Amanuensis To Some Military Past: Francis Marion Minor and the 1863 Federal Draft

Harper's Weekly, 14 March 1863

The conscription bill enrolls all the males of the loyal States (including Indians and negroes) between the ages of 20 and 45 into a national militia, and empowers the President to call them into the service of the United States for three years or the war.

Congress has wisely empowered the Executive to receive a sum of $300 from any drafted man who prefers paying to serving.  This sum, it is believed, will always secure a substitute.  Clergymen, professional men, large merchants and manufacturers, and others who are of more use to the country while prosecuting their various peaceful avocations than they would be if forced to carry a musket, will thus be exempted, while the class of men which take their place will receive money enough to keep their families as comfortably as if they had remained at home.

Under the operation of the Act the President will be enabled to recruit our armies to the full standard when the time of the nine months’ men expires, and the hopes of the rebels–which have been re-echoed by the correspondents of disloyal journals–that our armies would melt away in the spring will be thoroughly defeated.

This week’s Civil War and Reconstruction Era reading assignment included this report on the legislative achievements of the Thirty-seventh Congress.  *ding*  A little bell rang in my head.  I rushed upstairs to my Minor Satchel, and gingerly opened it’s mouth.  Carefully I searched among its contents, and found IT: a letter, previously sorted and stored in an annotated acid-free sleeve.  AHA! I do have a personal connection to this tidbit of Yankee news.

The Letter

I John Philan of Waynesburg Greene County Pa. hereby certify that I as the agent of Francis Marion Minor of Greene Township Greene County Penna procured William H MKee of Allegheny County Pa to act a s a substitute under the Draft of last summer, for the Minor who was drafted under that Draft, as he is also under the present Draft as I am informed.  I paid the money to the said M’Kee for the said Minor, and saw him sworn into the service of the United States in the Company of Capt Cru in the 168 Regimentof Pennsylvania Militia and procured from Capt Cru a certificate of the fact which I subsequently returned to said Minor.  My recollection is that the said M’Kee represented himself to be over the age of forty five, which was my opinion from his appearance.                                                                         J. Philan

I Christian C Rushe of Greene Township Greene County Penna hereby certify that I was drafted under the Draft of last summer and served my time out in the Company Capt Cru 168 Regt Penna Militia and was regularly discharged on the 25 day of July A.D. 1863  I knew John (William is written and crossed out) H. M’Kee above named as a member of said Company, and know that he served out his time in said company and was regularly discharged at the same time I was My recollection is that the said M’Kee represented his age to be fifty five years.

These statements were sworn before the Justice of the Peace on 8 August 1863.

Company A, 168th Regiment Pennsylvania Infantry records show that the said Private John M’Kee was mustered out with the company on July 25, 1863.  There is no record of Francis Marion Minor serving at any point during the civil war.

My conclusion? Francis Minor paid a John M’Kee to substitute for him in the Federal conscription of 1862.  Further more, my great-great-grandfather Minor was one of 292,441 men living north of the Mason-Dixon line, who received  draft notices the summer of 1863, and he was one of the 52,288 whose service was commuted.  In fact, of the nearly 300,000 men called up only 9,881 actually were successfully drafted into Union service.  (Final Report of the Provost Marshal, Journal of the House of Representatives, 39th Cong., 1st Sess., 1866, vol.4, House Exec. Doc. 1, pp. 175, 184, 199, 212.)

So many questions float to the surface of my mind:  When was the first conscription declared and what were its exemptions?  What did Francis Minor do during the Civil War that gave him the capital to pay agent John Philan to find  a substitute soldier?  Why wouldn’t he want to serve?  Who was this John M’Kee, who needed the money Francis Minor could afford to part with?  What sort of man was he?

I will pay close attention to the remaining, untranscribed satchel contents, hoping for further clues about the life and times of Francis Marion Minor.

Tombstone Tuesday: John Pearson (Pierson) Minor

Veteran, War of 1812
—–John Pearson Minor was born in Middlesex, New Jersey on 7 November 1791.  He moved with his parents, Abia and Margaret Pearson Minor, to Greene County, Pennsylvania in 1796.  The War of 1812 veteran remained in the Whitely Creek area for the duration of his life, serving as a financial lender, land speculator, cattle dealer, and farmer.  He married Hannah McClelland about 1815, and had two children, Abia born 3 July 1816, and  Robert born 11 April 1817.  After her death in 28 April 1817, John married Isabella McClelland  on 24 September 1817,  and together they had 9 children:  Hannah (6 June 1818-?); Mary Ann (19 January 1820-?);   Margaret (5 November 1821- ?);   Rebecca (29 November 1823-5 July 1891);  Samuel Pierson (23 August 1825–27 August 1909);  Francis Marion (23 November 1828–4 August 1913);  Sarah Ellen (10 September 1833–21 October  1862);  Frances Caroline  (9 May 1833–21 October 1862).  Isabella died at home on 14 August 1863.
John P. Minor left the family farm to his son Francis Marion on the condition that he be allowed to remain at the farm for the duration of his life–at no cost. This Minor patriarch died at home on 12 September 1874 and was buried in the cemetery of  John Corbley Baptist Church, Garard’s Fort, Pennsylvania.
 

John Corbley Baptist Church, Garards Fort, Pennsylvania

 

 

 

Sunday’s Obituary: Donald Corbley Minor

My mother was very sad, but to my pre-adolescent mind the airplane ride she got to take was worth whatever calamity summoned her to Pittsburgh. Sometime later I realized that my grandpa would not be in Waynesburg to give hugs in 1965.  Sometime later I felt the sadness: My mom’s daddy, Donald Corbley Minor, was dead.

Sorting Saturday: Life’s Remains

People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

Maya Angelou

I will forget what my grandmother Kerma said to me during childhood. I will forget more memories of what she did during our visits.  I will always remember the way I felt Thursday morning as I left her Health Center room.

“Who are you? Oh, yes, you are Kay.  Marilyn’s daughter.  And you are Caitlin, Kay’s daughter.” In spite of having to cite this familial connection at least six times, my grandmother’s smile lit up her corner of the world throughout our forty minute visit.  After we hugged goodbye, she leaned back on her pillow, put her hand to her chest and coquettishly admonished, “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do!”  To which I replied, “Leaves me a lot of wiggle room, Grandmother!  All I have to do is smile and I will get away with anything!”   Such a belly laugh, coming from a tiny 105 year old lady, prompted everyone within earshot to join in!

My grandmother Kerma taught me the value of a smile and so, as I sit among the contents of six boxes-worth of her life, I harvest the way this brown-eyed lady made me feel–grateful, happy, content.  The sorting and storing somehow seems less onerous; the sadness at her decline and estate dispersal remains in check.

I gathered blank address labels–some small and some large–and a pen. Three different sized clear containers stood ready for the storing.   The 14″x11″x3″ rectangle will hold the old photographs and large clippings; the 14″x7″x5″ box will hold letters and small clippings; the 11″x6″x3″ container will hold small photographs.  I have three containers of each size labeled either 1900-1954, 1955-1984 or 1984-2010.  These time frames correspond roughly to the three generations of mementos that I have before me.

The letters have been studied and grouped by date, and sometimes read one more time before being nestled in the appropriate box.  Photographs have been examined, and notes made to find out just who is the man in the second row, third from the right.  High school graduation programs have been poured over to spot Grandmother’s name and a hush fell in my brain when I touched my parent’s wedding invitation. The vases, plates and odd items have been unwrapped, inventoried and wrapped again, and returned to the moving boxes–which now bear labels declaring their contents.

When my siblings arrive for Thanksgiving we will be able to choose where we start remembering.  Treasures can be dispersed yet again as my brothers return home. Then all of us will have tokens of Kerma’s life to help summon up the way she made us feel: content, happy and grateful for a smile.

Do you know the value of a smile?

Wedding Wednesday: The Marriage of Marilyn and Norman

This yellowed newspaper announcement was carefully preserved by a relative, and sent to me when they cleaned out their clutter.  Fortunately.  My parents divorced when I was a young adult, and their wedding momentos became casualties of the fight.  I am grateful to pack rats who unload their goodies to subsequent generations of pack rats.  And to those of you who are divorced, a tiny plea to preserve memories of your relationship’s beginnings.  Someday your children and grandchildren will want to see where they came from.