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 – January 12, 2017




Ben and Josefa Markewich owned Castle Hill Farm in West Windham. It was one of the largest farms in town, running along both sides of Castle Hill Road and up Mount Ephraim  to where Heritage Hill and Bennington Roads are located today.   They ran a successful dairy farm which at one time had more than 65 cows, during the 30’s and 40’s. Josefa is shown above with the cows in front of her house. Winter brought different chores to the farm, like cutting ice for the household refrigeration and milk.




Windham Life and Times – February 5th and 12th, 2015

The Famous Artists Born in West Windham NH

A view of West Windham, New Hampshire

A view of West Windham New Hampshire

There must have been something in the water of West Windham, that was the catalyst for two children that were born and raised here, to become noted American artists. Mary Braddish Titcomb and Howard E. Smith both spent their early childhood in this scenic village overlooking Beaver Brook. Miss Titcomb lived here for much of her early life, becoming a teacher in the Windham schools. Smith lived in the village until he was fourteen and his family moved to Boston Massachusetts.

This blog post was inspired by an article in the Exeter News-Letter, written 100 years ago, by William Harris in 1915.

Self Portrait

Self Portrait

“WINDHAM, February 9.— A native and former resident of Windham has painted a picture which has been purchased on its merits by President Wilson and now hangs in the White House. Miss Mary Braddish Titcomb as a girl in West Windham had no unusual advantages except such as came from her excellent parentage and her own ambition and persistence. In 1880 and 1881 our correspondence to the NEWS-LETTER shows several commendatory references to Miss Titcomb as teacher in Windham Center school and as an elocutionist. Even then she was interested in painting. Later she was a teacher of drawing in the schools of Brockton Mass. Now as we learn from last Saturdays’ Boston Journal, Miss Titcomb has a studio on Clarendon Street in Boston where she does work which is seen at all large exhibitions throughout the country. The particular painting which took the president’s fancy as he saw it at the recent biennial exhibition at the Corcoran Art Gallery in Washington is entitled, ‘Portrait of Geraldine J.,’ and shows a pretty young woman wearing a beautiful mandarin coat of blue. The Journal article refers to Miss Titcomb as a conscientious and painstaking artist who ‘has worked while others played, and painted better each year.’ Miss Titcomb was born here September 27, 1858, the daughter of Edward and Sarah Jane (Abbott) Titcomb.”

Examples of Mary Braddish Titcomb's work. "Two Girls on Right sold for $120,000 in 2011.

Examples of Mary Braddish Titcomb’s work. “Two Girls on right, above, sold for $120,000 in 2011.

“Mary Bradish Titcomb was described as an independent woman. She is listed as a portrait painter but is best known and appreciated for her impressionist paintings of rural and coastal New England scenes. She is described as taking the traditional stylistic ideals of the Boston Impressionism and infusing it with a modern sensibility. Mary was born in Windham, NH and supported her artistic education by teaching school in the Boston area. She studied at the Boston Normal Art School and the Boston Museum School under such well-known American painters as Edmund Tarbell, Philip Leslie Hale and Frank Benson. She was a frequent exhibitor at the Copley Society.”

"Gerraldine J." now hangs of over a bedroom fireplace in the Wilson House in Washington D.C.

“Gerraldine J.” now hangs over a bedroom fireplace in the Wilson House in Washington D.C.

“Although primarily associated with New England, Mary was known to have gone on sketching trips to Arizona, Mexico and California.In 1901 Mary left teaching to dedicate her life to painting. After living in the Fenway studios she bought a house in Marblehead, MA where she could paint the kinds of coastal scenes she loved. President Woodrow Wilson admired Titcomb’s “Portrait of Geraldine J.” and bought it to hang in the White House. Mary died in Marblehead, MA in 1927.”

Self Portrait

Self Portrait

“WINDHAM, February 23.— Since writing the little story of Miss Titcomb’s success as a painter, we have been informed by Mrs. M. Eva Pratt of Revere, Mass., formerly of this town, that another Boston artist of distinction, Howard Everett Smith was also born at West Windham, scarcely more than a stone’s throw from the birthplace of Miss Titcomb. He was one of several children born to Charles Smith and his wife, Sarah (Goodwin) Smith, while the father was the proprietor of the village store at Wes Windham and postmaster. He also served the town several years as selectman. The son, who was born April 27, 1885, received a scholarship for travelling abroad from the Boston Museum School, and is a teacher in the School of Drawing in Boston. He is especially good a illustrating, but also paints; he has recently married and gone to the Northwest to paint winter scenes. Perhaps the picturesque surroundings of the little hamlet of West Windham, with its babbling Beaver Brook flowing between pine and hemlock crowned ridges, had their influence in awakening the artistic sensibility in these now noted artists, whose childhood was passed there.”

“A portrait painter, illustrator, etcher, and painter. Born in West Windham, NH on April 27, 1885.  His mother encouraged his interest in art, and he studied both drawing and watercolor at a young age. One of his earliest instructors was a veterinarian, who had Smith closely study the anatomy of his subjects. This was to stand him in good stead, as he later became recognized as a master of portraiture. In 1899, his family moved to Boston. He attended Boston Latin School before continuing his art studies, first at the Art Students’ League in New York and then two years with Howard Pyle. Returning to Boston in 1909, he studied with Edmund Tarbell at the School of Art of the Boston Museum. His illustrations appeared in ”Harper’s” and ”Scribner’s” between 1905 and 1913, and for several years he taught at the Rhode Island School of Design.”

“Having been awarded the Paige Traveling Scholarship in 1911, he left for Europe. The scholarship enabled him to study and travel throughout Europe for two years. Smith financed additional year’s travel through his profitable and long time association with Harper’s Monthly. In 1914, he returned to the United States and began teaching at the Rhode Island School of Design. Here he met Martha Rondelle, whom he married later that year. They were to have three children, Jeanne, Jacqueline and Howard E. Jr. Smith’s  career took off in the teens and twenties. He won numerous prizes including the Hallgarten Prize in 1917 and the Isidor Medal in 1921, both from the National Academy. In the twenties, he and his family spent many of their summers in Rockport and Provincetown. He was one of the founders of the Rockport Art Association. While in Provincetown, the family became friends with Eugene O’Neill, who asked Smith to illustrate his first published play.

“In 1936, the Smith family visited Carmel and in 1938 settled there. His work continued to be exhibited on the East Coast, while he became active in the local art community of the Monterey Peninsula. He served on the Board of Directors of the Carmel Art Association from 1942 to 1949 and again in 1963 and 1964. After his wife’s death in 1948, he moved to Mexico for a number of years, often spending summers in Carmel. He returned to Carmel, living there until his death in 1970”

“Smith was an American impressionist who was known for his illustrations, his portraits and his equine paintings. He worked not only in oil and watercolor, but did a wide variety of graphics, often using as subject matter the horses and cowboys of the West. Jacqueline Cagwin said of her father ”He was a gallant, a gentleman in every sense of the word. People always mistook him for a banker. He always said he would loathe going to an office and keeping rigid hours, yet he worked in his studio until five and spent his evenings etching and reading.”