gamblers unanonymous

150 years before New Yorkers voted for a constitutional amendment that allows as many as seven non-Indian casinos in the state, the Provost Marshal of the Army of the Potomac was actually trying to discourage gambling among his men (the 93rd NY might have been part of his provost brigade). Here’s a bit of sketchjournalism from Alfred R. Waud.

From the November 7, 1863 issue of Harper’s Weekly (at Son of the South):

gambling (by Alfred R. Waud, Harper's Weekly, November 7, 1863)

THE ARMY OF THE POTOMAC—GAMBLERS AT THE PROVOST MARSHAL’S HEAD-QUARTERS.—[SKETCHED BY A. R. WAUD.]

GAMBLERS IN THE ARMY.

How General Patrick deals with gambling we discover from the picture above.

Mr. Waud writes: “Some inveterate players, belonging to the Ninety-third New York, were provided with a table, dice, and a tin cup for a dice-box, and, under charge of a guard, were kept at their favorite amusement all day, playing for beans, with boards slung on their shoulders with the word GAMBLER written on them. They did not seem to enjoy it, an attempt to make the most of their time and play for greenbacks being nipped in the bud. Dinner was also denied them, on the plea that gamblers have no time for meals. Much harm, no doubt, results from gambling; but it is useless to punish the men while it is so prevalent a vice with the officers.”

Gambling has always been more or less prevalent in armies.

You can read an interesting overview of gambling during the Civil War at Michelle Ule’s blog. She mentions that the Army of the James (formed in April 1864) was referred to as the Army of the Games. According to the Library of Congress the following photograph shows the quarters of Dr. David McKay of the Army of the James:

[Quarters of Dr. David McKay (Army of the James), interior view withi men playing cards] (between 1861 and 1865; LOC: LC-DIG-cwpb-03634)

nice hand (Library of Congress)

Culpeper, Virginia. General Marsena R. Patrick (Provost General, Army of the Potomac) and staff (by Timothy H. O'Sullivan, 1863 Nov; LOC:  LC-DIG-cwpb-00091)

impossible dream? Provost General Marsena Patrick and staff, November 1863 (Library of Congress)

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[Drummer boys off duty, playing cards in camp, winter of 1862] (1862, printed later]; LOC: LC-DIG-ppmsc-02787)

Drummer boys get in on the action? (winter of 1862; Library of Congress)

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