The Richmond Daily Dispatch ran this editorial decrying the trade in fraudulent draft “substitutes”, who would take a fee, enlist in some Virginian’s stead, and then desert to sell their services again. While the editorialist recommends that every man offering himself as a substitute should be arrested as a probable deserter, I notice that the want ads for substitutes and from men offering to serve as substitutes continued to run in the paper after this date.
The substitute Swindle.
For sometime past persons representing themselves either as Baltimoreans or members of the 1st Virginia regiment, have been through the army trying to sell themselves as substitutes. In several cases these swindlers have succeeded in accomplishing their object, and have received money from their too willing dupes, deserting as soon as it was safely in their pockets. We doubt if one of these men ever belonged to the First Virginia. We doubt if they are anything but the veriest scoundrels and knaves — men who have deserted time and time again, and who make a business of this nefarious practices. These men also have accomplices in this city in those who advertise so extensively to furnish substitutes “at a reasonable price, ” who not only assist them in their swindling tricks, but swear to their character and shelter them in their low dens when they have deserted. After a short time they are again brought out and sold over to other parties. Within a day or two we have heard of at least a dozen of these rascals who have been offered at different points in the army. Two came to an Alabama regiment, and were purchased for $1,700, six hundred of this going to the man who procured them. Two days afterwards both men were missing. This evil has become so great that it should be immediately attended to, and some of the base fellows summarily dealt with. There are two ways to put an end to the pernicious practice, In the first place, every man who offers to sell himself as a substitute should be looked upon with suspicion, and be arrested on the spot as a deserter, which in nine cases out of ten he will prove to be. Secondly, a few of them should be court-martialed and formally shot. After what has transpired, and the frequent warning given by the press, it would be the height of folly for any soldier to throw his money away upon these infamous scoundrels.