Homefront Years —

    War is expensive

    What had been promised to be a three-month victory became a bloody four-year war.  The longer the war dragged on, the more it cost in loss of human life, taxes levied, and lost money due to inflation. This affected the men on the battlefield, as well as families and businesses back home.

    New Hampshire’s Costs for the 3rd Regiment[2] for one week in August 1861:

    Bounties paid  =                       $10,160
    Enlistment Costs – 1 month =               $5,806
    Rail Road fares. Concord - Newmarket   
    For 155 men @ 2¢/mile: 1 train 10 Aug. 1861 = $510
    Whole bill of the Concord & Portsmouth  RR  =$923
    Board Bills for one week $2,150
    Outfit costs at $120/man   1 Regiment (1,000 men) $120,000
    Enfield Rifles                                                                                        $30,140
    Total     1 regiment  for1 week$169,844

     The end result  —

    was a crippling war debt which went from $30,000 in 1861 to $1,825,000 in 1863.  By 1865 it rose to $13,000,000 or about a tenth of NH total assessed value.  The largest expense was due to exorbitant bounties paid out by towns to fill their quotas after 1863.  Newmarket paid out $10,000 in bounties to 54 volunteers at an average of $200 each.

    The State of New Hampshire mandated that bounties be paid, but didn’t reimburse the towns until after the end of the war.  State coffers were empty as well, so the State levied its first ever income tax.  Staggering inflation saw high costs at home: flour = $20/barrel; cornmeal = $4.25/bag; kerosene = $1.50/gallon; a pair of men’s boots =$ 8. 

    Newmarket Town Debt

    The town debt listed in the 1864-1865 Town Report was standing at $40,700.  Personal loans kept the Town afloat. The highest loan was $2,000 from the Newmarket Savings Bank; the smallest loans of $50 were from Olive Ham and John Robinson.  Loans were also made by families who had men serving in the south: the Bracketts, Chapmans, Frenches, Hams, Kenistons, Stackpoles, Taskers, Tuttles, and Watsons.

    Two widows also made loans to the town:  Deborah (Ham) Gould was the widow of Priv. Joseph Gould who was Killed In Action at Fort Harrison, VA.  Mary (Twombly) Wiley widow of Sgt. Charles Wiley loaned $200 while caring for 5 children.  Her husband died in a Confederate prison.

    (photo: Mary Wiley’s husband, Sgt. Charles H. Wiley who died in a Confederate jail while held as a Prisoner of War)

    Gifts sent to the front

    Newmarket’s Soldiers’ Aid Society held weekly meetings where women furnished soldiers with clothing, hospital items and foodstuffs; and they held letter writing sessions.  Overall their task was “to carefully watch and care for the general well-being of New Hampshire troops, in every possible way.”  There was a joke about clothes sent to the battlefront. “They used to say that clothes came in three sizes: too small, too big and doesn’t fit.”

    The most sought after gifts from home were LETTERS FROM HOME.

    • New boots were always welcome, because the government-issued boots wore out in a matter of weeks due to all the marching, water and mud.

      Another good gift was a pair of dice; one soldier was offered $10 for his set, but he wrote to his parents that he would never sell them at any price.

      Whiskey flasks and snuff boxes were welcome gifts as well.

      The most disappointing gift boxes contained foodstuffs and confectionaries – as they were often spoiled and were rotten by the time they arrived in the camps.

    The Ultimate Family Hardship

    The dead were given battlefield or camp-side burial.  If a family wished to bring their loved one home for burial, the family was responsible for the cost.

    “I should be happy to aid you in recovering the remains of your husband if you wish. In a zinc coffin it would cost from $12 to $15 to New York; from thence would be the express charge.   In a metallic coffin, it would cost from $85 to $90 to get it to Manchester.”   from:  a letter written to a NH widow by Company A Capt. Roger A. Woodbury, 3rd NH Infantry.

    Death on the battlefield meant a boom for the funeral industry. Undertakers began experimenting with different means to preserve bodies that had to be shipped long distances on train cars, often during the hot summer months.  Embalming provided both the military and Northern communities with a scientific, sanitary, and sensible way to move bodies across the land; likewise a demand for hearses spiked nationwide during the war.

    Changes still in effect today are a direct result of the Civil War:

    Abolition of slavery

    Passports (1861)

    The first income tax

    Postal Money Orders

    National banking system

    U.S. Government-issued paper money

    “In God We Trust” on coinage (adopted 1864)

    U.S. Secret Service became part of the Treasury Department

    Mandatory registration for conscription

    The Medal of Honor 

    National Cemeteries

    Formal standards established for physicians

    National Memorial Day (first known as Decoration Day)