Civil War substitutes added to Revised Roster

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BRATTLEBORO — In 1888 the General Assembly of the State of Vermont passed an act to create a Revised Roster of Vermont troops in the War of Rebellion. Theodore Peck, the Vermont Adjutant General, led a review of more than 35,000 military records to create a corrected record of each soldier serving in Vermont military organizations. Enlistment contracts, payroll records, hospital rosters, muster rolls, Confederate prison records, transfers, promotions, and national cemetery burials were reviewed over a dozen times to create the Revised Roster.

The Revised Roster was published in 1892 and serves today as an important source for Vermont information concerning the Civil War. The text is 863 pages long and attempts to list every Vermonter involved in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Veteran Reserve Corps and the United States Colored Troops between 1861 and 1866.

Here's what the book succinctly says about the cause of the Civil War: "The natural antagonism existing between free and slave institutions culminated in the slaveholders' rebellion inaugurated in 1861, when the National Government passed from the control of the friends of slavery to the control of the friends of human freedom."

In 1887, five years before the publication of this book, Brattleboro installed a monument on the Common to recognize the soldiers of the Civil War who served the town. On the monument the number of men who enlisted, and died in service, were listed on a bronze plaque. The number of soldiers on the plaque does not match up with the information published five years later in the Revised Roster. The Revised Roster had many more soldiers credited to Brattleboro because there are records that indicate that they were born here, lived here, or substituted for local men who had been drafted for the war and did not want to serve.

That last category is intriguing. In 1863 the national government began a draft. It was organized by U.S. Congressional Districts. At the time, Vermont had three Congressional Districts and Brattleboro was in the 2nd District. The 2nd Congressional District consisted of Windham, Windsor, Orange and Caledonia counties.

The 1863 Civil War Military Draft Act allowed a draftee the option of providing a substitute to take the place of the drafted citizen. A total of 261 drafted men in the 2nd Congressional District procured substitutes to take their place. Typically draftees paid substitutes a fee or bounty. Here in Brattleboro records indicate that at least 35 draftees opted to provide substitutes.

Brattleboro Area Middle School students have been working with the Historical Society to review the Revised Roster, local Civil War era newspapers, and the website: vermontcivilwar.org to establish an accurate count of soldiers and sailors who served Brattleboro during the Civil War.

We have found that eight of the soldiers who signed on as substitutes died during the war, or as a result of sustaining medical conditions during the war. Here are their stories.

- Frank Benton enlisted in June 1864 and took the place of local man, James Capin. Benton was about 26 years old, served in the 45th Massachusetts regiment and died in August 1865 from digestive fever. He was stationed in Edinburgh, Texas and died in a post hospital. He was an African American who was born in Norfolk, Virginia.

- Edmund Brown was a substitute for local man, Charles Tripp. He enlisted in June 1864 and also joined the 45th Massachusetts regiment. Brown was a 58-year-old African American and served as a wagoner. He was discharged in November 1865 and died within 11 months of leaving the military while living in Bennington.

- Benjamin Cargill was born in Piermont, New Hampshire. He was a European American who signed up as a substitute in July of 1863 and served with the 2nd Vermont infantry. He was 20 years old at the time of his enlistment. Less than a year later he was mortally wounded in action at Spotsylvania, Virginia. After almost three months in a hospital he died from his wounds..

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- Reuben Collins was a substitute for local man, Samuel Martin. He was an African American who enlisted in June 1863 at the age of 21. He served as a private in the 45th Massachusetts Colored Infantry and died in service while in Baltimore, Maryland. Collins died in August 1865. He is buried in the Loudon Park National Cemetery in Baltimore.

- Alexander Darbin was a substitute for local man, J. Albert Taylor. He enlisted in June 1864 at the age of 20. He served in the 45th Massachusetts Colored Infantry. He was from Virginia and his family had been enslaved. When Darbin was able to travel north he joined the Union Army. He was a private and in September of 1864 was mortally wounded at the battle of Chapin's Farm. He died the next day and was buried at Fort Harrison National Cemetery.

- Frederick Freeman Dewey Jr. was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Soon after his 18th birthday he enlisted in September of 1862 and served in the 15th Vermont Regiment for nine months. He mustered out of service in August of 1863 and, on the same day, he signed as a substitute for a Brattleboro man. He mustered into the 4th Vermont Regiment as a private and soon found himself in Virginia. While near Petersburg in June of 1864 he was part of a skirmish line engaging the enemy. His line was broken on both the right and left and his section was surrounded by Confederates. He became a POW and was held in Andersonville Prison. After two months he died in prison and the cause of death was listed as scurvy.

- Lawrence Newhall was a substitute for local man, John Burnap. He also served in the 45th Massachusetts Colored Infantry. He enlisted in June 1864 at the age of 20. On July 7, 1865, while serving in Brazos de Santiago, Texas he died of disease and was buried at the post cemetery.

- Henry Lewis was a 20-year-old African American who signed on as a substitute for local man, Dwight Goodenough. He enlisted in the 45th Massachusetts Colored Infantry in June of 1864. He traveled to New Haven, Connecticut to attend training camp. While in camp he contracted an illness and died before he could finish his training. He is buried in New Haven.

None of these men were counted on the 1887 Soldiers' Monument erected at the Brattleboro Common. There stories came to light in the 1892 Revised Roster of Vermont Volunteers in the War of the Rebellion, the 2001 Men of Color, To Arms! and the website: vermontcivilwar.org. BAMS students have also been scanning through local digital newspapers of the time to help verify those who served Brattleboro during the Civil War. In the coming weeks we will share more information as it surfaces through our research.

Brattleboro Historical Society: 802-258-4957, https://brattleborohistoricalsociety.org/

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