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Captain Dawes and His Imaginary Servant | Wisconsin Historical Society

Historical Essay

Captain Dawes and His Imaginary Servant

A Wisconsin Civil War Story

Captain Dawes and His Imaginary Servant | Wisconsin Historical Society

In July 1861, Captain Rufus R. Dawes of Company K, the 6th Wisconsin Infantry, writes to his sister about a befuddling experience he had after arriving at Camp Randall for training.

EnlargeSimeon Mills, WHI 27668.

Simeon Mills, 1856

Madison, Wisconsin. View the original source document: WHI 27668

EnlargeCamp Randall, WHI 5601.

Soldiers at Camp Randall, 1861

Madison, Wisconsin. View the original source document: WHI 4226

EnlargeCamp Randall, WHI 5601.

Camp Randall, 1861

Madison, Wisconsin. Reproduction of John Gaddis's sketch "Old Camp Randall, Madison, Wisconsin." View the original source document: WHI 5601

From Original Text: "I remember that when I took my pay roll to that excellent gentleman, Simeon Mills, the Paymaster, he said,

"I see, Captain, that you have omitted to put in your servant."

I said, "I have no servant." Mr. Mills said, "I think you certainly have, as the Regulations require it."

Seeing that he knew more about the subject than I did, I made no further objection to a servant's going on the pay roll.

This was one of the farces of our military system. My treacherous memory forbids my recording here, whether my servant was described as having green eyes and red hair or red eyes and green hair; but I think the old pay roll will disclose a very remarkable descriptive list of this imaginary person.

A Captain of infantry had sixty dollars per month as pay and sixty-eight dollars per month as "allowances."

Thirteen dollars per month and thirty cents per day (one ration) was allowed for a servant, and one dollar and twenty cents (four rations) was allowed for subsistence.

But the Captain was obliged to certify that he had a servant, and to describe him.

Few Captains had servants, but all had one hundred and twenty-eight dollars per month."

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How to Cite

For the purposes of a bibliography entry or footnote, follow this model:

Dawes, Rufus R. '"Service With the Sixth Wisconsin Volunteers," Chapter 1, page 14.