Windham Life and Times – January 16, 2018

Avoiding the Civil War Draft


I grew up with the blood and guts of the Vietnam War playing in full color on our television during dinner time. Walter Cronkite solemnly intoning the body count: 10,132 North Vietnamese dead or wounded, 207 ARVN troops dead or wounded and 3 American dead or wounded. Of course, I exaggerate, but not by much. With numbers like these how could we possibly lose, but lose we did. This was my childhood Civil War, it was just fought half-way around the world, to make it safe for democracy.

The draft and draft dodging were a huge topic during the Vietnam War. Many young Americans burned their draft cards and went to Canada to avoid going to Southeast Asia. On a family vacation, to Ausable Chasm, I remember seeing  burned draft cards in the rocks. Of course, during Vietnam, the rich man’s sons procured college deferments, which kept them out of the fighting, until the end of the war. When these provisions changed, the war ended pretty quickly. I still remember my brother getting his number in the mail, and it was low and caused a lot of foreboding, because he was going, except for the luck of the war coming to an end.

Well it seems that draft dodging was a part of the Civil War, more than 100 years before Vietnam. Again, it was the son’s of the rich who could afford the loop-hole of buying a substitute. I came upon this subject when reading Morrison’s History of Windham. “In 1863, the quota of the towns not being filled as promptly as was desired, a draft was made; and at a meeting of the town, Sept. 5, 1863, it was voted ‘to pay a bounty to all of its citizens who are, or who may be drafted into the services of the United States, or who procure substitutes under the calls of the President to put down the rebellion,’ the sum of ‘two hundred and seventy-five dollars to each citizen so drafted, or who procures a substitute.’ The money was to be paid after the soldier was mustered into the service. The selectman were chosen as a committee to carry the vote into effect and to hire (borrow) money at a vote ‘not exceeding six percent,” to pay said men. Nine men were drafted, and seven of them sent substitutes.”

This seems, really incredible to me, of the nine men drafted in Windham in 1863, only two actually joined the troops to fight in the war.

The website,, explains the civil war draft and substitution nicely, in an article entitled, “Hired soldier, Substitutes During the Civil War.”

“When the Civil War began, there was no shortage of able bodied men who volunteered for service in both the U.S. Army and the Confederate Army. Eager to show their patriotism, convinced that their cause would be victorious in a matter of months at the most, men gathered in cities and towns throughout America to form volunteer regiments, clamoring to assist in the war effort.”

“However, by late 1862 and early 1863, the patriotic fervor that had characterized the war effort early on was wearing thin in both the Confederacy and the United States, and finding men to replenish the armies of both nations was becoming difficult. Those who wanted to serve were already engaged; those who did not had either refused to serve, or, having volunteered and found the experience to be much more arduous than it seemed at first, had deserted or refused to re-enlist. This necessitated instituting a draft to choose men for service, and, in both the North and the South, the practice of hiring substitutes to serve in the place of those who were called and did not want to serve.”

“Long before the United States began the draft process, the Confederate Congress had allowed men to forgo service in the Confederate Army if they met certain occupational criteria – criteria that mostly exempted owners of large plantations or other enterprises, leading to the phrase “rich man’s war, poor man’s fight” to describe the Confederate war effort. Southern men who did not meet exemption criteria but whom were otherwise able to fight often hired substitutes to serve for them. Yet by 1863, exemptions were outlawed in the Confederacy, where men willing to fight were becoming too scarce to exempt from service. This practice was just beginning, however, as it traveled north.”

“When the draft laws – known as the Enrollment Act – were first placed on the books in the United States in 1863, they allowed for two methods for avoiding the draft – substitution or commutation. A man who found his name called in the draft lotteries that chose men for mandatory service could either pay a commutation fee of $300, which exempted him from service during this draft lottery, but not necessarily for future draft lotteries, or he could provide a substitute, which would exempt him from service throughout the duration of the war.”

“With the Enrollment Act, the Civil War truly began to be known as a rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight throughout the entire nation. The $300 commutation fee was an enormous sum of money for most city laborers or rural farmers, and the cost of hiring a substitute was even higher, often reaching $1000 or more.

In small towns where the potential loss of their entire population of able-bodied men became an imminent possibility, taxes and other means were raised in order to pay commutation fees, and, as commutation was outlawed, substitutes. These “bounties,” as the fees were called, would pay substitutes in lieu of townsmen.”

“The practice of hiring substitutes for military service took hold quickly in the North, becoming much more widespread than it had ever been in the South. For one thing, there was a much larger pool of men to draw from; immigrants that flowed into the ports of the North, even in a time of war, provided a large number of the substitutes hired by those who did not wish to serve. As the duration of the war lengthened, African-American soldiers, who’d thus far been only nominally accepted by the U.S. Army as viable soldiers, also became part of the pool of potential substitutes; many of the recruitment posters from the time explicitly solicit African-Americans for substitution.”

“Although the hiring of substitutes seems mercenary, and in many cases, resulted in the desertion of the substitute, many who went to war as hired men went because they were unable to enlist through the regular channels. This included the recent immigrants who were anxious to fight for their new country, and, importantly, the African-Americans who found going to war as substitutes the only way to fight for their freedom. For these men, the war was indeed a “rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight,” but from the perspective that poor men were more willing to fight for the possibilities they saw in their country.”


Windham Life and Times – March 2, 2018

Cutting Ice at Community Beach

Mimie Pearse Cianciulli loaned me these family pictures many years ago and I believe I posted them in the Windham Independent previously. They are very interesting in that they show the shore and cottages along First Street near Community Beach sometime between 1929 and 1933. The people in the photograph were members of the Pearse and Perry families. They were cutting ice to put in the ice house to use for refrigeration the following  summer. It seems as much fun as work!


Windham Life and Times – February 23, 2018

Windham Deserters in the Civil War

As somebody who has never donned the uniform or faced the fire of an enemy in battle, I make no judgment one way or another about the large number of deserters among the rolls of Windham men who fought in the Civil War. However, the number of deserters in Morrison’s History of Windham was quite astonishing to me. This led me to want to find out more about desertion during the War of Rebellion.

   Come to find out, the problem of desertion was widespread among both the southern and northern troops.  Mark A. Weitz in Desertion, Cowardice and Punishment says, “…the two sides put about three million men in the field during the course of the four-year conflict. Historians concede that exact numbers are unattainable, but estimates of total Confederates under arms is between 800,000 and 1,200,000. The Union army is estimated to have been slightly over 2 million men. Drawn from every corner of America, both armies were overwhelmingly volunteer forces comprised of men unfamiliar with war and the rigors of military life. Thus, in addition to the logistical challenges of training and equipping these armies, military and civilian officials faced the challenge of keeping the army intact, and throughout the war desertion posed a problem for both sides.”

“Defined as leaving the military with the intent not to return, desertion differs from cowardice. Cowardice in the civil war was defined as deserting in the face of the enemy. While deserters numbered in the hundreds of thousands, deserting in the face of the enemy was far less common a crime, or at least not as prominent in the records that survive…To be sure, the image of Henry Fleming fleeing the battlefield in Stephen Crane’s Red Badge of Courage, had its basis in historical fact and undoubtedly occurred …Desertion proved a far more difficult problem for both sides. Official figures show slightly over 103,000 Confederate soldiers and over 200,000


     Thomas Crook, bounty $175. 3 years; Mustered Dec. 23, 1863; ‘Not officially accounted for.’

     John Inshaw, substitute, Co. I, 3 years, mustered in August 23, 1864; deserted at Petersburg Va., October 10, 1864; regained from desertion Jan. 11, 1865; discharged sentence of G.C.M. March 24, 1865.

     James Brown, bounty $175, 3 years, mustered in Dec. 22, 1863; supposed to have deserted en route to regiment.

     Asa Bean, bounty $200, 3 years, Co. C, mustered in Sept. 19, 1862; deserted at Aquia Creek, Va., Feb. 7, 1863.

George W. Coburn, bounty $200, 3 years; mustered in Sept. 19, 1862; wounded Dec. 13, 1862; deserted Feb. 9, 1863; apprehended Sept. 13, 1864; returned to Co. January 18, 1865; sentenced by G.C.M. to forfeit all pay and allowances due, to make good time lost by desertion, and to forfeit ten dollars per month of monthly pay for 18 months; transferred to 2nd N.H. Vols., June 21, 1865.

Reuben O. Phillips, bounty $200, Co. C. 3 years; mustered  in Sept. 19, 1863; deserted at Aquia Creek, Va., Feb. 7, 1863.

Timothy Norris, bounty $200, Co. G, mustered in Oct. 18, 1862; deserted.

Union soldiers deserted, with some estimates as high as 280,000… Men deserted for a variety of reasons, many of which were common to both sides. The rigors or military life, poor food, inadequate clothing, homesickness, and concern for loved ones at home all drove men to desert… Many soldiers saw their enlistment as contractual in nature and any perception that the government was not living up to its end of the bargain justified their departure. This reliance on the government’s promise as a reason to desert would prove particularly troublesome for the Confederacy where soldiers believed their commitment to fight was based in part on the promise that their families would be taken care of in their absence.

“…Desertion from the Union army began early in the war and continued to some degree throughout the conflict. Early enlistments were for three months, and volunteers flocked to the cause believing the rebellion would be suppressed in short order. When it became clear that subduing the Confederacy would be a much more arduous task, particularly in light of Union defeats in July, August, and October of 1861, the patriotic fervor that drove enlistment in the first months of the war began to wane and with it the commitment of some men to the cause. However, one aspect of enlistment unique to the Union army clearly contributed to desertion and appealed to men who never intended to remain in the service. The Union paid bounties, or enlistment bonuses for new recruits, often as much as $300.00. Men enlisted, collected their bounty, and then deserted. Thereafter, a deserter re-enlisted under a different name and at a different place, collected another bounty, and then deserted again. The Union Army paid privates an average salary of $13 per month. A $300 bounty amounted to almost twice a private’s annual salary and a man willing to test the bounty system

Windham Life and Times – February 9, 2018

This is a page out of the William Austin scrapbook showing Dinsmore Hill with its view of Cobbett’s Pond. I believe Mrs. Austin was picking blackberries along the stone wall. In the left hand photograph one of the Austin children has climbed a pine tree to take in the view.


“I used to roam to Windham

    Beyond the Dinsmore farm;

The roving road to Windham

    Has much of simple charm;

It angles up among the hills,

    And there’s a little singing stream

That carols near at hand.”

“Now, I am far from Windham;

    It’s ways are drifted deep,

The yards that herded cattle,

    The snug folds for its sheep;

I would not climb it’s hill tops

    While bleak the norther blows,

But I’ll be fain to wander there

    Amid the cheery snows.”

“For oh the trees of Windham,

    Their blossoms are so white;

They haunt the mind with beauty,

    They thrill it with delight;

Though from the hills of Windham

    I still be far away,

In visions I will visit them

    About the break of May!”

“Here’s something cut from newspapers, which I changed the name within to fit the old days—-

From the scrapbook of Mrs. John Cochran

Windham Life and Times – February 2, 2018

Edward Searles and Angelo


So the story of Edward Searles (the Old Gentleman) and Angy Ellison comes to an end leaving more questions than answers.  The letters certainly show affection between the two but also seem a bit eccentric to modern readers.  The letters make it obvious why Angy felt so strongly that is was Searles intention to “adopt” him as his son. After all, Searles was signing his letters as “Dad.” You can fully understand how in Angy’s mind it would have logically follow that he would inherit a large share of Searles estate upon his death.

During the will trials, Victor Searle’s attorneys sought to use the relationship between Angy and Searles. In a special report to the New York Times on October 14, 1920 the following is disclosed to discredit the mental capacity of Searles to change his will: “In the opening fight of the Probate Court here before Judge White today for a jury trial in the $25,000,000 will contest involving the estate of Edward F. Searles, late of Methuen, Sherman L. Whipple, counsel for Albert Victor Searles, nephew of the testator, charged that Mr. Searles, when he made his will, was in a mental state and physical decay, and the victim of a plot having for its object the keeping of the vast estate from the party Mr. Searles intended should be the beneficiary.”

“Mr. Whipple dwelt at length upon the alleged affection of Mr. Searles for a young Greek lad, Angelo Ellison, who had been in his employ some six years, and said that a friend had said that Mr. Searles had intended young Ellison should receive the estate, but was dissuaded by Arthur T. Walker, chief beneficiary under the will, on the grounds that it would not do to leave such a vast estate to a poor Greek boy because of the public criticism. It was asserted that Mr. Searles was persuaded that the same object could be gained by leaving the money to some one ‘who could pass it along to Angelo.’ ”

“Counsel declared that young Ellison had disappeared and that had reason to believe the boy was now being paid by the proponent. He declared that the relations between Mr. Searles and the boy were more those of father and son than employer and servant.”

“Young Greek Treated Like Son: ‘We have letters from young Ellison to Mr. Searles couched in terms of the most endearing affection,’ said Mr. Whipple, who added that some of these letters began with ‘Dear Dad,’ ‘Darling Daddy,’ and ‘Dear Old Gray Boy,’ He said he could not find that Ellison was ever paid a salary, but that Mr. Searles gave him money as a father might have done.”

“Mr. Whipple said that Mr. Walker knew of Mr. Searle’s fondness for Angelo and that one of the letters purporting to be from the young Greek to Mr. Searles was in the handwriting of Mr. Walker, and was evidently written by Mr. Walker for Angelo as Angelo was not highly educated and probably asked Mr. Walker to write it for him.

‘Searles,’ said Mr. Whipple, ‘had pictures of young Ellison in his sleeping room and had been seen sitting before these pictures in an attitude or worship.’ Counsel said there was no question that the chief thing in the latter part of Mr. Searle’s life was his affection for this boy, and that there was evidence he intended to adopt him, but that someone, ‘we think we know who,’ (Walker) dissuaded him….”

“Mr. Whipple described the trip taken across the continent by Mr. Searles with young Ellison. Some time after this trip, said Mr. Whipple, young Angelo went to Greece to see his mother. Angelo returned to this country this spring and after seeing Mr. Searles, returned to Methuen. After the millionaire  fell ill, said Mr. Whipple, Angelo was permitted to see him once and then sent to the Searles Estate in Windham, N.H., and did not see Mr. Searles again during the latter’s life.”

What is interesting is that the counsel for Victor Searles was using the argument that Angelo Ellison was the intended heir in order to get a settlement for his client. Whatever the case, Walker settled with Searles out of court. While a settlement doesn’t prove guilt it seems to me that there was something to the story. It is said that Victor Searles had his bequest under the will changed from $250,000 to over $2,000,000.  Ellison claimed that Victor Searles was an alcoholic and a drug addict and not a nice man. Events would bear this out. In October of 1921, he was divorced from his wife Etta who received $140,000. He was also said to have been blackmailed out of $50,000 after being trapped with a woman in a Back Bay apartment. He was also reported to have settled for $1,000,000 an alienation suit in having committed adultery with Mary Johnson of Portsmouth N.H.

As for Angelo Ellison, who was most likely the intended heir for much of Searle’s millions, he ended up with just $10,000. He also went to court to contest the will but lost. Andrew “Angy” Ellison in his later life was consigned to the loss saying that the money would have probably ruined his life.


Windham Life and Time – January 26, 2018

Edward Searles and Angelo


“By this time Angy was twenty-three years old and had matured since Searles first met him. He decided to return to his homeland to straighten out family affairs over there. Accordingly, on November 5, 1919, Searles sent him off to Smyrna, Asia Minor. Before the ship sailed Angy wrote the following letter:”

November 5, 1919

“On board S.S. Canada

My dear loving Daddy,

In an hour or as the boat is sailing and by tomorrow I will be far away on the sea. But no matter in what part of the globe I am found I will always love you and remember you. You have been too good to me, more than I deserved, but dear Daddy be sure that your boy always loved you and will love you with all his heart. I can not give you anything or repay you with anything but my love which is pure and which is true for you.

God bless you and give you health and happiness forever.

I wish that I had not gone away from you but I am sure that my homecoming to you will be speedier than you think.

Take good care of yourself. Wishing you happiness and hoping to see you soon.

Your Boy,


“Pine Lodge

My dear Ange,

Your  letter of December 11th was received yesterday and I was very glad to know you of your safe arrival to your old home, and that you are making progress at getting your family affairs into better shape. I hope you will be able to make such arrangements for them that you will feel that you can leave them to take care of themselves without much anxiety on your part. I am looking forward anxiously, for the time when you will return, and the old Murray Hill apartment is very lonesome without you.

Hoping this letter will find you well and happy. I am, as ever,

Faithfully yours,

Your Loving Daddy,


“In the next month of February Searles, as usual, went to New York to live at the Murray Hill Hotel for a while. Towards the end of the month he began to suffer from the prostrate gland trouble and on March 2, 1920, it was necessary for him to go to a hospital in New York. Since Angy was still in Greece, and Searles was all alone in the New York hospital, he sent for Walter Glidden, a young caretake at the Pine Lodge Estate. After Searles went under an operation by Dr. McCarthy, a New York urologist. Angy returned from his trip on April 3rd to find his friend convalescing at the Murray Hill Hotel. It was his first knowledge that Searles had been ill. Walter Glidden continued to care for Searles while Angy began his studies at a New York preparatory school. Searles continued his hospital treatments until April 20th. In May he and Glidden returned to Methuen and later that same month, Angy received the following letter:”

“Pine Lodge                   Methuen, Mass. May 17, 1920

My dear Ange,

Your letter was received yesterday, and you are not forgotten. The reason I have not written to you is that I have been very sick and am still in bed under the doctor’s care.

I am glad to hear you are employing your time so well in your studies.

With love from Dad”

“Pine Lodge                  Methuen, Mass. June 18, 1920

My dear Ange,

I am still in bed under the doctor’s care but think that I am gaining slowly. As soon as I am able I will let you know when I can see you.

Mr. Walker says that the Troy Polytechnical School for Electrical Engineering is the best place for you, and you approve of it, and I advise you to take the preparatory course in New York this summer, and Mr. Walker will make all the arrangements for you.

Hoping you are well and happy and will keep so I am ever,

Faithfully yours,

From Dad

P.S.– Let me hear from you as often as you can.

“That was the last letter that Angy ever received from Searles although he didn’t realize it, he would never see him again. Arthur Walker, Searles trusted business secretary, arranged for Angy to go on vacation during that summer’s school recess. Was Walker aware that if he could make it appear to Searles that Angy was neglecting him in his illness, the old gentleman would be sufficiently hurt as to be willing to think the youth as merely a fickle boy, rather than a close companion that he actually was? The result was, perhaps, that Searles, resigned to loneliness, ill, and without Angy’s company, signed the will of July 24th, 1920, leaving the bulk of his fortune to Walker. Never-the-less, it is certain that Searles proved, by his kind affection for this young man,  to be something more than a stuffy old Victorian full of hypocrisy and prejudices. He was human after all. His hard, high stone walls then were not symbolic of his true emotional character.”

“As his strength slowly left him, Searles rarely left his bed, and when he did, he was carried downstairs by the human-chair method, only to sit in a wheelchair. Thus he spent his last six weeks. Doctor Henry F. Dearborn, of Lawrence, who attended him during this time, recalls that his disposition was normal for one as ill as he was…He was in the doctor’s own words, ‘easy to handle.’” He died on August 6, 1920

Quotes from: The Life Story of Edward F. Searles, By Ray Fremmer