By the Fall of 1862 men were being slaughtered at higher an higher numbers, regiment lengths were increased and recruiters were always on the lookout for more young men. Laws allowed anyone who was drafted to hire a substitute to go to war for them. That is exactly what Abe Lincoln did. Laws also allowed for the creation at the local community or state and even at the federal level, for the creation of bonuses for signing up. The more desperate the request the higher the bonus. Some started as low as $50 and up to $300, an amount you have read in early blogs, that was enough to buy you a farm in those days. Some bounties even went into the thousands of dollars.
Creative entrepreneurs would sometimes desert, change their name and sign up under another name in another town and get a 2nd or 3rd or 4th bonus. One fellow finally went to jail after being caught doing it, if memory serves correct, well over 30 times.
Bounties would be one of the incentives used by recruiters who roamed the country and ultimately even overseas and here in Canada in search of young blood to pave their battlefields. Some recruiters also used other devious means... like alcohol or promised jobs that did not exist upon arrival etc, to get the youth to sign up.
At Lindsay Ontario in the Fall of 1862 the following little note appeared in the Ingersoll Chronicle....
Searching for youth was a main preoccupation of some. During the Civil War 2.7 million would serve, and of these some 2 MILLION were 21 or younger. One million were 18 or younger. About 200,000 of these were no older that 16, and 300 were only 13 or younger.
Dennis Buckley was a youth of about 18 in Lindsay when this article appears. One must wonder if he saw it. he sure needed some money. He worked at farm labour and gathering up logs to raise the only money coming into the household. He had an older brother who had left home years earlier, 2 sisters under three years of age, a mother that took in cleaning and sewing and a father that had serious medical issues that had prevented his working for many years. His income had to literally clothe and fee the entire family.
In a statement years later when his mother sought a pension, the desperation of the family was clearly noted. Here is a portion of that document...
Dennis did his best to supply for the family but it was no doubt a terrible burden for him. The files tell of a case in point. He had worked for a month for one of the local farmers but times were so tough that the farmer had no money to pay Dennis. All he could do is give the youth a cow. Dennis took that cow home faithfully to his mother and in such grief explained that that was all they could pay him that month. The mother took it in stride, as mothers throughout history have done, and made the best of the situation. It was a lesson Dennis took to his death bed... on a far away battlefield.
In August of 1862 Dennis left the family home and went south to New York state were he vowed to join the Civil War, get a nice bounty and start sending his mother money every month. The following month he was enlisted in the 136th New York Infantry as a private and to serve for three years.
After some initial training in New York, Dennis' regiment moved off to Washington DC, then they crossed the Potomac to Arlington Heights, home before the war to General Lee, and later, as today, home of the famous Arlington National Cemetery. Today the remains of over 300,000 soles rest, including over 365 Medal of Honor recipients. There are dozens of Canadians buried there including at least ten who have earned the Medal of Honor.
In early January 1863 the 136th became involved in sentry duties at a place called Bank's Ford Virginia. Here the Union troops of the North were on one side of the river and the Confederates of the South were on the other side. Couple this with another practice and along comes Dennis. There were several times during the war that the men from both sides would fight during the day and lay their arms down at night. Sometimes you would here the battles of music when one side with play their best tune, and then the other would respond in kind. Often the men would go further and try to meet in the middle of no mans land to do some trading... coffee for tobacco... boots for alcohol... who knows what else.
On the night in question Dennis went out into mid stream and met with a Confederate and the exchanges started. Then Dennis was lured to the other side on the promise of some more much needed supplies. Of course on arrival he was stunned to find himself arrested and now a Prisoner of War. But perhaps with lots of tobacco. hehe
In the earliest days of the Civil War Camp Parole did not look as accommodating as seen above and was more or less little more than a bunch of tents huddled together. The above shows some progress. When a soldier was released as a POW he had to promise... or give his... WORD.., that he would not take up arms against his enemies till "paroled." Sounded great in theory but often when it came to be exchange time the released fellow was nowhere to be found. So they sent up camps to house them until formally released. Once then released the soldier was expected to find his way back to his unit and carry on with the unit's war efforts.
Dennis was housed here in Maryland probably from about Feb of 1863 till the summer of 1864. On release he was assigned for a short period of time as a nurse orderly at a military hospital in Virginia.
He would finally rejoin the 136th New York in time for the advance on Atlanta Georgia in July of 1864.
But I will bring you the rest of Dennis' story tomorrow.