January 16, 1863
Rufus Crockett was a printer with a young family when he enlisted in 1861 in Company B of the 3rd Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment. In the regiment’s formative months, Crockett, 28, proved to be valuable, and he was promoted to Corporal and then Sergeant.
The 3rd Maine was busy early, fighting at the First Battle of Bull Run, and at Bailey's Crossing, and then in the Union Army's Peninsular Campaign in Virginia, including battles at Yorktown, Williamsburg, Seven Pines, White Oak Swamp, Malvern Hill, the second battle of Bull Run, Chantilly, and Fredericksburg.
(See Moses Lakeman, 1863-1-3.)
Crockett stayed busy, too.
"I have been in every Battle which the Regt has been in and how well I have discharged my duty while under fire, I leave others to tell you," he writes to Maine Governor Abner Coburn in January, 1863.
A month earlier, at Fredericksburg, Company B’s Captain, Edwin Bachelder, had been dismissed from army for cowardice under fire. His position had yet to be filled when Crockett, though only a Sergeant, petitions Gov. Coburn for a promotion.
"I feel deserving and competent to have a commission," he writes.
"I do not apply for a commission for the Honor it brings, but to somewhat lighten my load on the march, and increase my pay which I much need, continued service in the field for twenty months has somewhat broken me down in health," Crockett adds.
The Governor declined to promote Crockett to be company Captain.
He did, however, allow Crockett to be discharged from the 3rd Maine to accept a commission as a 1st Lieutenant in the Corps D’Afrique, units that were later re-designated as United States Colored Troops. There, Crockett was later promoted to the rank of Captain in Company K of the 81st U.S. Colored Troops, who served garrison duty at Port Hudson, Louisiana.
- Where were replacement officers usually found, within the Army, or in the civilian population?
- Was the promotion system for the Union usually merit-based or experience-based?