Woodman letter to Hodsdon p1

Woodman letter to Hodsdon p2

Manson Woodman

Farmington Falls

July 21, 1862

Businessmen such as Manson Woodman, of Farmington Falls, acted on opportunities to make money as they arose. A carpenter, Woodman, 42, realized that Maine was sending more than two dozen regiments south to fight in the Civil War.

By Woodman’s calculation, each regiment needed drums to sound out the marching cadences, accompany the regimental bands, and serve as communications tools.

But because he did not think of the idea first, he looked for a competitive edge to secure a contract to make drums for the State.

Increase Blake, also from Farmington Falls, had the first drum contract, signed in May, 1861.

In September, 1861, Woodman writes the first of a series of letters to Maine Adjutant General John Hodsdon, offering to beat Blake’s contract price for the drums. Blake was receiving $8 to $10 per drum. Woodman proposes to make them for $6.

Maine, Woodman writes, could save a "handsome %" for the same size and quality of drum.

Blake’s contract, negotiated by Maine’s Assistant Quartermaster General, Col. E. K. Harding, and approved by Hodsdon, has not expired. Neither Harding nor Hodsdon offer a contract to Woodman.

In July, 1862, Woodman makes another approach. He writes again to Hodsdon and appeals to political party affiliation, claiming that he has been a member of the Republican Party since its founding, six years earlier.

Still, no drum contract comes to Woodman.

He writes at least twice more, as late as April, 1863, asking for consideration.

Increase Blake remains the drum contractor.

He, too, corresponds with Hodsdon and Harding, by mail and by telegram. He never discloses his political party preference.


  • Did Maine have laws in 1861 relating to bidding for public contracts?
  • Does Maine have laws regulating bidding for public contracts?
  • If Harding and Blake were friends, how might that make a difference as to how Woodman was treated?
  • What factors should be considered in regulating bidding on public contracts?
  • Why might businesses contribute to both the Republican and Democratic Parties?

Manson Woodman Transcript

Farmington Falls July 21, 1862

Gen. J. H. Hodsdon

Dear Sir

I have made preparation to furnish you with some drums which are complete for use. Do not forget me for I feel that I am as worthy of patronage as Friend Blake and I have done as much for the Republican party have ever been its advocate since it became a party knowing as I do it cares to be a righteous one. Gen I ask patronage only as a regards the article of drums. if you want references you can have them. So far as office I do not ask it. But as drum manufacturer with hope for a share of your patronage.

Yours Most Respectfully W Woodman Farmington Falls, Me