Tag Archives: Civil War substitutes

Who Was George Brinski?

Screen shot 2014-01-28 at 11.08.01 AMWell, he was no Grover Cleveland, that’s for sure. Except….that he sort of was, at least for a few years. George Brinski was a Polish immigrant who had the good fortune of being in the right place when Grover Cleveland needed a substitute to take his spot as a Union soldier in the Civil War. Cleveland paid Brinski $150 for his services and sat the war out safely practicing law in Buffalo, New York.

Hiring a substitute was a common practice during the war – for those that had the means and an aversion to the possibility of getting killed, there were plenty ready and willing to take advantage of others’ desire to avoid military service. Of course, there was a stigma attached to this practice, and later in life, Cleveland had to answer to thousands of Union veteran voters who wanted to know why he didn’t take his place in the ranks.

But anyway, apart from being listed as Cleveland’s substitute, there is not much else out there on Brinski. One little tidbit did materialize through the usual searches – it seems that after the war, when Brinski was convalescing in a soldiers’ home, he claimed that Cleveland (then serving his first term as president) had promised him $300, paid him $150 and then reneged on the remaining sum.

Most dismiss this as nonsense…just Brinski trying to cash in on Cleveland’s political prominence. As far as we know, Brinski was paid in full for his services. He died shortly after making his claims.Screen shot 2014-01-28 at 11.13.03 AM

And as a side note, I am pretty sure my wife, Coni has a secret crush on Grover Cleveland. I guess I can see it.

With compliments,

Keith