Adjutant and Inspector General Reports
Report of John Howe, Jr.To His Excellency, Frederick Holbrook,
On the 15th November, 1861, at your request, I assumed the management of the business relating to State Aid to Soldiers' families, under the Act of the Legislature entitled "An Act to provide for he families of the citizens of Vermont mustered into the service of the United States." Since that time, acting under your direction, I have continued to perform the duties assigned to me, and herewith respectfully submit my Report.
Availing myself of the valuable aid of Lieutenant governor Underwood, who had acted for His Excellency, governor Fairbanks, under the Act referred to, up to October 1, 1861, and with your advice and direction, I immediately established a system for the government of Agents, and also for the Books and Accounts, which the largely increasing calls upon the State, owing to the approaching winter, and the additional Regiments then going into service, imperatively demanded. These Accounts necessarily date back to october 1, 1861. At that time, Lieutenant Governor Underwood resigned his charge, and subsequently but few orders had been given to Agents for State Aid. This fact necessarily complicated somewhat the position of matters, as there were many claims from Agents unanswered; also some previous to October 1, unsettled. These latter (amounting to $1,357 52, which will appear by themselves in their proper place,) were adjusted as speedily as possible. The former were settled as soon as they could be duly examined.
In the first instance, I sent to each Agent a circular letter for his instruction, and information, on the principal points connected with his duties; also blank forms for returns of families requiring aid, giving their names, ages, health and general condition, whether or not their heads made proper provisions for them, and the $7,00 per month State pay had been applied for their benefit, blank requisitions for the amount requisite, which, with the forms alluded to,were to be filled out and returned to me on the last day of each month, when, if found correct, the order on the State Treasurer for the amount called for was to be forwarded to the Agent. Subsequently I sent a second circular referring to some abuses of the law providing for the payment of the $7,00 per month to the families of soldiers, it being in many cases unlawfully diverted to pay old debts; in some cases even Selectmen were accused of charging a commission for drawing the money from the Treasury. The Agents were charged to investigate all such instances, and to render no aid until the $7,00 was rightfully used, nor until the solder was mustered into the United States' service. If he failed for an unreasonable time to provide for his family, aid also was to be withheld. On the 15th August last I sent a circular to each Agent, requesting him to forward to me any account that he might have on the 30th of August, that everything might be settled to September 1, 1862. I opened a Ledger account with each Agent, charging him monthly with the order of the State Treasurer sent to him, and crediting him with his disbursement. I also charged to each soldier whose family had been assisted, the amount paid them. And to each town where aid was called for, I entered the amount expended, the number of families, numbers in each, the average per family, and per per head. This system has been rigidly adhered to, and with the cheerful co-operation of the Agents, who have generally exhibited a commendable disposition to do their part in the good work, the interests of the State have been carefully looked after, and the families of our soldiers have received such necessary aid as their circumstances required.
The labors of the State Agent in the larger towns have been arduous and vexatious, occupying much time, in many instances rendered perplexing by the improper claims of families who asserted that their heads enlisted with the promise of the recruiting officer, and others, that the State would support their families. Many of the Agents feel that they should have some compensation for their services. Some claim it, as the commission first issued to them contained this clause: "Your personal expenses will be refunded, and a reasonable allowance made for time necessarily spent in the execution of this trust." As there is not provision in the law for such compensation, I have declined to allow any, informing the applicants that the Legislature only have the power to act in the matter.
The law is so general in its terms as to render its equal operation very difficult. Many claims have been allowed by agents, whose families, being left entirely destitute, had to be largely assisted. Doubtless there have been many cases really requiring aid, which have not been made known by the families. In too many instances the soldier has wholly neglected to provide for his family; in some cases he has returned on furlough, wounded, or enfeebled, to help him family in calling for aid. In others, he has actually sent for money, or clothing to be sent to him. Some have allotted their pay to the State Treasurer, or to an agent, leaving their family entirely dependent upon the State. These are exceptional cases, yet they have been frequent enough to require this allusion, as well as to occasion the Agents much perplexity in deciding "what assistance, if any, in their judgment," should be afforded. As a general rule, however, I am happy to say that our solders have maintained that character which they have so nobly earned in the field, and amid all its perils, have not neglected the loved ones at home.
The expenses have been largely increased from the delay by Government in paying the brigade in the army of the Potomac, and also the 7th and 8th Regiments, and the batteries. The 2nd Battery being sent in haste from Lowell, was not paid from their enlistment in December 1861, until June, 1862, and as they left their families in mid-winter, many have to be continuously aided. Government, too, have failed to send the allotment money of these Regiments and Batteries. One company of the 7th Regiment, and the 2nd Battery, were enlisted in Brandon; the non-payment of these men, and the subsequently delay of their allotments, its the occasion of so large an amount having been expended in this town.
A large number of our solders have returned, wounded or enfeebled. Others have died on the battle-field, in hospitals and rebel prisons. Many of their families are destitute and call for assistance. As such cases are not referred to in the law, Agents are constantly writing for instructions in regard to them, which I am unable to give.
The following summary of the laws of the other New England States, relating to Extra pay to their soldier, and aid to the families, I have procured from official sources:
Maine.--To first ten regiments, a bounty of two months pay, to each man. Under the call of July last, $45.00 per man for the new regiments, and $55.00 for the old regiments. Towns are authorized to furnish aid to families, as their exigencies may require, to be refunded by the State as follows: not exceeding 75 cents per week for a wife, or dependent mother, father or sister, and 50 cents for each child, the while not to exceed $10,00 per month. In case of soldier's death, or discharge from disability, aid to be continued for one year.
Massachusetts.--State aid furnished by town when necessary, and reimbursed by th eState, not to exceed $1,00 per week to a wife, and $1,00 to each child and parent, the whole not to exceed $12,00 per month. In case of the soldier's death, aid to be continued one year from April 29, 1862, or until one month after the passage of any Act of Congress, allowing a pension; or other provision, for the deceased soldier's family, if said Act is passed within the year.
Rhode Island.--Towns are authorized to furnish aid to soldiers' families as they may deem expedient. About one-third of the soldiers have their families thus dependent. The State has authorized a bounty of $150,00 per man, for the nine months' regiments, and the towns have paid bounties to mean under the last two calls, from $200,00 to %500,00 per man.
Connecticut pay to each man $30,00 per year; also aid to families, $6,00 per month to the wife, and $2,00 for each child under fourteen years old. if no wife, then $6,0 per month for the younger child, and $2,00 fore each additional child under fourteen years, the whole not to exceed $10,00 per month, and to be continued in case of the death of the soldier, or his disability, until his company is discharged from service.
The accounts herewith submitted embrace all expenditures for State aid, by orders on the Treasurer, approved by the governor, since the commencement of my labor, up to September 1, 1862, as also all claims for same, unsettled, which have been sent to me.
I am much indebted to L. Bixby, Esq., for his valuable services in keeping the Books and Accounts, and in attending to the business in my absence; also to S. D. Wing, Esq., for his services in making up the statement.
Source: State of Vermont: Journal of the House, Annual Session, 1862, pp 470-71; provided courtesy of Ed Italo.