Windham Life and Times – March 30, 2018

The Dam on Golden Brook

I’ve had this old glass plate negative hanging around and I finally got around to scanning it and adjusting the exposure to see what I had. I knew it was a dam but not where. At first, I thought it was the dam at Cobbett’s Pond, but there are differences that ruled it out. Eventually, a photograph by Baldwin Coolidge solved the mystery. His photograph of the mill on Golden Brook Road, clearly shows the dam. Of course, the same people who built this dam, would have also built the dam on Cobbett’s Pond, since they owned the water from the lake which was used to power the mill.  The only unsolved mystery now; who is the gentleman standing by the sluiceway?

Windham Life and Times – March 23, 2018

Happy Spring

Spring Lambs at Johnson’s Farm

It may not feel like it yet, but Spring officially started, March 20th, on the vernal equinox.  What is the vernal equinox? It is the date  in the northern hemisphere when day and night last about the same 12 hours. The word “vernal” comes from the Latin word for Spring while “equinox”  literally means equal night, as both day and night last an equal time. This is the day that the sun shines directly on the earth’s equator because the earth’s axis is exactly perpendicular to the sun’s rays. The equinox is the time of new beginnings, birth and fresh starts. In the photograph the spring lambs have just been born on Johnson’s Farm. In the background you can see the huge barn which once  stood on what is known today as the Chadwick Farm. Open fields climb to the top of both Jenny’s and Dinsmore Hill.


Windham Life and Times – March 23, 2018

Memorializing Windham Veterans

1898 and Beyond

On the left are the minutes of a meeting held on August 30, 1898 concerning the installation of marble plaques in the Nesmith Library reading room. It was a time of heightened patriotism in America with the Spanish American War having recently come to an end. “Voted …that a committee of three be chosen to ascertain the names of all soldiers who went from this town to the French and Indian War, the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, The Mexican War and the War of the Rebellion, array the same upon suitable tablets, and cause the same to be erected in the Library Building when completed.”

     Of course, more wars would follow, with the need to erect new marble plaques. The photograph above shows both the original plaques and the new one which commemorated the service of the veterans of World War Two. The plaque for World War Two memorialized the names of 79 Windham men who had served including Wilbur Tarbell who was the only casualty from town in the war. Bob Armstrong can be seen at left.


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