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Understanding the exemptions

Henry H. Bishop was a 23-year-old farmer in Richmond, Chittenden County, Vermont, in 1863.

VtMilitiaAnd, the book said, he was “Exempt sec 9.”

Safford Fay was a 39-year-old farmer in the same town at the same time.

And, the book said, he was “Exempt sec 9.”

Julius Ransome was 38; his occupation was listed as landlord.

And, the book said, he too was “Exempt sec 9.”1

The book title tells part of the story. “Enrolled Militia,” it reads, “Town of Richmond.” The entries in the book were made in 1863-1864. But for the rest of the story, you have to look to the law.

It turns out that, in 1862, Vermont updated and changed its statute as to militia service. Under the statute:

Each and every able-bodied male citizen of this State, who is, or shall be, of the age of eighteen years, and under the age of forty-five years, (except as hereinafter excepted,) shall severally and respectively be enrolled in the militia of this State; and also those who shall from time to time arrive at the age of eighteen years, or being of the age of eighteen years and under the age of forty-five years, shall come to reside within this State.2

The book itself — and others like it in towns across Vermont — was kept because of § 3 of the law, which required that “The selectmen of each town and common councilmen of each city in this state, shall, in the month of January, 1863, at the expense of such town or city, enroll alphabetically, in a book to be deposited and kept in the office of the clerk of such town or city for that purpose, the names of all persons liable to enrollment, residing within the limits of such town or city…”3

There were several categories of men exempt from militia service:

The Vice President of the United States; the officers, judicial and executive, of the Government of the United States; the members of both Houses of Congress, and their respective officers; all custom house officers, with their clerks; all post officers and stage drivers who are employed in the care and conveyance of the mail of the post office of the United States; all ferrymen necessarily employed at any ferry on the post roads; all inspectors of exports; all pilots; all mariners actually employed in the sea-service of any citizen or merchant within the United States; postmasters, assistant postmasters and clerks regularly employed and engaged in post offices; all persons while in the military or naval service of the United States; all telegraph operators while actually engaged as such; engineers of locomotives on railroads, while actually engaged as engineers; all work men while employed in any public arsenal or armory; all engineers and pilots of registered and licensed steamboats and steamships; all idiots and lunatics; judges of the supreme and probate courts; town and city clerks; high sheriffs; high bailiffs; superintendent of the Vermont asylum for the insane, and the assistant physicians in said asylum; the superintendent of the State’s prison, and all persons permanently lame or otherwise permanently disabled by the loss of any member of his body, shall not be enrolled.4

There were three categories that required special documentation:

     • Under § 8, men under the age of 18 and 45 years of age or older were required to file an affidavit of age.5

     • Under § 9, men “claiming to be exempt from enrollment, by reason of inability to bear arms” were required to file a medical certificate from the Medical Board in the county of his residence.6

     • And under § 10, men “claiming to be exempt, by reason of being conscientiously scrupulous of bearing arms” were required to make a payment of $75 and file an affidavit under oath or affirmation as to their beliefs.7

And § 11 of the law said what was to be done when any of these exemptions was found to be applicable:

Whenever the proof of exemption is found sufficient under sections eight, nine and ten of this act, there shall be entered by the selectmen, common councilmen or other person authorized to make such enrollment, upon the margin of the book in which such enrollment is made, against the name of the person entitled to such exemption, the word“ exempt,” stating under which section the exemption arose, and the name of such exempt shall thereupon be stricken from the roll by a. red line drawn through it, leaving it still legible.8

And so you will find, with each of the three men who were exempt under § 9, the line drawn through the name but the name itself still legible.

As for Henry Bishop, his exemption may actually have been based not on infirmity, or not on that alone, but perhaps in part as well on his post office service. He was shown in the 1860 census as a mail agent.9 The other two may simply have had physical ailments; neither is shown with any occupational reason for an exemption in the census.10

A great set of records — lots of information for those with Vermont ancestors of the Civil War era, with names, ages, occupations and many notations of military service and more.

And only the law explains just what those notations mean.


  1. Enrolled Militia, Town of Richmond, entries for Henry H. Bishop, Safford Fay and Julius Ransome, alphabetically arranged; Richmond, Vermont, Town Clerk’s Office; digital images, “Vermont, Enrolled Militia Records, 1861-1867,” FamilySearch ( : accessed 4 Jul 2013).
  2. § 1, An Act for the Organization, Regulation and Government of the Militia of Vermont, Passed by the General Assembly, at the Annual Session, 1862 (Montpelier, Vermont : Freeman Printing, printers, 1862), 5; digital images, Google Books ( : accessed 4 Jul 2013). The frontispiece says that 5000 copies of the act were to be published in pamphlet form “to be distributed to the several town and city clerk’s offices in the State.”
  3. Ibid., § 3, at 6.
  4. Ibid., § 2, at 5-6.
  5. Ibid., § 8, at 8.
  6. Ibid., § 9.
  7. Ibid., § 10, at 9.
  8. Ibid., § 11.
  9. 1860 U.S. census, Chittenden County, Vermont, population schedule, p. 40 (penned), dwelling 286, family 279, Henry Bishop; digital image, ( : accessed 4 Jul 2013); citing National Archive microfilm publication M653, roll 1319; imaged from FHL microfilm 8053191.
  10. As to Fay, see ibid., p. 50 (penned), dwell. 357, fam. 349, Safford Fay. As to Ransome, see ibid., p. 360 (penned), dwell. 2658, fam. 2658, J H Ransom.
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