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Vermont Cavalrymen Want to Get the Most for their Reenlistments
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After the patriotic fervor of 1861 filled Union armies with volunteers, the United States struggled to fill and expand Union armies. In March 1863, Congress passed the Enrollment Act, establishing a national draft to provide manpower for the Union Army. Drafted men could hire substitutes or pay a commutation fee of $300, and both policies were controversial, leading to the slogan, “rich man’s war, poor man’s fight.”

On October 17, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln called for 300,000 additional volunteers for the Union army, divided by the War Department into quotas for each of the respective loyal states. If a state did not meet its quota by January 5, 1864, a draft would fill the remaining quota for each state. The quota for Vermont was 3,300 men, in addition to the requirements of the July 1863 draft not completely filled. Active recruiting furnished more than 3,700 men by the end of January 1864, and more than 1,000 veterans, like those in Preston’s cavalry regiment, reenlisted in the field. On March 14, 1864, President Lincoln called for 200,000 more volunteers.

ADDISON W. PRESTON. Autograph Letter Signed, to Senator Solomon Foot, December 17, 1863. 3 pp., 7¾ x 10 in.

Inventory #23879.05       Price: $600

Complete Transcript

                                                                       Stevensburg Va Dec 17th 1863

Honorable Senator


            Upon returning to my Regiment I found many of the men desired to re-inlist  There are several points on which information is desired, which is not found in “General Orders”

1st What will be done with recruits who have served but 15 months? Will they be allowed to reinlist? If not, may they have a furlough, if the balance of the regiment re-inlists?

2nd  Does the order mean ¾ of the entire regiment, or only of those present? Over ⅓ of this regiment is absent.

3rd  Can those reinlisting here be credited to towns in Vermont <2> and receive such bounties as are paid by those towns? And what course can be taken to obtain it?

            I cannot get satisfactory information in regard to those questions here. The intrest of the service and State have prompted me to address you on the subject

            Our regiment is quite healthy though much exposed to severe rains and bad weather

                                                                        Very respectfully

                                                                        Your Obt Servent

                                                                        A W Preston

                                                                        Lt Col Comdg 1st Vt Cav

To / Hon Senator Foot

Washington DC


[Endorsement by Solomon Foot:]

Will Col. Townsend do Mr. Foot the great favor of furnishing him with the answers to Col. Preston’s inquiries?

[Endorsement by Edward D. Townsend:]

                                                                        War Dept., A.G.O., Dec. 23, 1863

            Respectfully returned to Hon. Solomon Foote, U.S. Senate

            In answers to questions Nos. 1 and 2, please see enclosed Circular. In reply to question No. 3, I have to inform you that soldiers reënlisting in the field will be credited to the Districts to which they belong at the time of re-enlistment; they will be credited to the quota of the State, under the last call of the President, if they reënlist prior to January 5, 1863.

                                                                        E. D. Townsend / Asst. Adjt. Genl.

Addison Webster Preston (1831-1864) was born in Burke, Vermont, and moved as a child to Danville. He entered Brown University, but left due to ill health. He sailed to Australia and then to California, where he spent several years before returning to Danville. Preston enlisted as a captain in the 1st Vermont Cavalry in September 1861, and was promoted to Lt. Col. in September 1862. He was wounded at Hagerstown in the Gettysburg Campaign and again two months later at Culpeper Court House. Appointed colonel on April 29, 1864, he was killed in action on June 3, 1864, at Hawe’s Shop, Virginia. He left a widow and two children. Brigadier General George A. Custer said over his body, “There lies the best fighting colonel in the Cavalry Corps.”

Solomon Foot (1802-1866) was born in Vermont and graduated from Middlebury College in 1826. He studied law and gained admission to the bar in 1831. He served in the Vermont House of Representatives for several terms between 1843 to 1848, the last two years as Speaker. Elected to the United States Senate as a Whig, Foot later became a Republican and served in that office from 1851 until his death. He served as President pro tempore of the U.S. Senate from 1861 to 1864, presiding during the frequent absence of Vice President Hannibal Hamlin.

Edward D. Townsend (1817-1893) was born in Boston and graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1837. He served as a regimental adjutant during the Second Seminole War and transferred to the Adjutant General’s Corps in Washington in 1846. After service on the Pacific coast from 1851 to 1856, he returned to Washington, where he served as an assistant adjutant general throughout the Civil War, under the command of Adjutant General Lorenzo Thomas (1804-1875). In 1869, Townsend received promotion to brigadier general and became Adjutant General of the Army, a position he held until his retirement in 1880.

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