George W. Dyer letter on soldier recruitment, 1862
By the winter of 1862, the supply of eager volunteers for the armed services had dwindled considerably, and small Maine towns found it difficult to find enough volunteers to meet the quotas apportioned to them under the most recent Federal call for troops.
If the towns failed to meet their quotas it was up to the selectmen to make up the deficiency by "drafting" their fellow townsmen -- which the selectmen were naturally reluctant to do. Hardest hit were the small fishing communities of Washington County, the easternmost and poorest region of the state.
George Dyer, who was a native of the area, was sent to visit the "Delinquent" towns an determine the truth of the local selectmen's plaintive appeals that they could not meet their quotas.
He set off in November 1862. On December 8, 1862, Dyer reached the village of Columbia where he was caught in a snowstorm.
He wrote, "Haven't been out of the house for three days, nor seen a passer by for that time...there are no temptations here."
At the end of his survey, he reported to Adjutant General John L. Hodsdon that the Washington County towns had not really failed to meet their quotas: "On the whole I am satisfied that these towns have not been deficient in patriotism, but are unfortunately situated, and really have done about all that they can do. This County has furnished many men for the Navy of whom no account has been or can be rendered. In consideration of what the County has done, it would gratify me, if the account could be cancelled, or some means adopted to raise the men without draft."
View additional information about this item on the Maine Memory Network.