Sunday, November 08, 2009

On a Rant About Time Off and Pay

Like many Americans throughout history, the Civil War soldier had his frustrations with government. Leroy D. House was no exception. A clockmaker from Bristol, Conn., House served as a captain in the 108th U.S. Colored Infantry. On duty guarding Confederate prisoners at Rock Island, Ill., during the holidays, he made the best of life far away from the front lines in sub-zero temperatures — but couldn't resist venting in this excerpt from a letter penned on Dec. 24, 1864, to friends at home in Connecticut:
"Congress has adjourned over the holidays, and the members have gone home to receive their Christmas & New Years Presents. They ought to give the army power to adjourn over the Holidays and let the soldier go home. But we do not expect the same privileges as citizens. A member of Congress when he thinks his pay is insufficient can vote himself more, while the soldiers must wait with patience for Congress to do him justice. We expect an increase of pay before Congress adjourns in the spring. We view it as an act of justice, but if the powers that be do not see fit to do it, we shall not find fault with Uncle Sam, but try to bring our expenses within our means. Nearly all Civil officers of the government as well as all clerks and Provost Marshals have had their pay raised since the commencement of the present war, while the officers in active service receive no more to day than he did four years ago when all of the necessaries of life cost but little more than one third the present price."
This letter is part of the collection of the Connecticut Historical Society.

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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

"Villain Damn Him"

Spent part of this evening reading the Civil War diary of William A. Skiles, published under the title Letters to Home. Skiles was a private in Company G of the Fifth Illinois Cavalry. His captain, Benjamin B. Hopkins, is one of the soldiers I am currently researching. I found a great reference to Hopkins, which will be included in his forthcoming profile. I also found an interesting reference to Clement Vallandigham, the Ohio Democratic congressman booted out of the Buckeye State into Confederate territory for his outspoken support of states rights and the withdrawal of Southern states from the Union. Pvt. Skiles refers to Vallandigham (shown here in this portrait from the Library of Congress) as "Villain damn him," a pithy word play on the congressman's last name.

A Google search reveals one other reference to this nickname, made by a soldier in the Ninth New Jersey Infantry and noted in Beneath the Starry Flag.

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