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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

On this date in 1862: "I, William Cowhey, do solemnly swear..."

It was on this date in 1862 (one-hundred and fifty-one years ago) that my great-great-grandfather enlisted in the U.S. Regular (Union) Army 5th Artillery. He (along with his brother Thomas) had served three months of volunteer service beginning in April of 1861. William Cowhey would go on to serve out this additional three-year term and receive an honorable discharge in 1865, about three months before the Civil War came to a close.

The document below (William's recruitment contract dated January 30, 1862) is important to me for several reasons. Not only is it the document that set him off on his three years of service to the Union during one of the most trying times in our nation's history, but it has his personal signature, lists his place of birth, lists his occupation before the war, and also describes several of his physical features.

Before I had this document in my possession, I knew that William had been born in the state of New York, but could only guess that he might have been born in New York City. This provided confirmation.

I was also interested to learn that he had been employed as a boatman before his term of military service. After the war, the railroad was his employer.

It was also fun to see that he had the dark hair, light eyes, and short stature that are so common within this branch of my family tree. Now, if only I could find a Matthew Brady portrait of him!
William Cowhey's recruitment contract dated January 30, 1862 is part of his
Compiled Military Service Record from the collection of the National Archives
(Click to enlarge)

Here is the text of the recruitment contract as I have transcribed it:
"State of Pennsylvania
"Town of Pottsville
"I, William Cowhey, born in New York City in the State of New York aged twenty-eight years, and by occupation a boatman do hereby acknowledge to have voluntarily enlisted this thirtieth day of January 1862, as a soldier in the Army of the United States of America, for the period of three years, unless sooner discharged by proper authority: Do also agree to accept such bounty, pay, rations, and clothing, as are, or may be, established by law. And I, William Cowhey, do solemnly swear, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the United States of America, and that I will serve them honestly and faithfully against all their enemies or opposers whomsoever; and that I will observe and obey the orders of the President of the United States, and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to the Rules and Articles of War.  
"Sworn and subscribed to, at Pottsville Pa. this thirtieth day of January 1862 before A.V. [unsure of surname] Capt. 5th Arty. Rectg. Off.    William Cowhey [Signature of William Cowhey]
"I certify, on honor, that I have carefully examined the above named Recruit, agreeably to the General Regulations of the Army, and that in my opinion he is free from all bodily defects and mental infirmity, which would, in any way, disqualify him from performing the duties of a soldier. [signed] John I. [unsure of surname], Asst. [unsure of title] USA  
"I certify, on honor, that I have minutely inspected the Recruit, William Cowhey previously to his enlistment, and that he was entirely sober when enlisted; that, to the best of my judgment and belief, he is of lawful age; and that, in accepting him as duly qualified to perform the duties of an able-bodied soldier, I have strictly observed the Regulations which govern the recruiting service. This soldier has grey eyes, black hair, dark complexion, is five feet four inches high. [signed] H.V. [unsure of surname] Capt. 5th Arty. Recruiting Officer"

Key to Transcription

Black = pre-printed on form
Blue = handwritten
Red = not in record; my notes


Jacqi Stevens said...

What a treasure to have, Lisa--and a nice way to commemorate his service!

Ellie said...

Nice find Lisa! Hope you find that photo.

jrc127 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
jrc127 said...

Lisa, thanks for sharing this. I have been accepted into the SUVCW based on William's service. A "boatman?" I've built boats and sailed boats (and grounded boats)maybe now I know why I like boats.

James Cowhey

Lisa / Smallest Leaf said...

That's great, James! I'm a member of the DUVCW.

This is the only document I have listing William as a boatman, and it was very interesting to learn this. I had wondered what originally brought the Cowheys to Pottsville and when and why they came. I'm having trouble locating them in New York and finding their arrival date into PA.

William later worked for the railroad, but before the railroads were put into place to move coal out of the region for sale into the bigger cities, they used canals and boats. This was the precursor to the railroad and probably the first job that Patrick and his sons held in the area.

the honeymoontrail.blogspot.com said...

Lisa, I loved the way you color coded with blue for the handwritten part and red for his signature or when unsure of something. I'm transcribing the letter of my gg grandfather. Sometimes I can't read his writing.

Lisa / Smallest Leaf said...

Thanks for your comment, Grant. I also use green to indicate words that are stamped onto documents. See Tierney family treasure: Patrick's naturalization papers, 1876 for an example.

cindy said...

Lisa - I'm the "voice" behind @DauOfUnionVeter on twitter. I've enjoyed reading your blog very much! I have such a crazy soft spot for the Civil War and it's veterans. I can tell from your writing you do too! I'll be back often to see your posts!
Fellow DUVCW member - Cindy

Lisa / Smallest Leaf said...

Hello Cindy -

For some reason I had missed your comment until now. Thanks for stopping by!

Yes, we do share a "soft spot" for the Civil War and its veterans. I plan to write more while we as a nation focus on the 150th anniversary of the "Great Rebellion" (as my Union ancestors called it). So many stories to share...

Thanks again for reading. Keep in touch!



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