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York businessman A. B. Farquhar accused in scheme to defraud Union soldiers

Few 19th century photographs exist of York PA industrialist A. B. Farquhar, who played a pivotal role during the 1863 Gettysburg Campaign in trying to protect his adopted town from being damaged by oncoming Confederate forces from the Army of Northern Virginia.
Arthur Briggs Farquhar played a prominent role in the history of York in the mid to late 1800s, and his name lived on well into the 20th century with his manufacturing business. The Maryland-born, Quaker-educated businessman parlayed his business acumen into a personal fortune. As a young man, he had consulted with famed New York tycoon John Jacob Astor about how to make money, a meeting that Farquhar later recounted in his book, The First Million the Hardest. Farquhar, still in his twenties, helped facilitate the peaceful entry of the Confederate army into York in late June 1863, a controversial move that some have deemed a forced surrender and others have described as traitorous.  Others labeled him a hero for saving the town from possible destruction. For more on that story, see this past Cannonball blog entry.
I have recently read an old account from an 1864 newspaper which charges that A. B. Farquhar somehow became mixed up in a controversial scheme in rural Cambria County to defraud the men of the 55th Pennsylvania Infantry.
Here is the full text of that inflammatory article, which if true paints a darker side to Farquhar. To the best of my knowledge, the matter was resolved peacefully.

Ebensburg, Pa.

Thursday, 26 May 1864

Volume 5, Number 35

Frauds Upon Soldiers

On the 10th of March last in the State Senate a joint committee of six was appointed to make investigation of the manner in which certain of our soldiers have been swindled out of their bounty money by their officers and make report of the same.  This report which is very voluminous has been published.  We transfer so much of it to our columns as relates to the 55th regiment Pa. Vols., commanded by Col. Dick White, formerly of Cambria county:- The 55th regiment of Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, commanded by Col. Richard White, was the first brought to the notice of your committee.

This regiment had been doing duty for the past two years at Beaufort, S. Carolina and had reenlisted in the month of January, 1864, and were sent home to recruit.  In a few days after the arrival of the regiment, the rank and file were permitted to depart for their respective homes with orders to report at Harrisburg on a day fixed in their furloughs.

It appears that when the men of the 55th reenlisted they were not credited to any particular locality; and Colonel White, finding by order of the War Department his men could be credited to any locality in the state they might select, set himself to work to make arrangements for that purpose, with a  view to make money out of the transaction.  In order that there should be no failure in the process, he selected, as his coadjutors in the business his own brother, Alex M. White of Baltimore, Md.; a man by name of A. B. Farquhar of York, Pa., and Captain David Fox of Company A, 55th regiment P. V. – (Both Captain and company from Cambria county).

Through the agency of Farquhar, Col. White and his brother, A. M. White, were put in communication with a Mr. Reuben Bernard of Chester county, Pa., who was authorized to procure a large number of recruits to fill the quota of Chester county and to pay a local bounty to each man amounting to such sums as might be agreed upon not to exceed a limited amount per man.  From the evidence of Representative M’Clellan, of Chester county, we learn all the particulars of this interview which we give in his own words:

“My connection with this business was at the request of the county commissioners to assist Mr. Bernard in securing recruits to fill the quota of our county.  It was proposed by Mr. Farquhar that he could get over three hundred men of Col. White’s regiment.  Mr. Farquhar told me either then and there or previous to that, that these men could be had for two hundred and seventy-five dollars per man. This I think was on the last Thursday in February. On Monday by appointment, Mr. Bernard, Mr. Farquhar, Col. White, A. M. White and myself went into one of their rooms, either the Col’s. or A. M. White’s to make arrangements to pay two hundred and fifty dollars per man to Col. White.  He offered A. M. White as security for the faithful performance of the trust, A. M. White agreeing with his brother Col. White in signing a bond to that effect.

After the bond was prepared and signed, Mr. Bernard, Col. White, A. M. White and myself went over to the Harrisburg Bank to deposit part of the money to Col. White’s credit.  A difficulty arose as to the arrangement with the bank. A. M White proposed that the money should be deposited to his credit. Mr. Bernard objected to that and stated that he would prefer to pay the men in person, to which A. M. White took umbrage, as rather impeaching his integrity and demanded his bond from Mr. Bernard, which was given to him. The controlling idea for making this arrangement was that the men were on furlough, and that it would be impossible for Mr. Bernard to pay them in person with a great deal of trouble.

The next day Mr. Farquhar made a new arrangement which was that the men should be paid in person. On Thursday I heard Farquhar say that the men were to get two hundred and twenty dollars apiece and the other thirty to be paid to the Colonel (White).  I don’t recollect how many men were paid on that day; but I believe some 18 or 20 and the rest the next week. Mr. Bernard counted the money as I marked their names on the roll; and I did not know till this evening but that the men received two hundred and seventy-five dollars apiece.  I had no conversation with Col. White in making the bargain as to what was to be done with the money particularly, nor did I hear him say.  Did not know but that the men were to get two hundred and fifty dollars paid down in cash until a few minutes before we commenced paying.  I don’t think Mr. Bernard knew it, because he counted out two hundred and fifty dollars to the first man.  I then said to him, on information received fromMr. Farquhar that the men were only to get two hundred and twenty dollars. Col. White was present and did not object.  At that I said to Col. White, that is the arrangement.  He said, “Yes, it was.”

From the foregoing testimony we have the following facts established beyond doubt or cavil, viz.:  1. That Col. White, in conjunction with his brother, A. M. White and A. B. Farquhar, did attempt to effect an arrangement by which the sum of one hundred and thirty-eight thousand dollars should be put on at the sole disposal of A. M. White who was in no way responsible to pay the sum or any part thereof to the men of the Fifty-fifth regiment; and failing in that attempt, A. M. White relinquished the transaction on the rendition of the bond by Mr. Bernard.

2.  That when Col. White, A. M. White and Farquhar failed to induce Mr. Bernard to place the funds at the absolute disposal of Mr. A. M. White, that Farquhar, the next day, renewed the attack, by proposing that the money should be paid to the men in person; but when the agent commenced the process of paying the men, it was discovered that the sum of thirty dollars should be retained in each case for the benefit of Col. White, Mr. Farquhar and the other officers of the Fifty-fifth regiment, which amount was actually retained from the beginning to the end of the transactions, thus revealing, in the most unmistakable manner the original design of Col. White, A. M. White and Farquhar when they proposed that the money should be placed to the credit of A. M. White – that these three men should deal with the men of the Fifty-fifth regiment as they thought proper, in other words, pay them just such sums as suited their purpose.

Your committee cannot avoid the conclusions drawn from these damning facts, that a dark conspiracy had been deliberately formed between Col. White, A. M. White and Farquhar to defraud the men of the Fifty-fifth regiment out of a large portion of the money honestly coming to them from the county of Chester, to which they had been credited by Col. White, without the least assent from any of the men, indeed without their knowledge of what disposition had been made of them by the Colonel.  Suppose that the arrangement first proposed by these men to Mr. Bernard had been assented to and the entire amount of money been placed to the credit of A. M. White, would not Col. White have had it in his power to pay the men just such sums as suited his purposes and where would they have had a remedy?  The men, it is fair to presume, had confidence in their Colonel and would have been satisfied to receive one hundred and fifty or two hundred dollars in full for local bounty; or such other sum as the Colonel and his confederates, A. M. White and A. B. Farquhar, might agree upon; so that the margin should be large enough to satisfy the desires of their worthies, to do the very best for the men of the Fifty-fifth regiment.

It is too palpable to admit of doubt that instead of making the pitiful sum of thirty dollars per man, on three hundred and fifty eight men, which is ten thousand seven hundred and forty dollars, which went in the pockets of Col. White on that item alone, while Mr. Farquhar got seven thousand five hundred dollars according to his own receipt dated March 5, 1864, that the dividend would have been swelled to double or treble these sums had the original design not been frustrated by the objection to place the funds under the sole control of A. M. White.  Colonel White had assured his men, so had Captain Fox, that they should have the highest bounty that was paid to veterans and recruits; and the men believed them, because they confided in their honor as men and officers, without the slightest suspicion that they were to be deceived.

It will also be found that Colonel Richard White acknowledges to have received from Mr. Bernard as per receipt under date of March 1st, 1864, on account of the local bounty of Chester county, the sum of ten thousand and fifty dollars and that the receipted rolls for twenty-six men at two hundred and seventy dollars each, making the further sum of seven thousand and twenty dollars, making in the aggregate seven thousand and seventy dollars, and if we presume that he paid the bounty to twenty-six men, two hundred and twenty dollars each and retained thirty dollars off each man, he pocketed on that item seven hundred and eighty dollars.  It is worthy of remark here that the sum paid by Chester county was two hundred and seventy dollars and it is well established that none of the men of the Fifty-fifth regiment received more than two hundred and twenty dollars, so far as the testimony before your committee goes, except the eighteen or twenty men paid on the first day by Messrs. Bernard and M’Clellan. If we deduct twenty men from three hundred and fifty eight we have a total of three hundred and thirty men to whom but two hundred and thirty dollars were paid, if, indeed, all these men were paid (the testimony shows that nine at least have not been paid) which would leave the sum of fifty dollars retained off each of the three hundred and thirty three men, making the respectable sum of sixteen thousand six hundred and fifty dollars to be accounted for by Colonel White.

To show beyond a doubt that the plan was well laid to cover the track so Colonel White and those acting with him in this nefarious business, it is only necessary to refer to the form of receipt which these men were required to sign on receiving their two hundred and twenty dollars instead of two hundred and seventy dollars, to which they were entitled, in these words:

“Harrisburg, Pa., February 24, 1864

We, the undersigned veteran volunteers belonging to Colonel Richard White’s regiment, No. fifty–five Pennsylvania volunteers have this day received of Reuben Bernard the local bounty of Chester county.”

The above receipt is couched in such language as to close the door against all inquiry on the subject of the amount received by the men of the Fifty-Fifth Regt. Pennsylvania volunteers, so far as the record is concerned; and if Colonel White had not been intercepted by this investigation and some of his victims from his regiment detained and examined before your committee, his guilty participation in these dark transactions might have escaped that just exposure and punishment it so richly merits until called to account before another tribunal, from which no adroitness or finesse will shield the guilty from the scrutiny of that eye that never slumbers.

Your committee regret the fact that just about the time that this investigation was instituted, the Fifty-fifth regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers (Colonel White) was ordered to South Carolina and thus they were deprived of the opportunity of examining the men of that regiment in detail and thereby eliciting all the facts from the mouths of living witnesses, to establish the entire transaction touching the fraud that have been but partially detected.  But your committee are fully warranted in saying that enough have been disclosed to fix upon the Colonel of the Fifty-fifth regiment Pennsylvania volunteers and Captain David Fox of Company A, of said regiment, the charge of willfully and knowingly deceiving and defrauding their men by the most shameless and barefaced misrepresentations and artful deceptions that bad men could resort to in order to make money at the expense of both truth and honor.

It is the opinion of your committee that Colonel Richard White and Captain David Fox should immediately be summoned before the court of inquiry to answer such charges as the Secretary of War should feel disposed to base upon this report.”

This story appears in the on-line newspaper archives, as well as on the usgwarchives website at