Friday, April 15, 2011

Cavendish Semiquincentennial: Civil War Era

On April 13, 1861 the first shots of the Civil War rang out with the firing on Fort Sumter in Charleston, SC. On April 15, President Lincoln appealed to the states for soldiers to suppress the rebellion. Whereas the laws of the United States have been for some time past and now are opposed and the execution thereof obstructed in the States of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas by combinations too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings or by the powers vested in the marshals by law:__Now, therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, . . . hereby do call forth, the militia of the several States of the Union to the aggregate number of 75,000 in order to suppress said combinations and to cause the laws to be duly executed.__. . . I appeal to all loyal citizens to favor, facilitate, and aid this effort to maintain the honor, the integrity, and the existence of our National Union, and the perpetuity of popular government, and to redress wrongs already long enough endured."

Governor Erastus Fairbanks replied that Vermont would do its "full duty" to help preserve the Union. As you’ll see in the information below, at a Cavendish town meeting on April 30 of that year, Cavendish took up the matter of supporting the “Cavendish Light Infantry.” Governor Ryland Fletcher, who presided over the meeting was the 24th Governor of the state from 1856 to 1858.

Governor Fletcher was born in Cavendish. In addition to working on his father's farm, he taught in the district school during the winter months. At age eighteen, he joined the state militia, attaining the rank of Brigadier-General. In 1854 he was elected Lieutenant Governor as the nominee of the Whig, Free Soil, and Liberty Parties, and in 1855 he was reelected-this time on the Republican ticket with Governor Stephen Royce. In 1856, he undertook a successful campaign for governor as the Republican nominee, and he was reelected in 1857. Fletcher strongly favored biennial rather than annual gubernatorial elections and was a tireless worker in the anti-slavery and temperance causes. After leaving office, he served in the Vermont legislature and was a member of the State Constitutional Convention in 1870. He is buried in the Cavendish Cemetery on High Street.

Prior to the War, Cavendish became part of the eastern trunk of the Underground Railroad between Brattleboro and Montpelier. In 1857, famous abolitionist John Brown came to Cavendish in hopes of securing some of the $20,000 the Vermont Legislature had approved to support anti slavery settlements in Kansas. Although Fletcher was governor at this time, his request for funds was denied. An account of Brown’s visit in the May 7, 1869 edition of the Rutland Herald, was described as follows:

"... Hair closely cut, beard neatly shaven, tight, stiff stock around his neck, no collar, or dickey, closely fitting swallow-tailed coat ..." the newspaper described. "As soon as it was known that 'John Brown' was stopping in our village, all manifested a desire to see and hear the man ... Notice was given that he would meet the people at the school house, and at the appointed hour an audience assembled.

"We introduced the modest and unassuming old man ... He went on and told the tale of his struggles with the despotism of slavery ... We little thought then how soon 'John Brown's body' would be mouldering in the ground, but his soul was even at that hour 'marching on.'"

In the War of the Union. — The first action taken by the town in reference to the late civil war was at a town meeting held April 30, 1861, Governor Ryland Fletcher presiding. It was then voted to raise $2,000 to liquidate all obligations incurred by Captain Tuttle in raising the Cavendish Light Infantry, and to pay the board of the men and furnish support to their families. Another loan of $3,000 was authorized in August, 1862, to pay bounties for nine months' volunteers, and in November of the following year a bounty of $200 was offered for volunteers, which was subsequently increased to $300, and another loan of $4,000 negotiated. During the latter part of 1863 the bounty was increased to $500, to make it possible to fill the town quota, and the selectmen were authorized to raise $10,000 to pay the expense of future calls for volunteers. In January, 1865, another loan of $7,000 was made, and in 1867 $15,000 was borrowed to pay the balance of the war debt. From a compilation made by the Hon. Calvin French we give the following figures : Cavendish furnished to the armies of the Union twenty men in response to the first call for troops for three months' service. In the Second, Eleventh, Fourth, Seventh aud Fifth Vermont Regiments, forty-two men for three years' service. These volunteers received no bounties Forty-two men were furnished under the nine months call. For subsequent calls fifty-three men were furnished for three years, and thirty for one year, making a grand total of 187 volunteers furnished by the town, whose terms of service would amount to 3521^ years for one man. Of these 125 volunteers received bounties amounting to $43,550, the others being recruited before it was necessary to offer a bounty. As early as 1867 a movement was inaugurated to erect a soldiers' monument in Cavendish, but it was not successful. In May, 1883, the present secretary of war, Redfield Proctor, presented his native town with a fine white marble monument, suitably inscribed and surmounted with an eagle. The town at this time appropriated $1,000 to grade the lot and pay the expense of the dedication of the monument. History of Windsor County, edited by Lewis Cass Aldrich and Frank R. Holmes, 1891

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