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1863 December 5: How Wisconsin Regiments Voted, Including Using a Boot for the Ballot Box

December 8, 2013

The following articles are from The Polk County Press, December 5, 1863.  For reference, the 2nd Wisconsin Cavalry included the Saint Croix Rangers (Company D); the Saint Croix Rifles were Company F of the 1st Wisconsin Infantry; the 4th Wisconsin Cavalry included the Hudson City Guards (Company G); and the 10th Battery of Wisconsin Light Artillery was composed of mostly northwest Wisconsin men.

HOW THE 2ND CAVALRY VOTED.—Captain Bently [sic],¹ of La Crosse, writes the particulars of the election in the 2nd cavalry, describing the modus operandi² as follows.  They had no ballot box, and he says:

A camp in the woods with the present army allowance of baggage, is a poor place to find boxes suitable for such purposes.  In our case one could not be found, but we have long since, in the army, learned to surmount difficulties, and we hit upon the following :  A cavalry boot nailed by one of the straps to the table, with a cover attached, was just the thing.  The polls were now declared open, and voting commenced.  Our next difficulty, and almost a dilemma, was to know how, in closing the polls for dinner to lock our ballot boot and secure the votes cast from intrusion.  To place a guard over the box (boot) perhaps would have been military, but was not according to “chapter 11.”  We constituted and agreed that the chairman of the board to whom the boot belonged, should “lock the box” by inserting his foot and wearing it until the polls should again  be opened!  This proved a success. the ballots kept safe; election over; votes cast.  The “copperheads,” “waxed we they there them,” by a unanimous Union vote of thirty-three.”

VOTE OF CO. F, 1ST WISCONSIN.—A letter from Co. F. gives the result of the election as far as that company is concerned :  The whole number of votes polled for Polk county was nine—all straight Union ticket except on sheriff.  KIMBALL received eight votes.

— The boys in the 4th Wisconsin Cavalry, at Baton Rouge, polled thirteen votes for the straight Union ticket, except on District Attorney, Mr. FREELAND receiving one vote.

— The election of some of the County officers will be decided by the returns from the 10th Battery.  As the vote stands, as far as heard from, every candidate on the Union ticket is elected.

1.  Charles S. Bentley, from La Crosse, Company D’s third captain. He won’t officially become the captain until June 27, 1864.
2.  A Latin phrase approximately translated as “method of operation.” We are used to hearing it used in TV crime dramas when the detectives talk about the criminal’s M.O., or modus operandi.

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