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1865 January 21: General Hancock Raising a Corps of Veterans

January 26, 2015

Near the war’s end, re-enlistments of veteran soldiers dwindled.  The U.S. government tried to entice discharged veterans—who were not subject to the draft—to re-enlist by creating a special all-volunteer corps.  This First Veteran Corps was to be commanded by war hero Winfield Scott Hancock.  The attempt was somewhat successful at first, but was ultimately a failure.  The following article appeared in the January 21, 1865, issue of The Prescott Journal.

The Veteran First Corps.

By the accompanying communication from Provost Marshal General FRY [James B. Fry] to Lt. Col. LOVELL [Charles S. Lovell], and by him communicated to the Governor, that the principal obstacle in the way of procuring recruits for the Corps of Veterans organizing under Gen. HANCOCK [Winfield S. Hancock], has been removed.  Men can now be enlisted, credited and organized into companies within this State, and we hope enlistments of veterans will progress rapidly, so that Wisconsin may be worthily represent in this Corps which will be “First” in character, as well as in name, and will rank in the United States army as the “Old Guard” did in NAPOLEON’S, and will be under the lead of one of the most gallant officers in the United States.

The inducements to veterans to enter the ranks of this corps are now so superior, both as respects honor and bounty to those held out elsewhere, that we should suppose its ranks would be immediately filled up.

Any Veteran, who has served two years, has been honorably discharged, and is physically qualified, can enlist in the Corps for one, two, or three years.

Those enlisting will receive from the Government a bounty of $300 as soon as they are mustered in, and, in addition, the regular instalments [sic] from the Government, in proposition to the period of enlistment, as follows :  $100 for one year’s service, one-third paid on enlistment ;  $200 for two years’ service, one-third on enlistment ;  $300 for three years’ service, one-third on enlistment.  In addition to this the men are entitled to whatever local bounties they can obtain.

The following is the letter from Gen. FRY :

WASHINGTON, D. C., Jan. 6, 1865. }

Lieut. Col. Chas. S. Lovell, Acting Assistant Provost Marshal General, Madison, Wisconsin :

COLONEL :  Instead of forwarding recruits for General Hancock’s Corps individually and before enlistment to Washington, you are directed to authorize your Provost Marshals to receive and enlist such recruits and forward them to the general rendezvous.  After they arrive there and enough men have been enlisted to form a company of legal strength, you will organize them into companies, muster them into the United States service, and send each company, as soon as mustered to Washington.  They will not receive the Government bounty until they arrive here ;  but local bounties may be paid them before they leave the State.

The officers of the 1st Corps detailed on recruiting service in your State will report to you, and conduct themselves in the procuration of recruits under your direction.

The time for organising the “First Corps” has been extended to a time not yet fixed.

Very respectfully, &c.,
.       (Signed)            .JAMES B. FRY,
.                             .Provost Marshal General.

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