Gilman J. Page (and others)
August 22, 1862
When company clerks submitted monthly reports to Maine’s Adjutant General John Hodsdon, he became aware of the number of soldiers listed as missing or discharged.
Wanting to assure himself and the State that the reports were accurate, Hodsdon hired Agents for each county to locate missing or discharged soldiers and determine whether they were legitimately away from their units.
In the summer and fall of 1862, Agents such as Gilman Page, in Kennebec County, would visit towns in their jurisdiction to see whether soldiers who were at home had proper documentation for being there, or whether they should be treated as deserters. (See also John Gilman’s reports of August 7, 1862)
The Agents received $2.50 per day, and could recover costs.
Page writes to Hodsdon and provides an invoice with his report for August. He bills the State $22.50 for "Subsistance of myself and horse $7.50 per day."
In most cases, the men Page and the others sought were legally absent from their units. They would be accounted for, but they did not bring about a reward. The Agents would be paid $5.00 for "Fetching in a deserter."
With loyalties to family and friends, and disagreements about the War, some missing men stayed missing.
Isaac Bearce, of Machias, in Washington County, complains to Hodsdon that "Morris Keefe, the man I arrested at Machias was helped away. There is the damndest set of villains in Machias that I have found in the whole County."
Bearce also notes that "This County is so near the British Province that many get away before I can arrest them, besides those bogs and rivers are so plenty that it makes slow work for me to get along."
Agents would also find difficult deserters.
B.F. Parker, of Phillips, reports to Hodsdon on August 12 that a deserter named William Sawyer is in town.
"He threatens death to any one who attempts to take him" warns Parker.
Three days later, William Witham, in Oxford County, offers that "Josiah Whidden of Buckfield, a Deputy Sheriff, can put his hand on him at any time. If you are allowed to arrest, will you send authority through me and I will see that the scoundrel be taken."
On August 20, J. Blake, an Agent in Farmington writes, "That notorious Sawyer of Phillips that threatens death to any man that attempts to arrest him was arrested a few days ago for stealing. The matter was hushed up and he is now at large. I sent a deputy sheriff after him but he is not to be found."
Agents also located men who were home for good reason.
R.S. Rich, of Waldo County, finds Charles F. Fernald in Winterport: "Discharged by disability caused by a wound received at the Battle of Bull Run where said Fernald lost his right arm at the shoulder. Born in Winterport. 21 years old."
Of another man Rich writes, "Discharged by reason of a wound received at Yorktown in the back. Health very poor. Is very feeble. Surgeons were unable to extract the ball – went into his liver and there remains."
- What would be a reasonable pay range for an Agent today?
- Given the risks, why would one take on this kind of a job?