Enlisted Soldiers in the
United States Navy
Until the latter part of February,
1864, no credits were allowed by the General Government for enlistments in
the United States Navy. This policy bore with especial severity upon the
maritime States of the North and upon such Massachusetts municipalities as
Gloucester, Salem, Marblehead, Boston, and New Bedford, all of which had
been compelled to fill the entire quotas assigned to them by Army
enlistments, regardless of how many of their sons might have enlisted in the
Navy and who on United States ships of war were doing their part toward the
restoration of the Union.
This injustice was partly rectified by Section 9 of the Act of Congress approved February 24, 1864, which provided that thereafter men enlisting in the Naval service might be "credited to the ward, town, township, precinct, or election district" in which they were enrolled and liable for duty.
But more than 22,000 Massachusetts men had enlisted in the Naval service before the passage of the above act, and for those enlistments the State had received no credit and could receive none under the existing law. Strong appeals were from time to time made to Congress to remedy this injustice.
In the midsummer of 1864 Governor Andrew went in person to Washington to look after the interests of Massachusetts and the welfare of its soldiers. It was during his stay in the Capital that the Act of July 4, 1864, was passed, Section 8 of which provided that all persons in the Naval service of the United States who had entered said service during the war and who had not been credited to the quota of any town, district, ward, or State, by reason of their being in said service prior to February 24, 1864, should be enrolled and credited to the quotas of the town, ward, district, or State in which they respectively resided at the time when they entered the Naval service.
Residence was a fact not always easy to determine in the case of men who had spent most of their lives on the sea, hence in carrying into effect the law allowing Naval credits the Secretary of War decided that the men should be credited to the State in which they enlisted unless it should be proved that they belonged elsewhere.
To obtain information as to what men and how many had enlisted in Massachusetts Adjutant General Schouler, with the consent of Captain Green, U.S.N., commanding the Receiving Ship Ohio at the Charlestown Navy Yard, sent clerks to the Receiving Ship to make a transcript of its enlistment rolls covering the period from the beginning of the war up to February 24, 1864. It was found that between April 13, 1861, and the date just given 22,360 men had enlisted in Massachusetts who had not been credited to the Commonwealth nor to any municipality therein.
Now of these 22,360 men some had enlisted for one year, some for two years, and some for three years. In order to equalize the matter of credits it was decided that the total number of enlistments should be reduced to a three years' basis — that three one year men should count as one, and three two years men should count as two, etc. When thus
reduced to a three years basis the total number of enlistments became reduced from 22,360 to 16,625.
Sworn returns were then called for from the municipal authorities throughout the Commonwealth showing the names of all men who were residents within said municipalities and who had enlisted in the Navy prior to Feb. 24, 1864. After the 9,020 men thus claimed by the various cities and towns had been allowed them, there remained a surplus of 7,605 men, reduced to a three years' basis, whose service belonged to Massachusetts. These men were distributed pro rata among all the cities and towns in the State to apply on their quotas in the autumn of 1864.