and but little time elapsed between the date of its organization and its first engagement. The regiment participated in the battles of Cedar Mountain, second Bull Run, Chantilly, Chancellorsville, South Mountain, Antietam, Gainesville, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, Mine Run, Tolopotomy, Bethesda Church, Petersburg, and Weldon Railroad, besides many skirmishes of more or less importance, and suffered to a considerable extent. The record of this regiment is one of valiant deeds, and its scared battle-flags and maimed and dead soldiers are covered with the praises awarded by a grateful people to those who have made themselves famous.”
ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHT-SIXTH INFANTRY.
The 186th Regiment was recruited principally in Jefferson and Lewis counties, and was mustered into service September 8, 1864. It went out 980 strong, lost 130 in killed and wounded, 120 by disease and discharge, and returned with 730. It was in the battle of Southside Railroad, October 27, 1864; formed part of Warren’s command in his raid to Nottaway, December 20; was in charge of Fort Mahone, in front of Petersburg, April 2, 1865; and finally joined in the pursuit and capture of General Lee. It was among the first to enter the rebel fortifications at Petersburg, and was highly complimented by its brigade and division commanders for the gallantry shown in its charge on Fort Mahone. It was organized at Sackets Harbor for the period of one year, and was mustered out, in accordance with orders from the War Department, June 2, 1865.”
ONE HUNDRED AND NINETY-THIRD INFANTRY.
“This regiment was raised at Auburn, N. Y., to serve for one, two, and three years. Jefferson County furnished a considerable number of men for it, although it was filled up with men from the counties of Cayuga, Oswego, Onondaga, Oneida, St. Lawrence, and Franklin besides. It was mustered into the service of the United States in the spring of 1865, and mustered out of service January 18, 1866, in accordance with orders from the War Department.”
SIXTH CALVARY -- “SECOND IRA HARRIS GUARD.”
“Jefferson County furnished a number of men for this regiment, which was mustered into the service of the United States from September 12 to December 19, 1861. The original members were mustered out on the expiration of their term of service, and the organization, composed of veterans and recruits, retained in service, and on the 17th of June, 1865, consolidated with the 15th N. Y. Vol. Cavalry, the consolidated force being known as the 2d N. Y. Provisional Cavalry. Its list of engagements embraces the following: South Mountain, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Spottsylvania, Chancellorsville, Beverley Ford, Middleburg, Upperville, Gettysburg, Brandy Station, Rappahannock Station, Mine Run, Mechanicsville, Wilderness, Todd’s Tavern, Hawe’s Shop, Cold Harbor, Deep Bottom, Opequon, Fisher’s Hill, Cedar Creek, Appomattox Station, siege of Richmond.”
“This regiment was organized in New York city to serve three years, and a detachment of men from Jefferson County joined it. It was mustered into the United States service from February, 1863, to March, 1864. On the 23d of June, 1865, the regiment was consolidated with the 16th N. Y. Cavalry, and the consolidated force known as the 3d N. Y. Provisional Cavalry. Its principal engagements were at Aldie, Fairfax Station, Centerville, Culpepper, and Piedmont, and its loss was comparatively slight. The men from Jefferson County belonged in four companies of the regiment.”
“This regiment was organized in New York city to serve three years. The companies of which it was composed were raised in the counties of New York, Albany, Jefferson, Lewis, Franklin, Herkimer, and Erie. It was mustered into the service of the United States from July 18, 1863, to February 3, 1864. On June 12, 1865, it was consolidated with the 14th N. Y. Cavalry, the consolidated force retaining the name--18th New York Cavalry. This force remained in service until May 31, 1866, when it was mustered out in accordance with orders from the War Department.”
“The 20th Cavalry was organized at Sackets Harbor, N. Y. to serve three years. Its men were principally from Jefferson County, although the counties of Lewis, St. Lawrence, Oswego, Onondaga, and Albany were also represented. The regiment was mustered into the United States service from September 3 to September 30, 1863, and after a varied experience was mustered out July 31, 1865, in accordance with orders from the War Department. It was known as the ‘McClellan Cavalry’; went out with 12 companies, and was a fine body of men.”
TWENTY FOURTH CAVALRY.
“This regiment was organized in the states of New York, Massachusetts, and Vermont, under special authority from the Secretary of War, to serve on the frontier for one year. It was principally engaged in protecting the northern frontier, and looking after suspicious characters, “bounty jumpers,” rebel sympathizers, etc., one detachment being stationed at Sackets Harbor. Five companies were organized in this state, composed of men from the counties of St. Lawrence, Jefferson, Lewis, Franklin, Clinton, Essex, and Erie. The regiment was mustered in from December 29, 1864, to February 22, 1865, and was mustered out by companies from June 29, 1865, to July 7, 1865, in accordance with orders from the War Department.”
FIRST REGIMENT “VETERAN” CAVALRY.
“This was organized at Geneva, N. Y., to serve three years, and mustered into the U. S. service from July 25 to November 19, 1863. The 17th N. Y. Cavalry was consolidated with it September 17, 1863, and the new organization contained a considerable number of men from Jefferson County. The regiment was mustered out July 20, 1865, in accordance with orders from the War Department.”
FIRST NEW YORK LIGHT ARTILLERY.,
“Company C, Capt. John W. Tamblin, was organized in Jefferson County, and mustered in from September 6 to October 24, 1861. It participated in the battles of Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Rappahannock Station, Mine Run, Spottsylvania, North Anna, Tolopotomy, Bethesda Church, Petersburg, and Weldon Railroad, and was mustered out, in accordance with orders from the War Department, June 17, 1865, after nearly four years of active service.
“COMPANY D, Capt. Thomas W. Osborn, was in part from Jefferson County, and was mustered in from September 6 to October 25, 1861. Its list of important engagements is a long one, and tells a truthful tale of bravery and hard service. It took active part in the battles of Yorktown, Williamsburg, Seven Pines, battle of June 25, 1862, Peach Orchard, Savage Station, White Oak Swamp, Glendale, Malvern Hill, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Rappahannock Station, Mine Run, Wilderness, Spottsylvania, North Ann, Tolopotomy, Bethesda Church, Petersburg, Weldon Railroad, and Chapel House. The battery was mustered out of service June 16, 1865.”
“Company H, Capt. Joseph Spratt, was raised principally in Jefferson County, and mustered into the service of the United States from the 10th to the 28th of October, 1861. It was engaged at Yorktown, Fair Oaks, White Oak Swamp, Malvern Hill, Mine Run, Wilderness, Spottsylvania , North Anna, Tolopotmy, Bethesda Church, Peteresburg, Weldon Railroad, Peeble’s Farm, and Hatcher’s Run, and was mustered out of service June 19, 1865.
FIRST REGIMENT (GOV. MORGAN’S) U. S. LIGHT ARTILLERY.
“Company H, of this regiment, Capt. Charles L. Smith, was raised at Watertown and Carthage, for the term of three years, and mustered in July 24, 1861. This organization became a part of the 2d N. Y. Lt. Art. On the expiration of its term of service the original members were mustered out, and the regiment, composed of veterans and recruits, retained in service. It was consolidated into eight companies, and four companies of the 9th N. Y. Artillery transferred to it June 27, 1865. The regiment was mustered out September 29, 1865, in accordance with orders from the War Department. Its battles were: second Bull Run, North Anna, Spottsylvania, Tolopotomy, Cold Harbor, Petersburg, Strawberry Plains, Deep Bottom, New Market Road, Charles City Cross-Roads, and Reams’s Station. The 2d Regiment lost 841 men in killed, wounded and missing.”
“The third battalion of the ‘Black River Artillery,’ assigned to this regiment, consisted of several companies raised in the counties of Jefferson and Lewis, mustered into the U. S. service in September, 1862. They were attached to the 5th Regiment, forming Batteries I, K, L, and M, to serve three years. On the expiration of its term of service the original members of the regiment (except veterans) were mustered out, and the organization, composed of veterans and recruits, retained in service until July 19, 1865, when it was mustered out in accordance with orders from the War Department. The principal engagements in which the regiment participated were at Point of Rocks, Berlin, Sandy Hook, and Harper’s Ferry.”
This regiment was composed of the First, Second, and Fourth Battalions of the Black River Artillery, raised in the counties of Lewis and Jefferson (Eighteenth Senate District). They were mustered into the service of the United States from September 11 to October 27, 1862, to serve three years. The original members were mustered out of service June 23, 1865, and the recruits consolidated into three companies and transferred to the 6th N. Y. Artillery, June 27, 1865.”
“Jefferson County furnished a number of men for this regiment, which was organized in the city of New York, and composed of men from various parts of the state. It was mustered in from August, 1863, to September, 1864. On the 27th of June, 1865, the organization was consolidated into a battalion of five companies, and transferred to the 6th N. Y. Artillery.”
“This regiment was organized at Rochester, to serve three years. Jefferson County furnished a considerable number of men. The regiment was mustered in from August 29 to December 17, 1863, and after participating in the battles of Spottsylvania, Petersburg, Weldon Railroad, Poplar Spring Church, Cold Harbor, and Hatcher’s Run, was mustered out, in accordance with orders from the War Department, August 26, 1865.
“This regiment was mustered into the U. S. service from September 28, 1863, to January 28, 1864, and contained a small detachment of men from Jefferson County. It was mustered out of service August 21, 1865.”
INDEPENDENT BATTERIES NOS. 20 and 28.
“Each contained men from Jefferson County, the latter having quite a detachment. The 20th Battery was mustered in December 27, 1862, and mustered out July 31, 1865. The 28th Battery was mustered in and out at the same dates as the 20th.”
“Aside from those already mentioned the following regiments contained men from Jefferson County: ---
“Infantry. -- The 3d, 53d, 57th (U. S. Van-Guard), 81st, 93d, 97th, 102d, and 106th.
“Cavalry. -- 1st, 11th (Scott’s 900), and 25th. And possibly the county was also represented in other regiments, of which we find no account. Numerous individuals enlisted and were mustered into the service from other states.”
Through the commendable generosity of Mr. and Mrs. George Cook, of Watertown, a beautiful memorial is being erected on Public Square, in that city, in honor of the soldiers and sailors who fought and the martyrs who fell during the late war in the struggle for the freedom of a race and the preservation of the Union. The corner-stone of this monument was laid on Memorial Day, 1890, with appropriate and impressive ceremonies, participated in by veterans of the late war and other citizens.
The publisher considers himself fortunate in securing the following interesting paper anent the exciting events connected with the provost-marshal’s office, from the pen of one of Jefferson County’s ablest and most patriotic citizens: --
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE PROVOST-MARSHAL’S OFFICE OF THE 20TH CON-
GRESSIONAL DISTRICT, COMPOSED OF THE COUNTIES OF JEFFERSON,
HERKIMER, AND LEWIS, FROM 1863 to 1865*
*By Colonel Albert D. Shaw.
It is a matter of regret that no careful diary of events centering in the provost-marshal’s office in Watertown was kept. The stirring and important duties that pressed upon the staff of the office were so engrossing, and the work so overwhelming, that little heed was paid to the claims of history. Few appreciated how great the responsibilities of the position were, or how much of care and toil came to those entrusted with the delicate and trying semi-military service. That it was highly important is now generally conceded; and it is fitting that an outline of the details of the office should be given in the Gazetteer of the county now about to issue. It has been difficult to collect data such as one would like to present in this connection, owing to the fact that the records were all sent to Washington at the close of the office, and these the writer has not been able to consult. In the main, however, it is believed that the facts herein stated, and the descriptions of the various phases of the work done, cover the most important details, and will, it is hoped, convey a fair picture of an unique chapter in the history of Jefferson County.
At the outbreak of the great Rebellion patriotic sentiment ran high, and the flower of our youth flocked to enlist in defence (sic) of our Union. The grim and terrible sacrifices of war were little known to the masses of our people. Wise statesmen predicted that the mad folly of secession would soon give way before the uprising of a loyal North, and a short war was anticipated. For many months volunteers met every demand for fresh troops, but as the conflict widened, and the sad realities of brutal war came to be fully realized through returning wounded and dead heroes, it became apparent that the government could not safely rely for future levies upon volunteers alone.
To provide recruits for the armies of the Union an enrollment law was passed by Congress, and a provost-marshal in each Congressional district in the loyal states was appointed. What was done had to be done quickly, under the urgent necessity for filling our rapidly organized battalions, and making good the waste and ruin of war. The armies at the front were constantly pressing forward over fields of carnage, and enormous losses through wounds, death, and disease resulted. It became vitally necessary to promptly fill the vacant places in our ranks, and to this great duty the provost-marshal’s office in Watertown brought the unselfish and devoted services of competent and patriotic citizens.
The selection of the provost-marshal for the 20th Congressional district, composed of the counties of Jefferson, Herkimer, and Lewis, was made by the Hon. Ambrose W. Clark, then ably representing the district in Congress. His choice of Frederick Emerson, Esq., of Watertown, was specially fortunate. At the time he was appointed few appreciated what a part the office would play in the attending incidents of the great war, or how serious the service was destined to become. It is only the truth of history to affirm that for nearly three years the provost marshal’s office was a household word in every family in the district. Next to the news from the seat of war the provost-marshal’s office was a center of deep and solicitous interest. With the wild havoc of battlefields spread before the people through the daily press the people felt the growing need for fresh troops, and the enrollment made record of those who were liable to military duty. At the time the office was fully organized in Watertown the stupendous strife had grown to such dimensions that it was clear to all how serious the struggle must be before an honorable peace would be won. Political excitement naturally ran high, and the position of provost-marshal at once became prominent and extremely important.
The appointment of Captain Emerson was most satisfactory from the first. He was in the prime of life, of well known ability and integrity, and specially fitted by legal and mental attainments for the position. He brought a well trained mind and perfect poise of temperament to the discharge of his very difficult duties. Few can appreciate how harrassing (sic) and wearying and diversified his responsibilities were. It was one long strain by day and by night, in a service where great latitude necessarily had to be exercised, in a round of perplexing questions new to all concerned. Few officers at the front had greater anxieties, or more delicate duties to perform. In all the wide circle of his devoted work as provost-marshal he was a model officer and an honest man. In purity of life, in zeal for the efficiency of his official staff, and in never failing sweetness of personal intercourse, Captain Emerson was a model chief. It was the writer’s good fortune to be associated with him for over two years, and he owes much to the manly inspirations of these eventful times. Nothing appeared to worry him, and his self-command was admirable. Courteous, dignified, and firm, every subordinate felt his inspiring and commanding presence as specially helpful in every personal and official relation.
Captain Emerson was averse to all ornamental flourishes in penmanship, and nothing stirred up his ire sooner than showy and useless ornamentation. A young man from Adams--since a judge in our county--called one day and made application for a clerkship. The Captain handed him a sheet of paper, and pointing to a desk requested him to write a letter to show his style. This was done. After some little time the production was handed in. It was profusely ornamented with flowing flourishes, showing the worst sort of folly in the useless waste of time in needless curves, etc. The Captain gave it one glance, and said, “Young man, you had better go back home and learn to write quickly a plain, even hand, and leave off all these worthless flourishes. We have no time here for such nonsense.” Years afterwards this applicant called the attention of the ex-provost-marshal to this characteristic incident. It was a good practical lesson, kindly administered. Besides, it was in keeping with the Captain’s well known dislike for all pretentious display in any direction.
The provost-marshal met with a serious accident in connection with his duties in Watertown. Complaints had been made to him about the accommodations at the government quarters for recruits, then situated on the northeast side of the river, at the lower bridge, and while inspecting the house the back veranda gave way, precipitating the inspecting party some feet to the ground below. Captain Emerson was severely injured, his spine receiving a hard blow from the falling debris. From the effects of this accident he was confined to his home for some time, suffering greatly from his wounds. He has never recovered from this hurt, and it eventually caused a curvature of the spine, seriously deforming him, and making it necessary for him to walk in a half-stooping condition, with the aid of a cane. While shut up at home by this accident, he continued to give attention to the necessary work of the office, and he was the mustering officer the recruits were marched up to his residence to be sworn in, he sitting in a chair at a window inside, while the volunteers were formed in a line outside. In this manner there was no interruption to the regular business of the office, although the sufferings of the provost-marshal were at times hard to bear.
A copy of the commission of Captain Emerson is here given as a matter of historic records: --
“WAR DEPARTMENT, WASHINGTON, April 16, 1863.
“Sir: -- You are hereby informed that the President of the United States has appointed you Provost-Marshal of the 20th Congressional District of the State of New York, with the rank of Captain of Cavalry in the service of the United States, to rank as such from the 15th day of April, 1863.
“Immediately on the receipt hereof please communicate to this Department, through the Provost-Marshal-General of the United States, your acceptance or non-acceptance; and, with your letter of acceptance, return the oath herewith enclosed, properly filled up, subscribed and attested, and report your age, birthplace, and the State of which you are a permanent resident. You will immediately report by letter to the Provost-Marshal-General, and will proceed to establish your Headquarters at Watertown, N. Y., and enter upon your duties in accordance with such special instructions as you may receive from the Provost-Marshal-General.
“EDWIN M. STANTON.
Secretary of War.
“To Captain Frederick Emerson, Provost-Marshal,
20th Dist., New York.”
Dr. Edward S. Walker, of Herkimer County, was detailed as examining surgeon. His position was one of the utmost delicacy--requiring a wide range of medical knowledge, as well as a great decision of character. Upon his examinations largely depended the decision as to who should be accepted as recruits, and who were legally entitled to exemption on account of physical disabilities. His position was a laborious and irksome one, for the reason that the ills of drafted men, and men seeking exemption, were being constantly poured into his ears. Through all his valuable service to the close of the office Dr. Walker acquitted himself with conspicuous ability, and won the well deserved reputation of being one of the best examining surgeons in the service.
Dr. Charles Goodale was appointed assistant surgeon, and was in every way equal to the duties that fell to his share of the trying word.
Arthur W. Pond, of Lewis County, was appointed commissioner--the three above named constituting the “examining board.” Pond was a capable man, and understood perfectly the details of the office.
James J. Cook, of Herkimer County, and James B. Phillips, of Lewis County, were appointed deputy provost-marshals, and both performed their duties with marked ability and integrity. They gave their best services in a trying round of responsibilities, being faithful in all things.
Charles H. Van Brakle was appointed chief clerk by Captain Emerson in April, 1863, and very efficiently filled the position until September of the same year, when he resigned his clerkship to accept the adjutancy of the 14th Heavy Artillery N. Y. Vols. John J. Safford became Van Brakle’s successor, and proved himself a capital official.
Brayton C. Bailey was made enrollment clerk, and he was a model guardian of the responsible position in which Captain Emerson’s partiality placed him. He served with great credit until the office was abolished at the close of the war.
J. Harvey Simmons was appointed quartermaster, and occupied a store on Court Street. Here all the recruits, substitutes, and drafted men were clothed after being mustered into the service. He was a man well qualified for the position, and no truer patriot ever served his country in any age.
David D. Gates was early appointed assistant enrollment clerk, and remained in the office until failing health forced him to give up work; but the rest did not bring relief, and he died late in 1863, the only one connected with the office who died during its existence. He was a young man of gentle life, and beloved by all who knew him well.
Edward M. Gates was a clerk in the office for some months, and a most competent one. He had the honor of turning the wheel for the last draft, and as his own name was among the number it is but fair to believe the he was happy when the last man was drawn and he was not chosen.
Louis C. Greenleaf, on the resignation of Chief Clerk Safford, was appointed to his place in 1864. He had been a sergeant in Co. A, 35th N. Y. Vols., serving with distinguished zeal and faithfulness, and he performed his responsible duties as chief clerk with equal credit. He was occupying this position when the office was closed.
Lieut. I. P. Woddell, a veteran and a capital officer, had charge of the Veteran Reserve Corps in Watertown for some months. He was a careful guardian of the rights and needs of the position he so admirably filled, and was an honored and useful aid at the headquarters. He knew his duty and always faithfully performed it.
First Lieut. George McOmber was appointed special agent upon Captain Emerson’s recommendation in May, 1863. He had served in the 94th N. Y. Vols. with distinguished bravery, and was badly wounded at the second battle of Bull Run, on August 30, 1862, from the effects of which he was discharged for disability. Returning home, and partially regaining his health, he accepted the position in question, but resigned the following August to accept a first lieutenancy in the Veteran Reserve Corps, and was ordered on duty in Kentucky. His parchment commission was signed by Abraham Lincoln, and will hereafter be regarded with pride by those who bear his name. Lieut. McOmber was a fine type of the American citizen-soldier, and did his whole duty during the four years of the Rebellion.
James P. Kirby, a veteran of the 94th N. Y. Vols, was also appointed special agent by Captain Emerson. He was wounded in the same battle that Lieut. McOmber was in 1862. Two special agents were provided for at each provost-marshal’s headquarters, and their duties were of an exacting character. All deliveries of recruits to the various U. S. rendezvouses at Elmira, Albany, or New York were under the command of special gents. Special investigations, the arrest of deserters, and a general supervision of the outside semi-military duties of the headquarters constituted the wide range of their responsibilities. Special Agent Kirby was a very competent, faithful, and honorable officer, and filled his trying position with great credit and acceptability up to the close of the office.
Albert D. Shaw was appointed the special agent to fill the vacancy occasioned by the resignation of Special Agent McOmber. He had served two years--through his term of enlistment--in Co. A, 35th N. Y. Vols, and was barely of age when he accepted the position. He served in the capacity of special agent until the office was abolished, and received the thanks of Provost-Marshal Emerson in an order highly commendatory of his record during the eventful years passed in this useful public employment.
The enrolling officers. --The experiences of the enrolling officers were of a varied and interesting character. Often these officials were treated with scant courtesy on their rounds, and sometimes they were regarded in the light of would-be destroyers of the harmony of households. The visit of an enrolling officer was a serious event in many homes. In all it was a severe lesson in the line of duty, and taught how powerful a people’s government really was. The memories of mothers--and fathers as well--were frequently at fault as to the date of birth of sons, the tendency sometimes being to represent the boys as less than 18 years of age. And there were instances where the 45th birthday came swiftly! These two extremes--28 and 45 years--were troublesome to enrolling officers. In these days cosmetics were not used to make beards grow on young faces, and hair dyes found few purchases to make people along the 45-year line look younger. It was a happy era when slow beards and gray hairs found no tricks played upon them, but were allowed to take their growth unvexed with the barbers’ art!
The enrollment was no joke in any aspect to which the official’s visit might be regarded. Every name placed upon the rolls was to take its chance in the revolving wheel. This fact made the enrollment a serous subject of a family contemplation. With the terrible havoc of war daily brought home to the people through reports of great battles and great losses in killed and wounded, in some cases cutting down brave soldiers from localities where the enrolling officer was going from house to house, it can be realized in part how solemn the questions as to who was liable to the draft really were. To many it seemed like a roll-call of death amid the home circle of peace. There was brought to the citizen a foretaste of how much the government relied upon the whole people for support in the fiery trail of war. Health and age were prime factors in the problem of saving the Union through crushing out the Rebellion. In this light the enrolling officer was the man who placed on the rolls the men who were liable to obey the demands for more soldiers when the draft came. It is not strange, under such conditions, that occasionally the age of a son was reported less than it really was, or that 46 years were reached by some born the same year as a neighbor whose record of life only measured 44 years. Such lapses of memory and faults of family records--some on the Bible’s record--were found, were even not uncommon. The enrolling officers were quick t hunting up facts as to the age of citizens where the least question arose about ages, and as the lists were hung up in every town few would-be deceivers escaped finally being placed on the rolls.
The writer had some experience in correcting the enrollment in Watertown, and in several instances was met with sharp and angry replies. It was quite a common thing to lock the door and pretend that no one was at home when the officer called. Curiously enough the enrolling officer was known the moment he put in an appearance on a street. The news of his coming was swiftly circulated. Twice in the writer’s experience the wife and children wailed, and wept, as though the husband and father had just been killed in battle, when his name was placed on the list as liable to a draft. This period was one that tested the “girth and groin” of the whole people, and, all in all, the world never witnessed a nobler example of national patriotism and individual heroism than was exhibited in this stupendous conflict. It is a matter of sincere regret that the list of enrolling officers is not at hand for insertion in this connection. A few only are recalled; one especially, Sidney Cooper, Esq., of Le Ray, was regarded as the model official, as his rolls were so neatly and accurately prepared. L. D. Morgan was enrolling officer for Watertown. In Le Ray a German pleaded with Enrolling Officer Cooper to be left off, for, he said, “Some rats dig into my cistern and die in dare, and I drinks the water and got some poisoned.” He was sure he should be enrolled. Mr. Cooper suggested that a change of air and scenery, in a trip South, would do him good. This idea gave no hope to the alarmed neighbor, for he thought the remedy very unlikely to do him any good. However he stood his draft and got free.
Special Agent Kirby, in correcting the enrollment for that then portion of Watertown called “The Swamp,” made his task effective and easy by pretending to be engaged in making a new directory of Watertown; but after he had finished his work, and the truth leaked out, it was not a healthy section of the town for this officer to visit. The consternation of the excitable residents was indeed great over the situation. There was a lack of words to describe their indignant feelings.
The enrollment. -- The enrollment of each town in the district called for the name of every male citizen, at the first, between the ages of 21 and 45 years. This was taken by enrolling officers appointed by Captain Emerson in every town, and involved a great deal of labor. Three copies of each enrollment had to be made--one for use at Albany, another at Washington, and one for the files of the Watertown office. After this was completed these enrollments were carefully revised, and every man with a plain disability, such as the loss of an eye, an arm, or a leg, or teeth, or with any serious chronic complaint, was, upon medical examination in Watertown in person, stricken from the rolls. In this way the lists were cleared of men who were unfit for military duty. Some of the incidents attending these examinations were both amusing and ludicrous. Wide notice was given of the nature of the examinations preparatory to striking off the clearly exempt citizens, but great crowds presented themselves before the board, a large majority of whom did not come under the operation of the regulations in question. The examining board met for convenience in the supervisors’ room at the court-house, on Arsenal street, and here for many days was witnessed one of the most eager and anxious gathering of the “lame, halt, and blind,” as well as a very large number who felt sick, or imagined they did, that ever visited Watertown. The crowd was a motley one. Rich and poor met on the same serious level. The rigorous law knew no favorites. Each pressed to the front prepared to prove that he was not burning or able to go to the war to share in the hardships of the camp and the battlefield. The disappointment of such as were firmly turned away, for the good reason that their cases did not come within the scope of the order, was often painful to witness, for somehow a sort of panic fell upon many to have their names stricken from the rolls. It was customary for applicants for exemption to bring with them affidavits of family physicians to prove their ills, and if the history of some of the prominent practitioners in the district could only be faithfully given, bearing upon this branch of their then extremely perplexing business, it would be rich reading for the student of character. The family physician was overwhelmed with sick friends during this trying period. He was called upon to remember ills long past, and to make clear weaknesses of uncertain seriousness, in many anxious cases. To the flexible and accommodating trickster, who could see weaknesses for a consideration, --and there were a few such in our district truth compels me to admit, --the opportunity was a--greenback one! Such affidavits, as a rule, did more harm than good, for Dr. Walker had a keen eye for shams. The delight shown in some instances by persons who were exempted upon medical examination was strikingly strange. One nervous applicant, far gone with long disease, came out of the examining room and excitedly exclaimed to a friend, “Thank the Lord, the Doctor ways I won’t live six months, and so I’m exempt.” Another came for examination, whose case was doubtful, owing to his evident efforts to appear nearly helpless from “weak and crooked legs,” as he termed his trouble. His anxiety to create an impression of his great physical infirmity was clear. In a mirthful moment the board allowed him to appear before the examining surgeon. Waddling about the room, with ill-concealed attempts to show how weak his legs were, the picture he presented, as he hobbled along with pantaloons rolled up above his knees, was ludicrous in the extreme. The Doctor took in the situation at a glance, and looking serious, he sympathetically asked, “Where is the greatest pain when you walk?” “All over, if you plase (sic), sir; sore as a bile, all along from me feet to me body, sure.” “Try and walk quickly across the room,” said the Doctor, and Patrick began as laughable a march as was ever witnessed. At every step his facial expressions were so comical, and his bow-legged walk was so clearly a make-up, that roars of laughter followed his funny performance. The door being reached Patrick was ordered out past the guard, and so into the yard, by the “left flank.” Turing to the guard he asked, “Am I exempt?” “No,” was the reply, “you will make a good soldier.” The vigorous and bad language used by the disgusted man proved his ability to roundly abuse every one connected with the office, and without turning down his pantaloons, he walked away as nimbly as possible. His trick had resulted in an absurd failure, and no one knew this better than himself.
One pathetic incident in the examination of Rev. E. W. Reynolds, the eloquent and patriotic Universalist clergyman in Watertown at the time, is worthy of record. He attended the examination, and when Dr. Walker sounded his lungs he quickly said, “Mr. Reynolds, you are clearly unfit for the duties of a solider.” “I know it only too well,” replied the clergyman, “for I should have been at the front had I been strong enough. My heart is with the army, and how I wish I could be at the seat of war in this trying hour.” The pathos of his touching words drew tears from those present, as he passed out, to die not very long afterwards. These examinations “cleared the rolls” of those who could not render military service on account of plain and permanent physical disabilities, and thus a sound basis for computing the quota of each town was provided.
Substitutes and recruits. -- After it became clear to all that extra inducements and efforts would be necessary to fill the depleted armies of the Union a system of bounties was hit upon in the towns, whereby a sum of money was raised to pay for volunteers, as an inducement to enlist. Those who were fit for military service were liable to the draft, and many enlisted and took the local bounties, and a bounty the general government offered in addition.
Many also, being of sound body, patriotically furnished a substitute so as to be free from annoyance from the draft, and to be represented at the front by a good soldier, in lieu of personal service. The first bounty generally paid by towns was $300 for three years’ men. The supervisors of the towns were active in securing substitutes, and tried hard to fill their quotas without a draft. Canadians came over quite freely, and men were ready to get them a chance to go as a substitute. Some amusing cases of disappointments took place among those seeking a substitute. One instance was well know--that of Elmer Everett, a prominent citizen of Watertown, who, though a staunch Democrat, was not averse to having a colored man fill his place in the army. Through a broker--one who made it a business to bring principal and substitute together--Mr. Everett sent to Montreal and had a colored applicant come to Watertown to go in as his substitute. The man reached the city on a Saturday after the office had closed, and Everett secured an order from the provost-marshal to have his man kept in the guard-house until Monday morning, at his own expense. Bright and early on Monday Everett brought his man up for medical examination, when, lo, and behold! it was found that he was suffering from compound hernia. The surprise and disgust of Everett can well be imagined in view of the expenses he had already borne in getting the man to Watertown. The colored brother seemed to enjoy the situation immensely, “for,” said he, “You knows I’s ready to go, boss.” It was not pleasant afterwards for any one to inquire of Everett how his colored substitute was getting along. Among the volunteers from Canada were quite a number of deserters from the British force stationed at Kingston. A well-known Canadian became somewhat famous for his prophetic forecast of coming visitors to the provost-marshal’s office, who wore the scarlet uniform of British soldiers. His horoscope of the stars was so faultless that he frequently foretold to an hour when a squad of deserters would make their appearance. There was one thing, at least, to be said in favor of this man, and that was his perfect fairness in dealing with the Canadian deserters, who relied upon him for advice. Captain Emerson always made it a rule before enlisting a man to explain to him the amount of bounty he was entitled to receive, and insisted that the money due him should be paid to the recruit in his presence. These deserters made fine soldiers, and as they had no sentiment behind their first enlistment in the British army they gladly availed themselves of a chance to enlist in our army for better pay. Few or none of this class ever deserted from our army and went back to Canada. The writer knew one of these men well. His name was Charles Flemming, and he was a member of Co. A, 35th N. Y. Vols. At the battle of Fredericksburg he lost both legs by a cannon shot, and died the next day in hospital. He had served in India and in the Crimea, and often declared that he never had seen hotter fighting than he experienced in our regiment. He lies in an unmarked grave within sight of the bloody field on which he received his death wound. How many thousands--foreigners to our soil--died like Flemming, on the battlefields of our struggle, in helping tread out the heresy of secession amid the horrid havoc of contending armies!
Some of the incidents attending the escape of British deserters from the 47th Regiment of the line at Kingston are worthy of record. The distance between the American shore and Kingston is only some 12 miles, but to most of the soldiers it was an unknown route. Long Island intervened, and guards were thickly stationed on its southern shore to intercept any deserters who might be caught making their way to the American side. For many months during 1863-64 the 9 o’clock evening gun at Kingston was eagerly listened for, as one gun each was fired at that hour for all deserters, in order that the guards might keep a keen watch for them. A party of six deserters from this regiment seized a boat at Kingston late one evening and rowed away around the head of Long Island, intending to land at the light-house on Tibbitt’s Point, in Cape Vincent. By some mistake, being strangers to the route, they kept too far to the westward, and after an exhausting tug at the oars, an exercise few of the soldiers were used to, they made land on
Grenadier Island, near its eastern point. Seeing a light in the early morning one of their number cautiously approached it, and this proved to be in the house of Abram Cooper, a wealthy farmer, and owner of most of the island. The deserter nervously inquired, “What place is this; is it in Canada or the United States?” “The United States, and you are all right,” was Cooper’s cordial greeting, as he took in the situation at a glance. Turning to his comrades, who were anxiously awaiting his report, he shouted, “Come on, boys, we are all safe!” Their delight was unbounded, and happier men never sat down to an ample breakfast than were these weary and hand-blistered deserters. The next day Mr. Cooper accompanied them to Cape Vincent, where quite an excitement was created by their appearance in bright scarlet uniforms. They were splendid fellows, and several officers of their regiment came over in the afternoon to try and induce them to return to their regiment. The citizens made it somewhat uncomfortable for these officers, and the soldiers would not go into any private room for consultation, making the interview very public, with any amount of advice freely interspersed by the excited by-standers. The change in the relations between the soldiers and the young martinets, who a few hours before were formal and indifferent to them, was striking. The deserters appreciated it keenly, and curtly refused all the persuasive appeals made to them on the part of the officers. They all at once enlisted in our army. Another party of 10 deserters crossed over on the ice, following the line of the Long Island Canal. Big Bay somehow bewildered them, and two of the party became exhausted through the heavy walking in the deep snow, and had to be left behind. The others pressed forward, and seeing a light on Carleton Island made for this point. The walk was a long and tiresome one, and they soon found that they had several miles to tramp before they would reach Cape Vincent. Few can realize how bitter cold a walk in the night on the ice in the River St. Lawrence really is, who have had no experience, and when the night is cold, and the distance long, the situation is far from being an agreeable one. On finally reaching the Cape they struck the shore near the engine house, at the railway, and seeing alight, just at the dawn of day, one of them peeped in, much to the surprise of the night watchman. “Is this in the United Sates?” was his pathetic query. On being assured that he was on Uncle Sam’s free soil he called to his half-frozen companions to “Come on,” and a grateful coal fire never seemed friendlier to these deserters than on this occasion. The following day they enlisted at Watertown.
The case of a Lowville applicant to have his name struck off the enrollment on account of short sightedness was most amusing. He protested stoutly that he could not see 50 yards to distinguish a man from a cow. After a severe examination Dr. Walker became satisfied that his eyes were good, and that the man was shamming. When told that he must stand his chance in the draft he said, “I can’t see to fight.” “Oh,” said the Doctor, “we have had so much running lately in our army that it will be a good thing for one like you to be there so as not to see the enemy and hold your ground.”
The tricks tried upon the officers to enable men to get “exempt,” or to secure bounties as substitutes when unfit for military duty, covered a wide range of cunning, and it often required the utmost vigilance to detect these brazen-faced frauds. A drafted man in our district was exempt on account of the total loss of his upper teeth. Months afterwards he presented himself as a substitute when the bounties were largest, and, not being recognized in the rush of recruits, he was accepted and sent down to Quartermaster Simmons, on Court street, to be furnished with a suit of Uncle Sam’s clothing. By some mischance he took out his new set of teeth while being clothed, and the quick eye of Special Agent Kirby detected him in the act. After he had put on his uniform he was taken before Captain Emerson--who had been made aware of the facts--for a short drill. “Take off your cap,” ordered the captain in a quick, sharp voice. It was promptly done. “Front face!” and he faced to the front looking every inch a soldier. “Take out your teeth,” came next, and so unexpectedly that, amid a shout of laughter from those present, he instantly took them out. The Captain sent him before Dr. Walker, with his teeth in his hand, with the request that he be informed how a soldier was to eat hard-tack without his supper teeth! The Doctor, who had been shrewdly deceived by this man, was in a furious rage, and made it lively for the would-be deceiver. Dr. Walker did not hear the last of this ludicrous incident during his service in Watertown.
Deserters and “bounty jumpers.”-- There were two classes of deserters who became well known along the northern frontier, bordering on Canada, during the war days of 1862-65. First, there was the ‘bounty jumper,’ who enlisted with the sole intention of securing a large bounty and then making his escape to Canada, only to reappear at some distant point in the states to repeat the operation. “Jumping the bounty” and “bounty jumpers” described this precious class of rascals in the popular speech of the time. Second, there came the much smaller class who deserted from the front, or while home on furlough, and made their way to Canada, or, as was frequently the case, hired out to farmers on the American side near the border, so as to easily cross into the Dominion in case of danger. The first class named were, as a rule, a bad lot, without patriotism or character, and mere robbers of the bounty paid for the purpose of securing recruits for our army, while many of the second class, returning to their homes along the northern border on furlough, in a moment of weakness, and weary of the dangers and hardships of active service, and not unfrequently (sic) suffering from wounds and ill-health, were tempted to make their way across the St. Lawrence into the Queen’s dominions. The records of deserters from various New York regiments were sent to the provost-marshal-general at Washington, and through his office transmitted to the provost-marshal of the section in which the original enlistments were made out. It was found that the usual course of a deserter finally led him back to his old home haunts, and there traces of him were most likely to be found.
The record of some of the arrests made in this county will be of interest, as a part of the stirring events of this exciting period, and a few will be given. It may be said in this connection that Jefferson County and the provost-marshal’s office in Watertown were regarded as poor places for bounty jumpers and deserters to conceal themselves or ply their fame of fraud, owing to the excellent organization of Captain Emerson’s office, and the zeal displayed in bringing all delinquents to justice.
Information having reached the provost-marshal that several deserters were lurking about in a not distant town, Special Agent Shaw was ordered to take a couple of guards and carriages and seek their arrest. It was a beautiful October morning in 1864, and the drive was delightful. By 1 o’clock P.M. two deserters had been arrested, and a third was known to be in the vicinity. The utmost secrecy was necessary, for these men were always on the alert, and took to their heels at the first suspicion of any danger. Most deserters changed their names, and this deepened the difficulties of finding out through inquiries where they were located. In this instance, while a full description of a deserter known to be in the immediate vicinity was in the officer’s possession, no trace of him could be found. At last, well along in the afternoon, Officer Shaw sent the guards on to Watertown with the two deserters already secured, and set out in a single carriage to make still further efforts to find the person wanted. By diligent inquiries he got trace of his man, but failed for some time to find out where he was working. While passing a school-house, just as the scholars had been dismissed for the day, a bright lad of seven or eight years of age, with ruddy cheeks and neatly dressed, was asked by the officer if he would not like to ride. He nimbly climbed into the carriage, and was soon on terms of intimacy with the driver. The small boy is always one of the detective’s best friends, for what he does not know about a neighborhood and its current gossip is not worth knowing, as a general rule. Under careful questioning the boy was asked if he knew a man by the name of ______, the assumed name of the deserter. “Oh, yes,” was the prompt reply, “he works for my pa.” The officer’s horse was given a free rein, and the boy was told that he would be driven home. The house where he lived was situated off the main road on which he was driving about half a mile, and they were soon at the place. Hitching the horse the boy led the way, and luckily the farmer was at home. The officer took the farmer one side and told him the facts. He knew Captain Emerson well, and when assured that his favorite hired man was a deserter his astonishment was great. “A deserter!” he repeated, “it cannot be, for he is one of the best men I ever have had on my farm. His young wife works for us also, and they have been here for some weeks. They are very loving and religious people, and there must surely be some mistake about this.” He was given to understand that there was no doubt about his identity. “Well,” said he, “_______________is just putting the horses into the stable down under the barn there, and you can soon see whether you are right or not.” Walking quietly down to the stable, under the guidance of the small boy, the officer had just reached the stable door when _______________ stepped out. “How are you?” said the official. The deserter stood bewildered for a moment on being called his real name, but quickly shaking off his embarrassment replied, “That’s not my name.” He was told it was one of his names, as he edged away in the direction of some straw stacks near at hand. The careless display of a large Colt’s revolver by the officer had a magical effect upon him, and he retraced his steps saying, “There is some mistake about all this; but what can be done?” He was informed that he must accompany the officer to Watertown, and at this point his face was a picture for an artist. The agony of the situation was really painful to witness. “Great Heavens!” he said, “what a mistake you have made. My name is _________________, and I know nothing about the army. My wife and I work here, and we have been here for weeks. What can I do?” It was soon made clear to him that he must get ready to go to Watertown, and at once, and placing him in front he was marched to the house from the barn. Here a strangely pathetic scene took place. The farmer, his wife, and the small boy, with the deserter and his wife, met in the dining-room. “What does this mean?” asked the farmer. “Mean!” bravely answered _____________________, “I don’t know. This man declares I am a deserter, and I am now under arrest and must go with him to Watertown. It’s all a big mistake.” At this point his really very pretty young wife threw her arms about his neck and sobbed as though her heart would break. The farmer’s family were all in tears, and the officer looked on not unmoved by the picture of pain before him. For nearly a minute not a word was spoken, and the almost frantic wife clung to her husband as though it was to be her last interview with him before he was shot. Finally he was ordered to hastily make ready to go to Watertown, when he asked to have an opportunity to change his clothes before going away. This request brought its embarrassments, for the officer well knew how great the temptation to bolt out of a window would be, and frankly told him so. It was arranged that the wife should bring his clothing into a closet, with no window, and here, under the range of the officer’s revolver, a fitting change in dress was made. This proceeding called forth angry remonstrances from the deserter, who loudly declared that he would “make the officer smart” for such indignities practiced upon an innocent man!
The farmer and his wife were completely overcome and presented a woe-begone appearance. “Why,” said the farmer, “_____________has always joined in our family prayers, and so has his wife, and nicer Christian people I have never known, to all appearances.” He was told that the man was no doubt a deserter, and arrangements were made for the prisoner’s wife, and their effects to come to Watertown the following day, when “all was to be made clear,” to use the deserter’s words. “Dear me,” replied the farmer, “how unfortunate I am!” This is the second deserter who has worked for me this fall.” After a leave-taking, mingled with tears and prayers, the officer and the deserter drove off. As soon as the carriage was out of hearing the officer said to the deserter, “What cheek you have got! You would make a good actor. How could you lie so, looking that good man and his wife square in the face?” “I’ll tell you,” was the quick and frank answer; “the truth is that I could not do otherwise after making them believe I was a Christian man, and kneeling down every day with them at family prayers. I really had not the courage to tell him the truth, when you so suddenly brought me before them face to face. No, sir, I couldn’t do it. I am the man you want, and I’m glad you have got me, for I have lived in a hell within myself for months past. Every man I’ve seen coming across the lots, or down towards the house, has seemed to me to be an officer coming to arrest me. Twice when plowing recently I have dropped the lines, ready to run the woods, before I found out there was no cause for alarm. I’m glad it is over, for I’ve grown poor under the ever present fear, and now I’ll go back to my regiment and manfully serve out my time. I was a great fool to desert; but I got married when I came home on furlough, and when they refused to grant me a longer furlough I very foolishly took one. It was kind of hard to leave her and go back, and so I told her I had been discharged, for I had been wounded in battle. I went to ________’s to work, half resolving I would give myself up and go back to my regiment again. I’m glad I am going back now, and if I don’t redeem myself, as a good soldier, when I take my old place, then I don’t know myself.” The next morning the wife and trunk were brought in, and the farmers---a loyal Republican and a good citizen----found out that his “hired man” had a previous engagement to keep with Uncle Sam. No amount of persuasion, however, would induce _____________ to see the farmer. He said he “could not bear to have him see what a sneak he had been.” This deserter, who was at heart a really good fellow, was sent back to his regiment along with some new recruits, and proved as good as his work in his soldier record.
A second adventure of the same officer took place about the same time on the St. Lawrence, a few miles below Millen’s Bay, at Grennell’s Island. On the Canadian shore opposite this point quite a little colony of deserters had found work at small pay on farms about the section, and several were in the habit of crossing over the river to pay visits to relatives and friends who met them at the shore. Word having been sent to the provost-marshal Private Payne and Special Agent Shaw were sent to the river to break up the practice, and secure the arrest of some of the deserters if possible. Taking up quarters with a family named Carter, living just across from Grennell’s Island, the detectives had not long to wait before the wife of a deserter came down and waved a signal to her husband to come across. The detectives were concealed in the chamber, and soon saw a small boat put out from the other side. It came over, and just as it struck the beach the officer, pistol in hand, stepped forward and ordered the deserter to surrender. He was sitting in his skiff, talking to his wife, so as to be ready for any surprise, as was his custom, and the moment he was confronted by the officer he sprang up, and with an oar quickly pushed his boat, out beyond reach. Pointing his pistol at the deserter Shaw commanded him to come ashore or he would fire. His wife jumped up and down and shouted, “Don’t you do it; don’t you do it; let him shoot first.” She was no coward, and her ringing words had a strange effect upon the now pale-faced deserter---giving him courage, the blind courage of despair and his wife’s stirring words, shrieked into his ears, spurred him on in his desperate effort for freedom. Shaw shoved off his boat, and being a good oarsman, soon gained upon the retreating deserter. The wife kept up her encouraging appeals, while the lady residents of the house on the shore were eager spectators of the comical race taking place before them. The deserter had a small sail to his skiff, and this began to aid him as he pulled out from under the shore. Shaw found the race was an uneven one under the conditions of oars and sail, and in hastily looking over his shoulder to see how the thing was working, an oar slipped up on the thole-pin, and it bent down, and over went the officer on his back, in the bottom of the boat, with his heels in the air. A shout from the jubilant wife on shore did not add to the officer’s feelings, and regaining his feet, in the tottling boat, he shouted that he would shoot if the deserter did not instantly surrender. No heed was paid to the summons, and fire was opened upon him in brisk fashion, at less than 100 yards distance. Bullet after bullet, from a heavy Colt’s revolver, was sent point-blank at the desperate man, who was rowing for dear life to get across the river. Each shot went close to the mark, as could be seen as they splashed into the river just beyond him. Six shots were fired, when the chase had to be abandoned, and Shaw returned to the shore, a disgusted and beaten man.
The deserter’s wife was on the shore and greeted him with jeers, but a threat that her own arrest might follow silenced her abuse--which was, perhaps, not unnatural under the circumstances. Later in the day a drum and fife was heard across the river, and by the aid of a good glass a gathering of men could be seen there. Early in the evening a neighbor, who had been on the other side, came and told us that an attack was contemplated from the deserters, who had sworn vengeance on us for our attempt to arrest one of their number. The officer and guard prepared to give them a warm reception in case they should come. Bullets were cut up into slugs so as to make a scattering charge, doors and windows were barricaded, and all was made ready for a stubborn defence (sic). The ladies volunteered to go out on picket, but this was not permitted The drum and fife could be heard plainly for more than an hour, and when darkness came on a sharp outlook was kept for the threatened attack. But one came. The night passed with no alarm, and the next day the forces of the United States withdrew.
The deserter, after the war, said that one bullet passed through his hair, and several of them whistled so near to him that he feared he had been hit. He declared that he was “too scared to surrender,” and that he mechanically took to the oars, rowing away in vigorous fashion, in sheer desperation from the first impulse that came over him. This adventure had a marked effect, however, upon the actions of the deserters living across the river. They made a great deal of noise and threatened great things because of this attempt to arrest one of their clan, but they took good care to keep themselves safely on the Canadian side of the river. The officer, on returning to Watertown, was unmercifully hectored over this failure to arrest the deserter. Even the good Captain Emerson laughed until his sides must have ached as he was told the interesting tale of the adventure. This was an instance where the force of the United States was baffled by the escape of the enemy. It was the only instance in the history of the office where a failure was met with in arresting a deserter; and in this case there was only reason for gratitude on the part of the officer afterwards that some of his shots did not hit the unfortunate deserter.
A third instance of the arrest of a deserter made a good deal of excitement. A man brought information to the provost-marshal that his youngest brother, who had come home from his regiment on furlough, was intending to desert, and that he was being harbored and encouraged in this intention by a “copperhead” uncle, and he wished him to be arrested before he had time to run away to Canada. A zealous Republican himself, in the days when patriotic excitement ran high, he was deeply pained at the course of his young brother, and so came to have him secured and sent back to duty. Special Agent Shaw was ordered to take the case in hand, and went to the elder brother’s house early the next morning. Together they drove to the uncle’s place, and the latter’s rage on being charged with concealing the deserter knew no bounds. Finally the volley of abuse was cut short by the action of the officer in pulling out a pair of “handcuffs,” and declaring that he would clap them on him unless he instantly ceased his tirade and point out where the deserter was in hiding. This had the desired effect, and with a crest-fallen look he led the way to the horse-barn, in the loft of which young _______________ had a hiding-place. A more woe-begone young man was never seen than this one, with his hair and clothes covered with literal “hay seed,” and half scared out of his wits. He was really a pitiable sight, and cried like a child. Taking him into the two-seated carriage he was driven to the elder brother’s house, so that the prisoner might see his old mother, who lived with him, a sweet woman with white hair, and in feeble health. Arriving there the officer went in first to comfort the old mother by explaining that the erring son stood in no danger from being shot, but that on being returned to his regiment only a nominal punishment, such as loss of pay, was likely to be inflicted upon him. The prisoner had been left in the kitchen in charge of two of his brothers, and presently a great shout was heard there. Shaw rushed out to see the three brothers running for dear life across a field at the rear of the house. Taking in the situation at a glance he gave chase also, but found himself a bad fourth, with no hope of coming up with the deserter. Calling on him to stop, with no effect upon the lively retreating foe, Shaw fired at him. The bullet cut the wind close to his face, and he at once stopped, throwing up his hands. For an instant the officer feared that his shot had taken effect, but this soon proved not to be the case. The two brothers coming up seized him by the collar. “O dear! O dear!” he cried, gasping for breath, as he stood pale, trembling, and hatless; “I don’t know what made me run away. I really couldn’t help it. My legs started off with me before I knew what I was doing. O dear! O dear! what shall I do, what shall I do!” The serious side of this scene having happily passed without injury to the deserter, a reaction took place, and the officer and the two brothers laughed until the tears ran down their cheeks. The prisoner was duly brought to Watertown without further incident, and honorably served out his term as a good soldier. He lived to return after the close of the war, and married a worthy wife, thus wiping out by manly service the weakness induced by ill health and bad counsel.
Special Agent Kirby got upon the track of a deserter who was engaged in Watertown in the bounty broker business. Owing to a quarrel with his partner he was “given away” to the officer as being a deserter from the navy. Kirby found him out, but he said he had a discharge up in Rutland at his father’s, and suggested that he hire a horse and buggy and accompany him up there for it. This was done; and on arriving at the house Kirby proceeded to follow him up to his wife’s room, but finding the lady unprepared for their visit, he remained outside in the hall. “Mary,” said the deserter, “where is my discharge?” “In that lower bureau drawer over there,” was the instant response of his wife. Kirby remained for a few minutes awaiting the advent of his prisoner, when, deeming the time sufficient, he opened the door only to see an open window and his prisoner exercising “leg bail” in a brilliant burst of speed for the woods not far off. A glance at the situation showed Kirby that the game was up, and he returned to Watertown somewhat crestfallen. However, he said nothing, but concluded his deserter would return soon, and in this view he made no mistake. A week later he was caught in his boarding place in town, and sent back to his ship, serving faithfully, and came back to the county after the war, dying here only a couple of years ago.
On another occasion Special Agent Kirby and Chief Clerk Greenleaf went to Le Ray in a buggy to arrest a deserter. Having found him at work in a field some miles distant from his home, he said he was not a deserter, but had his permit to be absent on leave at his house. This seemed possible, and the man said he would harness his horse to the wagon and ride with them to show them the order. The horse was a poor looking animal, and as the man’s brother was with him they were allowed to drive ahead and show the way. All went well until a turn in the road was reached, when the whip was applied by the deserter to his old horse, with such result as to complete outpace the officer’s roadster. Amid a cloud of dust the disappearing fugitive reached his home, and bolted for the woods, escaping in the deepening darkness. This escape was comically described by an eye-witness and “the race” was long afterwards remembered as a decidedly laughable scene.
This same excellent officer arrested seven deserters on one trip to Henderson, the largest capture made in the history of the office.
When the draft for the town of Salisbury took place Deputy Provost-Marshal Cook was present, this being his residence. He was requested to try a turn at the wheel, and did so, remarking that “he knew how to shake his own name to the bottom.” The blindfolded man drew out the card, and a shout went up when “James J. Cook” was the name read off. The frequency of such a coincidence was striking, for it occurred several times during the draft in Watertown.
On day a would-be recruit entered a barber shop in Watertown and had hair and whiskers neatly dyed. The watchful Kirby spied out his trick and advised Dr. Walker of the scheme. When he appeared for the surgeon’s examination his attempt to appear younger than he was came to grief. He acknowledged that he was 55 instead of 45 years of age, but declared he was fit to be a soldier. His investment in hair dye was a dead loss on this occasion.
William Wright, of Watertown, a well-known person at the time, was appointed janitor at headquarters. Wright was a happy, easy-going man, always ready to take it easy when he could. While the officials were all out at dinner one day a soldier called to see about securing transportation back to his regiment. Wright told him to wait a few minutes until some one who could attend to him appeared. A musket of the old pattern, left by one of the veterans not then on duty, was in the corner, and the soldier took it up, saying that he would show him how to handle a gun. Wright was sitting with his chair tilted back against the wall of the room, reading a newspaper, and the soldier went through the manual of arms with a great deal of vim. Finally he shouted, “take aim, fire!” Suiting the action to the word, and to his horror, the musket was discharged with a report in the small room like a cannon. It was loaded with the old-fashioned “gall and three-buck-shot” cartridge, and these crashed through the window, the bullet lodging in the casing of the window of the American Hotel opposite, while one of the buck-shot swept into the dining-room, where many guests were at dinner, causing no end of excitement. Wright, when the gun went off, sprang out of his chair and fell sprawling on the floor, half dead with fright, while the soldier ran out and down stairs, never appearing afterwards. This exploit was the talk of the town for days, and several persons claimed that the charge just missed them. It was the only shot fired at the provost-marshal’s office during the war. Wright allowed no loaded guns about after this adventure.
The draft. -- After long preparation, calling for severe and continuous hard work, the efforts of supervisors failed to furnish men fast enough to fill the quotas of the towns, and a draft was ordered, both in 1863 and in 1864, to make up the required number of recruits. Great excitement prevailed throughout the district. Bitter political opponents of the administration uttered dire threats against the provost-marshal and his subordinates, and many feared that a riot would take place if the order for a draft was carried out. The fact was that the dreaded draft was no joke. The revolving wheel knew no law save that of chance. Within its cheerless and capacious circle were received the cards copied from the carefully compared rolls containing the names of all the men liable in a town to do military duty, and the outcome was left to the chances of a blind draw. The revolving wheel---a circular box some three feet in diameter by one foot in width, and mounted much as a grindstone usually is--used for the draft was designed by E. B. Wynn, Esq., at his special request. He did his work very creditably, but the fates brought about a strange reward for his kindness, his being one of the earliest names drawn from the cylindrical wheel he had so skillfully constructed. This wheel is now in charge of the sheriff of the county, having been bought at the sale of the office effects by Captain Emerson, and by him loaned to the sheriff for safe keeping, and to be used in the drawing of jurors. Captain Emerson has presented it to the Jefferson County Historical Society, and it will be given over into their keeping as soon as a suitable building for the keeping their records is secured. It is one of the most interesting relics of the draft in existence. The draft days were busy ones at the provost-marshal’s headquarters, as well as painfully exciting to the residents of towns about to undergo its trying ordeal. A full record of the daily incidents of the draft would be of intense interest, for many characteristic scenes of the period would be recalled by the record, now lost forever. It being the object of the writer to place a fair and full picture of the work of the provost marshal’s office on record, details are given to this end.
The basis of a draft was determined at the provost-marshal-general’s office in Washington, and based upon the population of the various states, as shown by the last census. The enrollment under this same data came under Captain Emerson’s jurisdiction in the three counties embraced in the 20th Congressional district. When a town was to be “drafted,” as the phrase went, the roll was brought out, the cards copied from it, carefully compared and checked off, and the number of men called for to complete the quote was announced. Owing to the nervous and suspicious state of public feeling Captain Emerson was anxious to have every one satisfied that strict impartiality was observed in all the stages leading up to the draft. He believed that patience and care in explaining all the details connected with the important events would do much to convince all interested that no favoritism whatever was permitted, and that all was open for inspection, everything being conducted on the fair and square principle.
As this distance of time, when a new generation has grown up in the interval, it is hard to form any adequate idea of the bitter and malignant prejudices which were aroused by the draft. Anti-war Democrats--as a class of grumblers connected with the Democratic party were then generally called--openly declared that there would be some sleight of hand used whereby Republicans would escape and Democrats would be drafted here in Watertown. Absurd and senseless rumors flew thick about, deeply stirring up strife and creating bad blood. It was a threatening time about the city, and grave fears were entertained by good men as to the result of a draft during this heated period. The object of the Democratic tactics was to make the enforcement of the law difficult, and with the masses of the people unpopular. War had become serious by this time. The cruel and bloody record of many months of disease and carnage, and the burial-mounds multiplied amid the old home scenes, where gallant soldiers were laid away to rest, surrounded with the hallowed associations of peace and youth, had made war a terrible alternative. Besides, those who could go readily early volunteered; later on, others followed as duty made the way clear; but when a great additional “300,000 more” was needed the solemnity of the situation became deep and impressive. The Union rested on the bayonets of our soldiers, and if these were allowed to trail in the dust all would be lost. Every man at home who gave the government loyal support even in the humblest way was a hero, in full measure, for united patriotism at home and the boys in blue at the front struck down a false flag and wiped out the dark shadow that had cursed our civilization from the first. The pent-up eagerness of the people in the early days of June was painful. The public pulse was in a flutter. Many believed that the draft would be resisted by blind force. Men who never thought of going to the front to fight the rebels openly swore that they would fight to stop the draft! Somehow, and why it is hard to explain, the people had an idea that the government would not dare to enforce the proposed drafting of men. The morning before the first draft took place in Watertown a prominent Democrat stopped Captain Emerson on his way to his office early in the day, and calling him aside said, “Captain, you must not have the draft to morrow, for if you do there will be bloodshed. You and I are old friends, and I tell you this in seriousness. It is a dangerous time. Why, even _______ swears he will shoulder a musket and help prevent it.” “The draft will proceed to-morrow as ordered,” replied the Captain coolly, “and if it is resisted I will see that my duty is performed as I understand it,” and he walked on to his office. All through the day leading citizens of both parties called, and most of them came to decry allowing the draft to take place until public excitement had time to cool off. The Union League of Watertown held a meeting the same evening to consider the situation, and Captain Emerson was invited before them and earnestly advised to postpone the draft owing to the unrest about it. “Gentlemen,” was the Captain’s dignified answer, “I have been ordered by superior officers at Washington to commence the draft to-morrow, and it will take place. It is simply my duty as a military officer to obey orders, and this is what I propose to do.” A leading Republican lawyer, John Clark, Esq., patriotic and honored as few of our citizens ever were, said to Captain Emerson on this occasion, “You don’t seem to realize the danger we are in. You don’t know what trouble there is brewing. You had better order the draft delayed so as to let this intense excitement die out. Why, blood will flow in our streets, most likely, if you persist in your determination to go on with this draft.” “I cannot answer for what may occur,” slowly and impressively responded the Captain, “beyond the fact that I shall go on with the draft in the morning at the appointed hour. My duty is to obey orders, and it is also the duty of all good citizens to respect and obey the laws. If we are to have bloodshed I shall not commence it; and if riotous proceedings take place I shall do my best to enforce order, and I believe I shall be able to do so. At any rate I will do my part, and if any disturbance follows those who incite it must answer for the consequences.” The situation was critical, and no one knew this better than did Captain Emerson. He had a list of the fault-finders and turbulent “anti-drafters,” and knew what threats had been made and who made them. But, better than all, he had a goodly company of invalid soldiers ready at hand, armed and equipped, prepared to compel peace at the point of the bayonet. The cool and dignified bearing of the provost-marshal did much to quiet the anxious and awe the would-be disturbers. The facts were that he did not “scare,” as one of the Democrats phrased it, “worth a cent.” The draft took place as ordered, and a quieter town could not be found anythere (sic). It was even painfully still, as though a funeral was taking place. Captain Emerson had inspired both fear and confidence by this tact and courage, and the embers of what at one time threatened to burst into a glaze of party fury died out utterly.
For convenience sake the draft took place in the historic old county clerk’s office on Court street. It was so small that only a few could be admitted, but enough of both parties were called in to examine the cards and rolls to insure full and unquestioned evidence of the perfect fairness of the operation. The manner of conducting the draft was briefly as follows: After a satisfactory comparison of the rolls and cards the latter were placed in the “wheel” through a little trap door, and then this was closed. The supervisor of the town being drafted was generally invited to turn the wheel, thus shaking up the cards thoroughly. A blindfolded boy was then allowed to open the slot, reach in his hand, and take out one card. This was handed to the official in charge, and the name and number on it was read aloud at the door, for the benefit of the deeply anxious crowd outside. This name was put down, the card checked and filed, and thus the operation was repeated until a sufficient number of names had been drafted to fill the quota.
There never was the slightest ground for any complaint, so far as the drafting process was concerned, in our district. Some curious results, however, came out of the “wheel,” as the circular box used for drafting was called. At Evans Mills a club of young men was formed for mutual protection in case one of their number was drafted. When it took place nearly every one of them was drafted! In one town in our county, having a Democratic supervisor, six veterans, who had reenlisted in the field, sent home to have their bounty of $300 paid to them from this town. As they had been credited already to the town this supervisor thought he had them sure and fast, and refused to pay over their bounty. This caused a row, of course, and the outcome of it all was that Captain Emerson got an order to credit these six men to a town that stood ready to pay the bounty due, and this was done quickly and gladly by the supervisor of Watertown. Word was sent to ________that a draft for six men would take place the next week. A clap of thunder from a clear sky could not have made more commotion than did this order. The town was up in arms against their foolish supervisor. Curses long and loud fell upon him. The day of the draft nearly every man liable to its claims was on hand. These crowded one of our offices in the Safford block, and after the examination of the rolls, etc., had been satisfactorily made the draft commenced. The supervisor was invited inside the railing, as were several prominent citizens of the town, to see that all was properly done. After three men had been drafted Captain Emerson, noticing the pale face of the supervisor, invited him to turn the wheel. He did so, reversing it twice or three times, and giving it a good shaking up. “Put in your hand and take out a card,” said the Captain. The supervisor did so, handing it to the officer conducting the operations. When the name was read out it was the supervisor’s. He had drafted himself! A great, angry shout of approval went up from his disgusted neighbors and townspeople, as the poor man sank back in his chair, pale as though mortally wounded by a shot from the enemy in battle. The comments made by those present were far from comforting, and he sat half dazed until the draft was over and many had gone out of the room. It cost him $1,500 to get a substitute, the unwilling price of pig-headed meanness and folly.
The “draft” was an efficient way to fill quotas, but in our Congressional district only a small percentage were drafted. The able supervisors of the several towns--each being selected for useful service--succeeded in largely making up their quotas through substitutes and volunteers. The bounties raised by the various towns amounted to large sums, but these were paid cheerfully. The town of Ellisburgh, in Jefferson County, wiped off its indebtedness in one year, the tax rate being seven per cent!
It can be truthfully and deservedly claimed for the officials in the provost-marshal’s office in Watertown that they very efficiently did their whole duty as honest and patriot men. They were all intensely in earnest in the work committed to their hands. In no district was the discipline better or the reputation superior, in all that contributed to the public confidence in the provost-marshal’s office. Many of the subordinates had been tried in battle; several were suffering from serious wounds. Lieut. McOmber, Brayton C. Bailey, S. Harvey Simmons, Lieut. I. P. Woddell, Louis C. Greenleaf, James P. Kirby, and Albert D. Shaw were all veterans, each having volunteered at the commencement of the war, and either served two years, the term of enlistment, or had been discharged on account of wounds or disability. Bailey carried a bullet in his head, having received a severe wound at the second battle of Bull Run.
An honorable and highly valuable public service was rendered by Captain Emerson and his subordinates in a very trying period of the nation’s history, and in a manner reflecting the greatest credit upon them all. They filled the measure of a patriotic duty without fear and without favor, and brought no reproach upon the fair name and fame of the 20th Congressional district. It is fitting and altogether proper, therefore, that a brief record of this perilous era in the history of Jefferson County should have a place in this Gazetteer, for the work performed was in every way well done.
The following communication from the War Department will show that an effort to secure a complete list of the enrolling officers from the files of that office was unavailing. The records of the provost-marshal’s office in Watertown were all turned over to the proper authorities at Washington, and no duplicates were retained. This will explain the regretted omission in this instance: --
“WAR DEPARTMENT, WASHINGTON CITY, November 21, 1889.
“Sir: In reply to your communication of the 19th instant, requesting to be furnished the names of the enrolling officers of the 20th Congressional District of New York, I am directed by the Secretary of War to state that the Board of Enrollment for the 20th Congressional District of New York was organized under the enrollment act of March 3, 1863, on the 19th day of May, 1863, headquarters at Watertown, N. Y., with the following members: --
“Frederick Emerson, captain and provost-marshal; Arthur Pond, commissioner; Dr. Edward S. Walker, surgeon.
“The district embraced the counties of Jefferson, Lewis, and Herkimer, and was subdivided for the enrollment and draft purposes into fifty-eight (58) sub-districts, with an enrolling officer for each. R. H. Huntington was enrolling officer for Adams, first sub-district (Jefferson County), and C. Ackerman for Winfield, 58th sub-district (Herkimer County.)
“The following subordinate officers also appear during April, 1865 (latest returns): --
“James J. Cook, deputy provost-marshal; James B. Phillips, deputy provost-marshal; James P. Kirby, special agent; Albert D. Shaw, special agent; Dr. Charles Goodale, assistant surgeon.
“Enrolling officers were but per diem employees, and constantly being changed during the period of the war, making it impossible to furnish a complete list from the official records at this time.
“F. E. AINSWORTH,
“Captain and Asst.-Surgeon U. S. Army.”
(This concludes the section, “War for the Union,” as it appeared in Hamilton Child’s “Gazetteer of Jefferson County, N. Y., published in 1890.)