Category Archives: Substitutes

1863: Edwin Ruthven Brush to Amy (Fletcher) Brush

Edwin Ruthven Brush in later years.

The following letter was written by Edward Ruthven Brush (1836-1908) who came to the 2nd Vermont Infantry with draftees and substitutes in the fall of 1863 and was assigned to company H. Though he entered the regiment as a private, it was not long before Edwin was commissioned an Assistant Surgeon. He was with the regiment until 15 July 1865.

Edwin was the son of Salmon Brush (1804-1887) and Sarah Lovegrove (1817-1890) of Cambridge, Vermont. He graduated from the University of Vermont in 1858 and succeeded his father as a medical practitioner in his hometown. He was married to Amy Fletcher (1835-1915) in 1860.

[Note: This letter is from the private collection of Greg Herr and was transcribed and published on Spared & Shared by express consent.]


Camp Vermont
October 7th 1863

Dearest one,

Having arrived at my place of destination, I hasten to write you thinking you would be anxious to hear from me. We left Long Island Thursday evening October 1st on board the U. S. transport Forest City. It was very calm and pleasant when we started and continued so until the next day about noon when the wind commenced blowing and continued to blow until the next day so that we had a pretty rough time that night. But it did not prevent my sleeping that night, except when the ship would come up with an extra jerk when it would wake me up. Some of the boys were pretty sick about that time but strange as it may seem, I was not sea sick in the least.

I got cold on the island and for a day or two my lungs were quite sore. The wind stopped blowing the next day and it was very pleasant again so that I was on deck most all day Saturday. We were going up the Chesapeake Bay. We had to go to Portsmouth to leave some New Hampshire boys off whom I shall speak presently. I was on deck when we went up by Fortress Monroe. It is a very formidable fort. There were quite a number of gunboats laying in the harbor near there. We went by some points of interest on our way up. There was the place where the Merrimack came out from Norfolk and attacked our fleet and sunk some of our boats, and the boys in the fort were expecting she would come down and attack them. But just at that time the Monitor made its appearance and drove the Merrimack back to Norfolk where the rebels blew her up when Gen. Wool took the place. What remains of her lays near the shore above Norfolk in sight of where we were at anchor.

Norfolk and Portsmouth are quite pleasantly situated one on either side of the James [Elizabeth] River, nearly opposite each other. There are some very good buildings in them but they seemed quite deserted. There seemed nothing going on except what government was doing (the effects of war). Amy, when we were coming up the Bay, I could not help thinking how happy I should be if I was on a passenger boat and you with me. If you had been with me, I should have enjoyed myself very much indeed. It was so warm and pleasant.

We landed the New Hampshire boys a little after noon Saturday and started on our way down the bay immediately. We had to go down to the mouth of the Potomac river where we arrived in the night and had to anchor our boat and stay until Sunday morning when we started up the river for Alexandria. There was a cold wind all day Sunday so that I did not go on deck much that day, but was on deck some of the time but did not have a chance to see as much as I should have been glad to see. I just got a glimpse of the tomb of Washington but did not see enough to say anything about it.

I promised to tell you about the New Hampshire boys. Well there were about three hundred and sixty aboard the vessel. Out of them, there were some thirty or forty New York roughs who were taken to New Hampshire by substitute brokers. There were a set of thieves, robbers, and pick pockets and they went into the army for that purpose and we expected to have a pretty rough time when we started from Boston. And we were not disappointed either. They did not meddle with Vermonters as much as they did with Maine and New Hampshire boys for two reasons. First, we did not have much money with us and they knew it. Secondly, we posted a guard in front of our bunks and gave what little money we had to our Captain or took care of it otherwise. But they would [go] to a man’s bunk when he was asleep and rifle his pockets or they would get a crowd around, pull his hat off, pull him around generally, and in the scrape, would take what money they could find. They took one hundred and fifty dollars from one man and from that down to five or ten from others. There was more or less fighting as long as they remained on the boat. But you may be sure of one thing—that men never left a place when those that were left were more pleased than we were when they left us. The boys did not hardly know what to do they were so pleased to get rid of them. I did not write you about them before we left because I thought you might feel concerned about me.

We arrived at Alexandria Monday night where we received our arms and equipments. We stayed in Alexandria over night and the next morning we started for our regiment. We came to Culpeper (which is about sixty miles from Alexandria) on the railroad where we arrived about two o’clock p.m. From there we marched to here which is about 12 or 15 miles from Culpeper. We arrived here a little after dark, hungry and tired. I expected to be pretty lame today but had a good night’s sleep and got up feeling quite well this morning.

The [Vermont] Brigade came here day before yesterday to do picket duty so you see they are pretty well in the front. The country we came through was anything but beautiful—no fences, not much growing except weeds. In fact, if I had not known that I was on the sacred soil of Virginia, I should have thought I was in a wilderness. But then I suppose I am not. We are in sight of the ruins of a house that the boys tore down yesterday to built their tents of. I believe after they had got it nearly torn down, Col. Grant put a guard around it but the guard did not prevent the boys from getting what they wanted to make themselves comfortable. They believe in taking what rebel property they want for their own use. I stayed with Hack last night. As soon as I got back here, he took me to his tent, got me a good supper, and I went to bed. I have been assigned to Co. H. Uncle Joseph is out on picket so I have not seen him yet.

The cavalry is not far from here. I hope to get word to George that I am here so he will come and see me. My darling, I want to see you so much. I love you more than I ever thought I did. Do you know how much I love you> You must write as often as you can. It does so much good to receive one of your letters. They are all so kind. You do not know how happy I should be if I could only be with you as I used to be. I think I should try and be better to you than I used to be. You must be careful and [not] work too hsard. Kiss our little darling for me and think I am kissing you for it. Hack sends his respects. Give my love to all the folks. I must stop writing for this time. From your own darling, — Edwin

To my dearest one.

Direct to E. R. Brush, Co. H, 2nd Regiment Volunteers, Washington D. C.

1864: Andrew Russell Barrows to Warren Snow Barrows

The following letter was written by Andrew Russell Barrows (1832-1871) of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was the son of Warren Barrows (1800-1868) and Philinda Smith (1800-1838) of Cheshire county, New Hampshire. He wrote the letter to his older brother, Warren Snow Barrows (1824-1888) of Hinsdale, Cheshire county, New Hampshire.

The subject of the letter pertains to the purchasing of substitutes to meet State enlistment quotas or face a draft. From the letter we learn that the “going rate” for substitutes was rising dramatically by this final year of the Civil War and the urgency was heightened by Gen. Early’s raid into Maryland in the summer of 1864. The letter is datelined from Philadelphia on 28 July 1864—two weeks after the Battle of Fort Stevens on the outskirts of the Nation’s Capitol so it is somewhat surprising that he did not seem to be aware that Early had already been defeated and had withdrawn to the Valley.

A Wartime Sheet Music Cover (LOC)


Philadelphia [Pennsylvania]
July 28, 1864


Yours of the 25th was received this noon. I suppose you have received my letter I wrote the 25th by this time though I have not received every dispatch yet. I wrote [you] to telegraph me as soon as you received the letter and let me know what you thought of taking five men at $700 if I could get them to enlist at Lebanon but 715 is the lowest figure he would agree to deliver them for and take all the risk of their passing [physical] examinations and running away so I thought that the cheapest and best way of getting subs and certainly the safest way. So I thought I would telegraph to you Tuesday so I could get an answer before this man would have a chance to back out or subs bring higher prices so I telegraphed to you Tuesday but I have not received any answer yet. Perhaps you did not get the dispatch. I expected I would get an answer yesterday sure.

I have been to see the man this afternoon. He says he will wait till I get the answer though he would like to know soon. I thought it would be a good chance. I don’t believe subs will be any less while this war lasts. By the way, things look, people are getting alarmed here again about the big raid that are coming again into Maryland and Pennsylvania. That is the news today—that 80,000 strong are marching down the Valley again and crossing over the Potomac. I guess it is true. If so, there will be another great raise of every man called to arms.

I see you have given up the idea of getting subs at present by your letter today. I do not want to criticize you but I think subs will bring $1,000 before winter and more though you must do as you think best about it. Perhaps you would not be drafted anyway. Then you would lose it all—your pay and the bounty, though if you get $300 from the State, $300 more from the town, and $300 from the government, it would not cost you anything at all. That would make $900. The government does pay $300 to three-year’s men here, of course they do. In all other States they pay it to representative subs or enlisted men either. So you could make money in the operation in the end but it would take you the three years before you got all your bounty money.

If you conclude to take these 5 subs, we could not start with them till the middle of next week. Please write soon. Your truly, — Andrew