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Civil War/how officers were named and ability to leave service


QUESTION: I'm researching the interesting and seemingly unusual civil war service record of a member of my churches congregation. His name was William Miller. He was named as the 1st Leiutentant of the 27th Maine Infantry Regiment which was newly formed in the fall of 1862. He seemd to have had a role in the formation of regiment as records show him advocating for a delay of several hours in the instituting of a draft to fill a half dozen or so empty slots so as to make a last ditch effort at finding volunteers to fill the slots rather than a draft, which was successful. I beleive 1862 was the last year States were permitted to fill their own militia quotas, with the federal government taking over the draft responsibility in 1863. I also get the impression that officer commissions and promotions might be given by the State Governor, sometimes as political patronage. William Miller was a local lawyer. I know of no prior military training he had prior to  serving in the 27th. Would it be possible his commission was due to such patronage? Secondly, I found it curious that he only served with 9 months unit for 3 months (9/10/62 to 12/12/62) before resigning. Was it so easy for even an officer to resign after only 3 months in a time of war? It is possible that his wife became pregnant before he left as it is reported that a second daughter (he already had one) was born circa 1863. During that time he was stationed at Lee's Arlington estate.Even more curious was that after the war the local post of the veterans group named the post after him, leading me to wonder why he would be so honored after serving only 3 months and having never been in combat or fired a shot. Any thoughts?

ANSWER: I am sorry I just received your question and I am afraid I don't have the time to provide an appropriate response. But, I will say many officers started their own units and therefor could/ would leave as they saw fit.  As I am sure you are aware the soldiers of that era could usually select their own officers. There are many accounts were the men became upset over their company commanders may-be they felt he was not taking care of them; not ensuring they received rations or supplies or made poor judgements or they just did not like him and they elected someone else.  What usually happened was the officer who had originally started the unit just went home. Who would want the embarrassment of becoming the subordinate?   There are stories of where they went home started another unit and went back to the war.

Then of course there were these who would pay for a substitute and go home.

Yes, many officers were there by appointments and apparently the richer you were the higher up the appointment even to general officers.

As to your man, I would question why he resigned.  Don't you have access to his records?  Was he someone special in civilian life?  Come to think I did have time to answer you.  If you feel this did not answer your question please let me know.   Either way please let me know what you find out.

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QUESTION: Thank you for your response. It mostly answered my confusion. It seems it was not at all unusual for an officer to resign after such a short time even though it was wartime. The records I have for Miller only indicate that he did resign 3 months after forming the unit, not why. It just lists, name, regiment, rank, date of enlistment and departure, and "resigned". If he had obtained a substitute wouldn't that be reflected in his record instead of "resigned"? As a lawyer in a small Maine village he was probably a big fish in a small pond, but not otherwise a notable VIP.

Thanks again.

No, a substitute would and was an embarrassment by this point of the war; plus that would not the kind of thing reflected on that document.  Was there an election of officers?  If you have not checked that I would,  but that would not make any sense since you say they named the post after him.  Do you have access to the local paper from after the war, may-be it would explain why they honored him?  Does the post records still exist? Is there a town historian?

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Gary Adams


If it has to do with the War of Northern Aggression, I have usually been able to answer them all.


Assisted editor Southorn Reenactor, consultant with several books and magazines.

Army of Northern Virginia

Assisted editor Southron Reenactor, consultant with several books and magazines to include Coles.

I have three degrees, sadly not in History.

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