Congress passes Civil War Conscription Act

Congress passes Civil War Conscription Act

During the Civil War, the U.S. The act called for registration of all males between the ages of 20 and 45, including aliens with the intention of becoming citizens, by April 1. Exemptions from the draft could be bought for $300 or by finding a substitute draftee. This clause led to bloody draft riots in New York City, where protesters were outraged that exemptions were effectively granted only to the wealthiest U.S. citizens.

Although the Civil War saw the first compulsory conscription of U.S. citizens for wartime service, a 1792 act by Congress required that all able-bodied male citizens purchase a gun and join their local state militia. There was no penalty for noncompliance with this act. Congress also passed a conscription act during the War of 1812, but the war ended before it was enacted. During the Civil War, the government of the Confederate States of America also enacted a compulsory military draft. The U.S. enacted a military draft again during World War I, in 1940 to make the U.S. ready for its involvement in World War II, and during the Korean War. The last U.S. military draft occurred during the Vietnam War.

READ MORE: The Draft


The Confederate Conscription Act

April 16, 1862 – President Jefferson Davis signed a bill into law requiring all able-bodied white men between the ages of 18 and 35 to serve at least three years in the Confederate military. This was the first national draft in American history.

By this time, Federal forces were closing in on Richmond, New Orleans, and vital points along the Mississippi River and Atlantic coast. The Confederates had just lost thousands of men in the largest battle ever fought in America up to that time, and many men who had enlisted in the Confederate army for 12 months at the beginning of the war were about to go home.

All these factors led to a growing call for conscription, which had been intensely debated in the Confederate Congress. Opponents argued that it violated the same civil liberties southerners had seceded to uphold. Some claimed that forcing men into the army showed weakness by indicating that volunteerism alone was no longer enough to maintain the war effort.

Supporters invoked the same arguments they had rejected when northerners made them before the war, citing the constitutional powers of Congress “to raise and support armies” and “provide for the common defense, as well as to make laws “necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers.” They also contended that conscription would provide the military with the manpower desperately needed to secure Confederate independence.

Ultimately, new Secretary of War George W. Randolph persuaded enough congressmen to approve the bill, and then he persuaded Davis to sign it into law. Thus, the Confederacy took the first and most expansive step toward centralizing state and national armies.

State officials would administer the draft, and draftees would be allowed to elect their own company, battalion, and regimental officers. The number of draftees would be proportional to the number of residents in each state and county. A regular recruiting system was also introduced to counter battlefield losses with continuous recruitment.

Soldiers preparing to return home after serving 12 months were now told they had to stay on for another two years or the war’s end, whichever came first. The three total years of service began on the soldiers’ original enlistment dates. Davis initially resisted extending one-year enlistments to three years, but he finally resolved that it was a necessary measure.

Politicians hopeful that the prospect of a draft would stimulate more volunteerism added a provision giving draftees 30 days to volunteer instead. Men could also pay a $500 commutation fee to evade the draft. This clause applied to pacifists such as Quakers and Mennonites it also aimed to enable skilled laborers and the wealthy to continue serving the Confederacy in non-military capacities.

Another provision allowed for men to hire substitutes to serve in their place from “persons not liable for duty,” usually those outside the specified age range or foreigners. The substitute clause was based on the English tradition of assuming that those who could afford to hire a substitute could be more useful to the war effort outside the army. “Substitute brokers” became a lucrative profession as a result. This provision caused such widespread resentment among those who could not afford to hire a substitute that it was eventually repealed.

The original Conscription Act offered no exemptions from the draft other than commutation or substitution. Realizing that this could deplete the southern workforce, Congress enacted an amendment five days later that included exemptions for many classes and professions, including government workers, war industry laborers (i.e., those working in textiles, mines, foundries, etc.), river ferrymen and pilots, telegraph operators, hospital employees, apothecaries, printers, clergymen, and educators.

These exemptions invited fraud, as many new schools quickly opened, along with pharmacies that featured “a few empty jars, a cheap assortment of combs and brushes, a few bottles of ‘hairdye’ and ‘wizard oil’ and other Yankee nostrums.”

Men who owned 20 or more slaves were also exempted from the draft so they could maintain supervision of farm production and defend against potential slave uprisings. This became known as the “Twenty Negro Law.” It only applied to states that had laws requiring white men to oversee and police their slaves. Many criticized this provision as favoring plantation owners.

Governors Joseph E. Brown of Georgia and Zebulon Vance of North Carolina were among the most virulent critics of the Conscription Act. Brown declared that no “act of the Government of the United States prior to the secession of Georgia struck a blow at constitutional liberty… as has been struck by the conscription act… at one fell swoop, (the act) strikes down the sovereignty of the States, tramples upon the constitutional rights and personal liberty of the citizens, and arms the President with imperial power.”

It was not surprising that Georgia and North Carolina accounted for 92 percent of all exempted government workers in the Confederacy. Even Davis’s own vice president, Alexander H. Stephens, became an outspoken opponent of this measure.

Many who supported the Conscription Act blamed Davis for making it necessary because of his strategy to stay on the defensive and protect many static points at once. Davis countered that “without military stores, without the workshops to create them, without the power to import them, necessity not choice has compelled us to occupy strong positions and everywhere to confront the enemy without reserves.”

The Confederate press generally supported the new law but did not hesitate to expose its weaknesses. Despite resentment to government coercion, many saw this as necessary to meet the wartime emergency. The law affected nearly every Confederate family in some way, even though nearly half of those drafted never served.


On March 3, 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, the first wartime conscription law was passed by the United States Congress. The Enrollment Act, 12 Stat. 731, required the participation of every male citizen and immigrants who had filed for citizenship between ages of twenty and forty-five by April 1. It also included a controversial clause allowing a person to pay $300 to avoid military service, a feature greatly resented by workingmen. Blacks, who were not considered citizens, were exempt from the draft.

Unfortunately, because Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1 of 1863, many now saw the war as a fight to free black slaves, a cause for which they were unwilling to risk their lives. Roiling the waters, Democratic politicians and newspapers alleged that emancipation would result in free black men moving north, who would then take the jobs of whites, and ravish their daughters.

In addition, New York had many pro-South and pro-Slavery proponents. The state had an economy dependent on cotton and slavery. As explained in an article in the online magazine, “The Observer”:

New York banks financed the spread of cotton plantations across the Deep South. New York merchants sold plantation owners their supplies. New York City’s mayor in 1863, George Opdyke, had made a fortune selling them cheap clothing they provided slaves. Cotton accounted for a whopping 40 percent of the shipping in New York harbor. The city’s hotels, restaurants and entertainment venues filled up every summer with Southern visitors.”

(Lincoln readily acknowledged the role of the North in helping to perpetuate slavery, as with his 1864 statement: “If God now wills the removal of a great wrong, and wills also that we of the North as well as you of the South, shall pay fairly for our complicity in that wrong, impartial history will find therein new cause to attest and revere the justice and goodness of God.”)

New York Democratic Governor Horatio Seymour promised to challenge the draft law in court and goaded on the mobs at a mass meeting on July 4, warning, “the bloody and treasonable and revolutionary doctrine of public necessity can be proclaimed by a mob as well as by government.”

Image from New York Public Library Digital Collections

On July 13, anti-draft violence erupted in New York City, resulting in four days of rioting, looting, and bloodshed, in what is still considered the deadliest rioting in American history. As The Observer reports:

Mobs rampaged through most of the week in an orgy of savage murder, arson and looting. They hung black men from lampposts and dragged their mutilated bodies through the streets. They beat and murdered the pitifully small squads of policemen and soldiers the city initially mustered—and grotesquely defiled their corpses as well. It took federal troops to start restoring order to burning, rubble-strewn Manhattan that Thursday. The published death count was 119, but many New Yorkers believed the actual toll was hundreds more.”

The riot was also notable for the attack by whites on the Colored Orphan Asylum on Fifth Avenue. The four-story orphanage housed over two hundred children. As Leslie M. Harris wrote in the book In the Shadow of Slavery: African Americans in New York City, 1626-1863:

…an infuriated mob, consisting of several thousand men, women and children, armed with clubs, brick bats etc. advanced upon the Institution. The crowd took as much of the bedding, clothing, food, and other transportable articles as they could and set fire to the building. . . . Miraculously, the mob refrained from assaulting the children. . . . The children made their way to the Thirty-Fifth Street Police Station, where they remained for three days and nights before moving to the almshouse on Blackwell’s Island . . ..”

Eventually the orphanage was rebuilt in Harlem.

In all, rioters lynched eleven black men over the course of five days, and forced hundreds of blacks to leave the city. By 1865, the city’s black population was just under 10,000, the lowest it had been since 1820.


Congress passes Civil War Conscription Act - HISTORY

The Enrollment Act of 1863 is the name given to the law which enabled the military draft to be used on a federal scale in the United States for the first time – although the Confederacy had instituted conscription the previous year. It was passed during the Civil War, at a time when the North had suffered a series of defeats and was short of men. The act was signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln on March 3, 1863.

Scope of the Act

The act mandated the enrollment of all male citizens and would-be citizens aged between 20 and 45. Each congressional district was assigned, by federal agents, a certain tally of new soldiers that must be enlisted. Once this number had been established, the task of filling the quota – through both drafted men and volunteers – fell to the states. For a variety of reasons, the states preferred to enlist volunteers, with these men being given bounties of at least $100 to join up. The scale of the payments from federal, state, and local level became so great that some men were tempted into “bounty jumping”, whereby they would repeatedly sign up, take the money, and re-enlist in another place with the intention of repeating the process.

For these reasons, the number of soldiers who fought as conscripted men was in fact fairly small. This meant that the practice of conscription had relatively little impact militarily however, it was much more important on the social level. Racial and class divisions were starkly revealed by the act’s operation, with the most serious opposition to the act being seen in New York City. The city contained substantial pockets of people who sympathized with the South, among them a large part of the Irish community. These people were worried that, if the North won the war and abolished slavery throughout the country, Irish workers would be out-competed for jobs by newly free blacks.

The Act Becomes Official

Further opposition came from the fact that it was possible for the rich to effectively buy their way out of conscription by substituting other men in their place. Both the Enrollment Act itself and the Emancipation Proclamation, which had been passed at about the same time, were opposed by many Irish-Americans. On July 4, Horatio Seymour, the Democratic governor of New York State, gave a speech which castigated the practice of conscription as unconstitutional. He further alleged that there was a partisan element to the practice, with Democrats being disproportionately picked out for the draft as compared to Republicans.

On July 12, one day after the first draftees had been called, violent riots broke out in New York, with government offices burned to the ground and communications lines severed. Rich citizens were singled out for attack, as were black people and any businesses that employed them. Many black residents were beaten and some were lynched. The authorities did not regain control of the city for over a week, in which time more than a hundred people had died. However, despite riots in a few other cities, in general the act was complied with. This was substantially because the bounty system, while imperfect, did ensure that the Union army remained mostly volunteers throughout the Civil War.


Was Confederate Conscription an Instrument of Social Justice?

Last week brought the sesquicentennial of the first Confederate Conscription Act. The draft would later become a particularly divisive element in the Confederacy (as it also became in the North), especially after the law was amended to exempt large slaveholders. (&ldquoRich man&rsquos war, poor man&rsquos fight,&rdquo etc.) But initially, some saw it favorably. I was intrigued to find this editorial, arguing that the draft was not only necessary, but a positive step toward justice in spreading the burden of military service among the citizenry.

From the April 29, 1862 Galveston Weekly News:

The Confederate Congress has passed an act, based upon the recommendation of the President, to organize a system of drafting or conscription for the army. The provisions of this law includes all residents between the ages of 18 and 35 years, and requires the enrollment of 300,000 additional recruits of conscripts. The object of this radical change in our military system is not to discourage the formation of volunteer corps, or to dampen the ardor of out citizen soldiery, but to regulate both. The regiments now in service have had their numbers diminished by sickness and the accidents of war, and volunteers, instead of filling up these skeleton formations, prefer a new organization, and their own elected officers. The system pursued thus far threatens to involve the Government in the enormous expense attended the support of mere shadows of regiments &ndash officers without men &ndash and on the other hand brings the fresh troops into the field without the advantage of disciplined and experienced commanders. If this war was to last for a few months only, or to be terminated without maneuvers or tactical skill, by the mere onset of brave men, if might be well to leave it to the native valor of our people, without further care but it promises to be long, arduous, and to be maintained only by the strategy of our generals and the steadiness of our troops. Let us, then, wisely preparing for the future, look to the necessities of a contest, which will require all our exertions and all the sacrifices which a people, confident in their right and in ultimate success, may reasonably make. . . .


Whatever objections may be urged against [conscription], as incompatible with our notions of American liberty, they have no weight with us in such a time as this. We are now involved in a war for our very existence, and if we would secure success beyond a peradventure, and bring the war to a speedy close, we must make war business, and have recourse to all the most effectual appliances that have stood the test of experience. We have seen the objections urged that it is derogatory to the character of Americans, as well as inconsistent with the genius of our free government, to force men into military service against their own consent. . . , [but] it might with just as much propriety and force of argument, be said that Americans ought not to be forced, in time of peace, to pay taxes, but that the government should depend on voluntary contributions. The truth is, equal burthens and equal benefits is a cardinal principal in American liberty and this equality is totally lost sight of whenever the government looks to the people for voluntary support, either in peace or war. All patriotic and charitable enterprises undertaken by voluntary contributions are always very unequal, those often contributing most who are the least benefited and vice versa. We do not think this war should be supported in that way. We know a very large majority of our citizens are ready and willing to volunteer but there are those among us all over the country, who will find some excuse to avoid military service, which is now our sole dependence, and these men are often those who have most at stake, and who will be most benefited by the achievement of our independence.


We think it injustice towards the more patriotic class of our citizens, that our government should have adhered to the volunteer system which throws all the perils, privations and hazards of life upon them alone, while the unpatriotic are permitted to remain at home and reap the benefit of their successful battles, and perhaps, speculate on their misfortunes.


What&rsquos remarkable here is that this is, in principle, the same argument that modern day dyed-in-the-wool liberals make for universal conscription&mdashthat done fairly, it&rsquos an equitable way to spread the burden of war across society and to fully mobilize that society in support of the military effort. The argument made by the person who penned this editorial in the Galveston Weekly News 150 years ago resonates today. That anonymous writer would have immediately understood the political terrain of the draft debate in the present-day United States. Opposition to the draft, both in the 1860s and in the 1960s, gained much of its force from the obvious inequities and loopholes. During the Civil War, there was widespread anger (in the North and the South) over allowing paid substitutes to fulfill a man&rsquos military obligation or offering large slaveholders exemptions from Confederate military service. During Vietnam, opposition to the draft stemmed from the way it was being implemented in a bloody and deeply unpopular war there were seemingly endless college deferments and safe, stateside appointments to the National Guard and Reserve for those young men with connections. Americans&rsquo opposition to the draft, in both the 19th century and the 20th centuries, had less to do with the principle of conscription, and more to do with its uneven application.

Andy Hall is a Texan and Southerner by birth, residence and lineage, with a family tree full of butternuts. With a background in history, museum studies and marine archaeology, Hall also writes at his own blog, Dead Confederates.


Confederate and Union Conscription

Both the North and the South began the Civil War with the intention of using volunteer armies, even though European experience had shown for generations that they were unsuited to modern wars. Both sides eventually turned to conscription, but circumstances forced the South to do so a few months sooner than the North.


The Confederate Draft During the Civil War

The natural obligation of every able-bodied man to defend his hearth, home and country against foreign aggression has been assumed for as long as agricultural implements could effectively be used as weapons. The Greek and Roman city militias, and the Anglo-Saxon fyrd compelled men into service by natural right and tradition, with no limit of term of service.

An army of drafted men was the norm in the 19th century, and the United States and Great Britain were alone among the great powers in not embracing that. Napoleon won all his brilliant victories with conscripted armies -- France drafted 2,613,000 men in 13 years beginning in 1800. That set the tone for the century's military strategy: "God marches with the biggest battalions."

What the Confederacy (and the United States) did differently when calling out its volunteers in 1861 was to set a limit on their terms of contract. This was done obviously with an eye to politics, and it came back to haunt both sides: the South a few months sooner and more severely than the North.

In the initial upwelling after Sumter, the South, expecting a quick victory or a European intervention, mustered in most of its volunteers for only one year. But the North was even more short-sighted (and also constrained by a militia law that dated from the Whisky Rebellion) and only called its men to three months' duty. Three years was a more common term of enlistment for a conscripted man in Europe (Prussia, for example). It may not have been short-sightedness at all, of course: if you tell a young man you're going to take him away from his family, his farm, his sweetheart, his education, his trade for three years and more, he's likely to feel his ardor for your cause grow a bit chilly.

Albert B. Moore, in "Conscription and Conflict in the Confederacy," seems to regard the South's great mistake was not in turning to conscription, but in relying at first on volunteers. "[C]onscription would have been less odious if it had been made the exclusive policy of raising armies at the outset. It might then have been regarded as a scientific way of allocating the man power of the country and distributing fairly the burdens of war. But the volunteer system was tried the first year, and after conscription was adopted volunteering was still allowed. This made conscription appear to be a device for coercing derelicts, hence the taint that attached to the conscript."

The North was fortunate in a way it never could have foreseen, because three months gave it just enough time to get the boys in uniform, give them big parades, and send them off into one battle, where they got chased off the field. Most of the three-month men in the regiments I've studied immediately signed up again. They had something to prove, having lost once, and they had had enough of a taste of army life (all of it in the late spring and early summer) to make it seem like a grand hunting trip.

Furthermore, the pressure on the Northern homefront to enlist (or reenlist) in July 1861 was enormous: the Union's defenses had melted in the wake of the first Bull Run, and the people were being told that the national capital, and their own homes beyond it, lay wide open to rapacious Rebel hordes. The panic was over in a few weeks, but those happened to be the crucial weeks in which Lincoln called for, and got, 500,000 troops. And he got them for three years.

Thus the North was able to postpone its enlistment crisis. The South was not so lucky. It rested on the laurels of Bull Run, confident that the war was won, and awaited European recognition. It wasted the summer and fall, and by the time it prepared for action again the enlistments were running out and the boys in arms, who had done their duty well, were eager to see home again.

Perhaps the proper model for the Southern rebels of 1861, in terms of their logistical and political challenge in fielding an army, is not to the North in the same year, but the American colonies of 1776. The historical comparison would point up some valuable lessons in the frustrations of maintaining a large-scale rebellion through several agrarian cycles in a sprawling, diverse country.

Even before the Confederate Congress decreed a re-enlistment, there were mass voluntary re-enlistments by company and regiment and even brigade that spring. Yet these units were supposedly, if we read the "lack-of-will" writers, utterly demoralized and disgusted. Some soldiers complained that manipulation was involved others knew that the CSA's Congress would probably find a way to keep them there anyhow. But historian Gary Gallagher concludes that "most reenlistments in early 1864 seem to have been motivated by patriotism."[2] And the event was widely applauded across the South, in newspapers as well as private correspondence, as a "contrast to the bribes & threats & false pretences of our enemy!"
There's a sort of weary determination to stick it out in the letter soldier Benjamin Freeman of the 44th N.C. wrote home on Feb. 19, 1864, during a later re-enlistment drive:

"Pa we have all Reinlisted for the 'War.' We had to do it and I thought I would come on as a patriot soldier of the South. We are soldiers and we have to stay as long as there is any 'war.' There is no way to escape it."

The manpower crisis facing the Confederate armies in the spring of 1862 was a result of legislative incompetence, specifically, the Confederate Provisional Congress' foolish re-enlistment law of Dec. 11, 1861. The "bounty and furlough act" demonstrated, in the words of historian John C. Ropes, that "the difference between an army and a congeries of volunteer regiments was not appreciated." Every soldier who re-enlisted for three years or for the duration of the war was promised a bounty of $50 and a 60-day furlough. He could choose his arm of the service, and if he did not like his company, he could join a new one. Men could elect their own officers, "rewarding those who curried favor by laxity and demoting those who had enforced discipline," in the words of Douglas S. Freeman.

Freeman wrote, in "Robert E. Lee": "A worse law could hardly have been imposed on the South by the enemy. Its interpretation was confusing, its effect was demoralizing, and it involved nothing less than a reconstruction of the entire land forces of the Confederacy in the face of the enemy." He cites Union general and military historian Emory Upton, who wrote later that the bounty and furlough law should have been styled "an act to disorganize and dissolve the provisional army." The CSA Congress only made matters worse when it passed a series of hurried measures, designed to dangle more bait for re-enlistments.
When the permanent Congress took its seats shortly after this, it reversed the course and put the army on a firm, professional basis. It did so just in time, for that summer by means of drafts and threats of drafting, and by hefty bounties, the North would mobilize its manpower, which of course was vastly greater than the South's, for a long war. The Civil War was the last war that Americans tried to fight with volunteer minuteman patriotism. By the end of it, both sides had armies built up largely through conscription, threat of conscription, and (in the case of the North) offering a small fortune in bonuses to enlistees.
"In the army," Freeman wrote, "those who had intended not to re-enlist on the expiration of their terms grumbled and charged bad faith on the part of the government, but those who were determined to carry on the war to ruin or independence rejoiced that those who had stayed at home were at last to smell gunpowder. In the well-disciplined commands, men who went home at the expiration of their twelve months and returned as conscripts soon settled down to army routine." William D. Rutherford, adjutant of the 3rd South Carolina regiment, wrote home on April 18, 1862, approving the conscription bill. His only regret was that, "[t]o those who are loyal and brave, it is somewhat mortifying that their services cannot be voluntarily offered to their Country."

Confederate draft legislation was also far-sighted in attempting to provide exemptions that would allow skilled workers in essential trades to stay home and further the war effort on the job, something most other nations didn't adopt until after World War I. As it turned out, though, this provision was not used by the South as efficiently as it could have been. The exemptions are sometimes blamed because they increased the social tensions in the South. But in fact they were a progressive feature.

Historians of warfare also praise the Confederate conscription act of 1862, specifically for its exemptions. They call it the first modern draft in the world, because it recognized that industry and agricultural leadership, and organization behind the lines were as important to a national war effort as armies were. The goal of a draft isn't just to shovel as many men as possible into uniforms it's to get the best soldiers there, and leave the best workers at their jobs. The combatants in World War I failed to realize this, and they fought each other with universal conscription, huge armies, and losses of millions of men. World War I proved "it was nothing less than a national, let alone military crime to conscript all classes of men as if they were one class and of equal value, and to fill the trenches, which were little more than altars of human sacrifice to a discredited god, with highly skilled mechanics, miners and professional men."[3] Of course, the men who go to war always resent the men who do not. But that resentment does not necessarily make for the wisest policy when trying to guide a nation to freedom out of war.

The flaws of the Southern draft were functions of all conscripted armies and prevailed in the North as well as in Europe: overzealous draft officers the host of exemptions, widely abused, however well regulated in theory and the ease with which the richer class of men of military age avoided service.

Not surprisingly, the Rebel soldiers hated the Conscript Law. It was unfair, and they knew it. It took the glory out of the war, and the war was never the same for them. Sam R. Watkins, my second-favorite rebel, serving in the First Tennessee regiment under Braxton Bragg, had this to say about it:

That was how he felt, and how his companions felt, in the spring of 1862. It was a low point of the war. They would have walked away from it, but they couldn't, so they didn't. They went back to the business of war, of being an army, which is a highly illogical business, after all, as Sophocles knew. The war went on, and their lives went on, and things looked different. Of the invasion of Kentucky that summer, Watkins wrote:

And after many more hills and valleys, high points and low points, it ended. Sam R. Watkins went home and wrote a beautiful little book about it. He thinks secession was justified. He despised the conscription and the men who ordered it. He didn't own slaves or hate black folks. He seems to have liked them better than most Yankees did. He was proud to have been in that army, and proud of how his regiment fought, and mourned his companions who died. He liked being an American. He thinks secession was legal. He uses "rebel," invariably, as a good word. He uses the phrase "Lost Cause" without a hint of shame.

And I'm willing to bet the Rebel army, like the Yankee one, was full of hundreds of thousands of Sam R. Watkinses. I see the same sentiments in personal writings on both sides: contempt for military bureaucracy, for politicians, for the stay-at-home men who made fortunes and danced with the gals that the boys in uniform left behind.

The more than one-year lapse between the Confederate conscription act, approved April 16, 1862, and the Conscription Act that passed the U.S. Congress on March 3, 1863, is often cited as evidence of different abilities or enthusiasm on opposite sides in the Civil War. This ignores that fact that in at least five states in the North an extensive draft took place in the fall of 1862. In fact, the drive to draft in the North began less than three months after the Confederate conscription act.


More about the Northern draft You can disagree with the notion that governments ought to be able to compel their citizens to fight. But you can't say the CSA is marked somehow as a special case in history, deserving of dishonor.
Volunteerism failed during the American Revolution, when much of the countryside was under direct attack by British armies. States like Pennsylvania had to draft all their able-bodied men into the militia not once but twice during the 1777 invasion, and Massachusetts and Virginia resorted to conscription in 1777 to fill their thinning line regiments.

In fact, on Feb. 6, 1778, the Continental Congress recommended that all the states adopt this policy. George Washington wrote to the president of the Continental Congress in 1778 that, "I believe our greatest and only aid will be derived from drafting, which I trust may be done by the United States." Only the French aid averted the necessity of following this plan.

Likewise during the War of 1812, again with invaders on the national soil, volunteerism failed to fill up the depleted American regiments, and Congress turned to conscription, but the sudden end of the war prevented the plan from going into action.

Nor does America offer the only example. Take France in 1791: facing invasion on all sides, the revolutionary government called up line regiments, with a militia as a supplemental force. It also sought a National Guard for home defense. In short order, France found itself with more than 2.5 million "National Guards" and only 60 of the 169 battalions of volunteers it had hoped to raise.

As the erudite British military historian Maj. Gen. John Frederick Charles Fuller, C.B., C.B.E., D.S.O., observed in writing about conscription through the ages, "the majority of the people are naturally adverse to risking their skins."
America has fought its post-Civil War conflicts with overwhelmingly drafted armies. Roosevelt started beefing up the U.S. military by a draft in late 1940, even before America was at war. Here's what he said about it:

A year later, he even extended the terms of men who were already in service, just like the Confederacy did. Here's what he said about it in his message to Congress describing the step:

The historian James W. Geary writes:

The North's crisis might have come even sooner, but the Lincoln administration dodged a bullet when a friendly court upheld its legally dubious Spring 1861 call-up of troops. Among those to answer that call were the First Minnesota Volunteers, who went into service with mix of enlistments ranging from three months to three years. Poorly led at Bull Run, they suffered more casualties than any other Federal regiment in the field. Amid dislike for commanding officers and dawning realization of what three years away from home would mean to their families, farms, and jobs, some of the 1st Minn. attempted to have their enlistments nullified, on the grounds that proper procedure hadn't been followed. This led to United States v. Colonel Gorman, which upheld the constitutionality of the legislation of Aug. 3, 1861, which retroactively authorized the May 3 call-up. And it upheld the validity of the three-year enlistments.

"Fortunately for Union authorities, the legality of their recruiting methods was upheld early in the war and they did not have to consider other alternatives, such as arbitrarily extending the enlistment terms of their soldiers, as the South did in the spring of 1862," Geary wrote.


Who was opposed to conscription and why?

Farmers' contributions to war effort were immeasurable. Farmers were among those who strongly opposed conscription. They argued that they were of greater value at home behind a plough than in a trench in France. Older farmers said that their farms couldn't produce without the labour of their sons.

One may also ask, what two politicians opposed conscription? Conscription Prevails Conscription was the main issue in the federal election that followed in December, a bitter contest between Conservative / Unionist Sir Robert Borden and Liberal Sir Wilfrid Laurier.

Accordingly, why did Borden feel that conscription was necessary?

After visiting Britain for a meeting of First Ministers on May 1917, Borden announced that he would introduce the Military Service Act on August 29, 1917. The Act was passed: allowing the government to conscript men aged 20 to 45 across the country if the Prime Minister felt that it was necessary.

Why is Canadian conscription important?

Borden had implemented conscription because he believed the war had to be won and that Canada must play its full part. To achieve these ends, he almost broke the nation. The conscripts, however reluctant they may have been to serve, nonetheless played a critical role in winning the war.


Collection Civil War Glass Negatives and Related Prints

In an effort to placate the slave-holding border states, Lincoln resisted the demands of radical Republicans for complete abolition. Yet some Union generals, such as General B. F. Butler, declared slaves escaping to their lines "contraband of war," not to be returned to their masters. Other generals decreed that the slaves of men rebelling against the Union were to be considered free. Congress, too, had been moving toward abolition. In 1861, Congress had passed an act stating that all slaves employed against the Union were to be considered free. In 1862, another act stated that all slaves of men who supported the Confederacy were to be considered free. Lincoln, aware of the public's growing support of abolition, issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, declaring that all slaves in areas still in rebellion were, in the eyes of the federal government, free.

March 1863

The First Conscription Act

Because of recruiting difficulties, an act was passed making all men between the ages of 20 and 45 liable to be called for military service. Service could be avoided by paying a fee or finding a substitute. The act was seen as unfair to the poor, and riots in working-class sections of New York City broke out in protest. A similar conscription act in the South provoked a similar reaction.

May 1863

The Battle of Chancellorsville

On April 27, Union General Hooker crossed the Rappahannock River to attack General Lee's forces. Lee split his army, attacking a surprised Union army in three places and almost completely defeating them. Hooker withdrew across the Rappahannock River, giving the South a victory, but it was the Confederates' most costly victory in terms of casualties.

May 1863

The Vicksburg Campaign

Union General Grant won several victories around Vicksburg, Mississippi, the fortified city considered essential to the Union's plans to regain control of the Mississippi River. On May 22, Grant began a siege of the city. After six weeks, Confederate General John Pemberton surrendered, giving up the city and 30,000 men. The capture of Port Hudson, Louisiana, shortly thereafter placed the entire Mississippi River in Union hands. The Confederacy was split in two.

Through the Fall of Vicksburg&mdashJuly 1863

These photographs include three which William R. Pywell took in February 1864, referring back to Grant's brilliant campaign of the previous summer.

June-July 1863

The Gettysburg Campaign

Confederate General Lee decided to take the war to the enemy. On June 13, he defeated Union forces at Winchester, Virginia, and continued north to Pennsylvania. General Hooker, who had been planning to attack Richmond, was instead forced to follow Lee. Hooker, never comfortable with his commander, General Halleck, resigned on June 28, and General George Meade replaced him as commander of the Army of the Potomac.

On July 1, a chance encounter between Union and Confederate forces began the Battle of Gettysburg. In the fighting that followed, Meade had greater numbers and better defensive positions. He won the battle, but failed to follow Lee as he retreated back to Virginia. Militarily, the Battle of Gettysburg was the high-water mark of the Confederacy it is also significant because it ended Confederate hopes of formal recognition by foreign governments. On November 19, President Lincoln dedicated a portion of the Gettysburg battlefield as a national cemetery, and delivered his memorable "Gettysburg Address."

Photographs of the battleground began immediately after the battle of July 1-3. This group of photographs also includes a scene of Hooker's troops in Virginia on route to Gettysburg.

September 1863

The Battle of Chickamauga

On September 19, Union and Confederate forces met on the Tennessee-Georgia border, near Chickamauga Creek. After the battle, Union forces retreated to Chattanooga, and the Confederacy maintained control of the battlefield.

Meade in Virginia&mdashAugust-November 1863

After the Battle of Gettysburg, General Meade engaged in some cautious and inconclusive operations, but the heavy activity of the photographers was confined to the intervals between them&mdashat Bealeton, southwest of Warrenton, in August, and at Culpeper, before the Mine Run Campaign.

November 1863

The Battle of Chattanooga

On November 23-25, Union forces pushed Confederate troops away from Chattanooga. The victory set the stage for General Sherman's Atlanta Campaign.

Chattanooga&mdashSeptember-November 1863

After Rosecrans's debacle at Chickamauga, September 19-20, 1863, Confederate General Braxton Bragg's army occupied the mountains that ring the vital railroad center of Chattanooga. Grant, brought in to save the situation, steadily built up offensive strength, and on November 23- 25 burst the blockade in a series of brilliantly executed attacks. The photographs, probably all taken the following year when Chattanooga was the base for Sherman's Atlanta campaign, include scenes on Lookout Mountain, stormed by Hooker on November 24.

The Siege of Knoxville&mdashNovember-December 1863

The difficult strategic situation of the federal armies after Chickamauga enabled Bragg to detach a force under Longstreet to drive Burnside out of eastern Tennessee. Burnside sought refuge in Knoxville, which he successfully defended from Confederate assaults. These views, taken after Longstreet's withdrawal on December 3, include one of Strawberry Plains, on his line of retreat. Here we have part of an army record: Barnard was photographer of the Chief Engineer's Office, Military Division of the Mississippi, and his views were transmitted with the report of the chief engineer of Burnside's army, April 11, 1864.

This time line was compiled by Joanne Freeman and owes a special debt to the Encyclopedia of American History by Richard B. Morris.


Conscription and the New York City draft riot

Just 10 days after Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg, a draft riot broke out in New York City and quickly turned into a race riot. At least 120 people were killed in the five-day melee, which remains one of the deadliest episodes of civil unrest in American history. This was neither the first nor the last draft riot to take place in the North, however. In fact, the last major riot would occur in March 1864 in Charleston, Illinois, one of the towns that had hosted a Lincoln-Douglas debate in 1858.

It was the Confederates, however, who had resorted to a draft first, in April 1862. All healthy Southern white men between ages 18 and 35 were required to serve three years (ultimately, this would be extended to men between ages 17 and 50). Those whose occupations were critical to society or the war effort were exempt from military service, and until December 1863 a wealthy man could hire a substitute to serve in his place. The most controversial element of the Confederate conscription was the “Twenty-Slave” law, which allowed one white man from a plantation with 20 or more slaves to avoid service during the war. This was in part a response to the pleas of many Southern women, who were unprepared for and overwhelmed by the responsibility of running plantations on their own and managing a significant number of slaves. The exemption stirred cries from yeomen farmers that this had become “a rich man’s war but a poor man’s fight.”


Congress passes Civil War Conscription Act - HISTORY

Economics
It's often said that the American Civil War was entirely and only about slavery. Is there another view?

Yankee Canards
Was the ante-bellum South a primitive, backwards, illiterate, violent culture?

Mulattoes
Numbers and significance of the Southern mulatto population

Northern Racism
De Tocqueville observed that "race prejudice seems stronger in those states that have abolished slavery than in those where it still exists, and nowhere is it more intolerant than in those states where slavery was never known"

Slavery as History
How can you make an honest inquiry into American slavery without understanding the mindset of slave-owners? How can you do that without being yourself a racist?

Rebel View
Early 19th century American politics and political culture as it was seen by many Southerners

Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was perhaps the greatest writer in American political history. Writers are great, in part, because of their ability to disguise what they really intend.

Lincoln and Race
"You and we are different races. We have between us a broader difference than exists between almost any other two races."

Thaddeus Stevens
The life and times of Pennsylvania's fiery anti-Southern Congressman

Sidelights on Christiana
The Christiana Riot of 1851 is sometimes described at the first skirmish of the Civil War

1860 Election
Even if all the Democrats had united behind one candidate, the Northern regional ticket would have won

Secession
The wire-pulling over the Morrill tariff bill in 1860 showed the party of the abolitionists cynically using a legitimate government mechanism to gain power in a presidential election.

Legal Issues
Secession was legal under the Constitution, based on its ratification by the states in 1787 and 1788

Cornerstone Speech
Alexander Stephens "Cornerstone Speech" in context.

Upper South
"States rights" is dismissed as a red herring argument, yet the Upper South states seem to have left the Union for this reason.

What Cost Union?
Lincoln saved the union, but at a terrible cost to America's democracy and culture of freedom.

Up from History
The evolving historical view of the American Civil War.

Soldiers and War
Responding to the slander against Southern military effort.

Why the South Lost
Was Northern victory inevitable?

War Effort
The South put forth a tremendous effort for independence.

The Southern Press
Journalism and Southern civil liberties.

Desertion
An examination of the myth of massive Southern desertion.

A Closer Look
Desertion by the numbers case studies North and South.

Ella Lonn
The original study of desertion in the Civil War.

Conscription
Southern conscription was the first attempt to create a modern military system.

Draft of 1862
An overlooked draft in the North that was underway almost simultaneously with the first rebel conscription.

Albert B. Moore
An important source for the "South against the South" thesis.

Maryland
The Lincoln Administration's crackdown on Maryland.

Occupied Maryland
A sampling of federal documents dealing with martial law in Maryland.

Maryland Peace Party
A pamphlet from the anti-government forces in Maryland.

Habeas Corpus
The suspension of Habeas Corpus in the North by the Lincoln administration during the war.

Copperhead
A Northern newspaper editor fights the administration after it closes down his press in response to anti-government articles.

"Keystone Confederates"
Some Pennsylvanians fought for the South during the Civil War.

Southern Populists
"You are deceived and blinded that you may not see how this race antagonism perpetuates a monetary system which beggars you both."

Coatesville Lynching
Zach Walker was burned alive by a white mob in Coatesville, Pennsylvania.

York Riots
A little-known but violent 1960s race riot in York, Pennsylvania.

New South
Slavery, racism, and segregation were national experiences.

New Lost Cause
A native-born Southern white woman worked with native-born Southerners, black and white, with a shared sense of decency, to accomplishing the work of desegregation in Mississippi.

Flag dispute
From 1879 to 1956, the Georgia state flag was essentially the "Stars and Bars." If you were going to link any state flag with slavery, that would be the one.

Jonathan Kozol
"So two-tenths of 1 percent marks the difference between legally enforced apartheid in the South 50 years ago, and socially and economically enforced apartheid in New York today"

Both the North and the South began the Civil War with the intention of using volunteer armies, even though European experience had shown for generations that they were unsuited to modern wars. Both sides eventually turned to conscription, but circumstances forced the South to do so a few months sooner than the North.

The natural obligation of every able-bodied man to defend his hearth, home and country against foreign aggression has been assumed for as long as agricultural implements could effectively be used as weapons. The Greek and Roman city militias, and the Anglo-Saxon fyrd compelled men into service by natural right and tradition, with no limit of term of service.

An army of drafted men was the norm in the 19th century, and the United States and Great Britain were alone among the great powers in not embracing that. Napoleon won all his brilliant victories with conscripted armies -- France drafted 2,613,000 men in 13 years beginning in 1800. That set the tone for the century's military strategy: "God marches with the biggest battalions."

What the Confederacy (and the United States) did differently when calling out its volunteers in 1861 was to set a limit on their terms of contract. This was done obviously with an eye to politics, and it came back to haunt both sides: the South a few months sooner and more severely than the North.

In the initial upwelling after Sumter, the South, expecting a quick victory or a European intervention, mustered in most of its volunteers for only one year. But the North was even more short-sighted (and also constrained by a militia law that dated from the Whisky Rebellion) and only called its men to three months' duty. Three years was a more common term of enlistment for a conscripted man in Europe (Prussia, for example). It may not have been short-sightedness at all, of course: if you tell a young man you're going to take him away from his family, his farm, his sweetheart, his education, his trade for three years and more, he's likely to feel his ardor for your cause grow a bit chilly.

Albert B. Moore, in "Conscription and Conflict in the Confederacy," seems to regard the South's great mistake was not in turning to conscription, but in relying at first on volunteers. "[C]onscription would have been less odious if it had been made the exclusive policy of raising armies at the outset. It might then have been regarded as a scientific way of allocating the man power of the country and distributing fairly the burdens of war. But the volunteer system was tried the first year, and after conscription was adopted volunteering was still allowed. This made conscription appear to be a device for coercing derelicts, hence the taint that attached to the conscript."[1]

The North was fortunate in a way it never could have foreseen, because three months gave it just enough time to get the boys in uniform, give them big parades, and send them off into one battle, where they got chased off the field. Most of the three-month men in the regiments I've studied immediately signed up again. They had something to prove, having lost once, and they had had enough of a taste of army life (all of it in the late spring and early summer) to make it seem like a grand hunting trip.

Furthermore, the pressure on the Northern homefront to enlist (or reenlist) in July 1861 was enormous: the Union's defenses had melted in the wake of the first Bull Run, and the people were being told that the national capital, and their own homes beyond it, lay wide open to rapacious Rebel hordes. The panic was over in a few weeks, but those happened to be the crucial weeks in which Lincoln called for, and got, 500,000 troops. And he got them for three years.

Thus the North was able to postpone its enlistment crisis. The South was not so lucky. It rested on the laurels of Bull Run, confident that the war was won, and awaited European recognition. It wasted the summer and fall, and by the time it prepared for action again the enlistments were running out and the boys in arms, who had done their duty well, were eager to see home again.

Perhaps the proper model for the Southern rebels of 1861, in terms of their logistical and political challenge in fielding an army, is not to the North in the same year, but the American colonies of 1776. The historical comparison would point up some valuable lessons in the frustrations of maintaining a large-scale rebellion through several agrarian cycles in a sprawling, diverse country.

Even before the Confederate Congress decreed a re-enlistment, there were mass voluntary re-enlistments by company and regiment and even brigade that spring. Yet these units were supposedly, if we read the "lack-of-will" writers, utterly demoralized and disgusted. Some soldiers complained that manipulation was involved others knew that the CSA's Congress would probably find a way to keep them there anyhow. But historian Gary Gallagher concludes that "most reenlistments in early 1864 seem to have been motivated by patriotism."[2] And the event was widely applauded across the South, in newspapers as well as private correspondence, as a "contrast to the bribes & threats & false pretences of our enemy!"

There's a sort of weary determination to stick it out in the letter soldier Benjamin Freeman of the 44th N.C. wrote home on Feb. 19, 1864, during a later re-enlistment drive:

"Pa we have all Reinlisted for the 'War.' We had to do it and I thought I would come on as a patriot soldier of the South. We are soldiers and we have to stay as long as there is any 'war.' There is no way to escape it."

The manpower crisis facing the Confederate armies in the spring of 1862 was a result of legislative incompetence, specifically, the Confederate Provisional Congress' foolish re-enlistment law of Dec. 11, 1861. The "bounty and furlough act" demonstrated, in the words of historian John C. Ropes, that "the difference between an army and a congeries of volunteer regiments was not appreciated." Every soldier who re-enlisted for three years or for the duration of the war was promised a bounty of $50 and a 60-day furlough. He could choose his arm of the service, and if he did not like his company, he could join a new one. Men could elect their own officers, "rewarding those who curried favor by laxity and demoting those who had enforced discipline," in the words of Douglas S. Freeman.

Freeman wrote, in "Robert E. Lee": "A worse law could hardly have been imposed on the South by the enemy. Its interpretation was confusing, its effect was demoralizing, and it involved nothing less than a reconstruction of the entire land forces of the Confederacy in the face of the enemy." He cites Union general and military historian Emory Upton, who wrote later that the bounty and furlough law should have been styled "an act to disorganize and dissolve the provisional army." The CSA Congress only made matters worse when it passed a series of hurried measures, designed to dangle more bait for re-enlistments.

When the permanent Congress took its seats shortly after this, it reversed the course and put the army on a firm, professional basis. It did so just in time, for that summer by means of drafts and threats of drafting, and by hefty bounties, the North would mobilize its manpower, which of course was vastly greater than the South's, for a long war. The Civil War was the last war that Americans tried to fight with volunteer minuteman patriotism. By the end of it, both sides had armies built up largely through conscription, threat of conscription, and (in the case of the North) offering a small fortune in bonuses to enlistees.

"In the army," Freeman wrote, "those who had intended not to re-enlist on the expiration of their terms grumbled and charged bad faith on the part of the government, but those who were determined to carry on the war to ruin or independence rejoiced that those who had stayed at home were at last to smell gunpowder. In the well-disciplined commands, men who went home at the expiration of their twelve months and returned as conscripts soon settled down to army routine." William D. Rutherford, adjutant of the 3rd South Carolina regiment, wrote home on April 18, 1862, approving the conscription bill. His only regret was that, "[t]o those who are loyal and brave, it is somewhat mortifying that their services cannot be voluntarily offered to their Country."

Confederate draft legislation was also far-sighted in attempting to provide exemptions that would allow skilled workers in essential trades to stay home and further the war effort on the job, something most other nations didn't adopt until after World War I. As it turned out, though, this provision was not used by the South as efficiently as it could have been. The exemptions are sometimes blamed because they increased the social tensions in the South. But in fact they were a progressive feature.

Historians of warfare also praise the Confederate conscription act of 1862, specifically for its exemptions. They call it the first modern draft in the world, because it recognized that industry and agricultural leadership, and organization behind the lines were as important to a national war effort as armies were. The goal of a draft isn't just to shovel as many men as possible into uniforms it's to get the best soldiers there, and leave the best workers at their jobs. The combatants in World War I failed to realize this, and they fought each other with universal conscription, huge armies, and losses of millions of men. World War I proved "it was nothing less than a national, let alone military crime to conscript all classes of men as if they were one class and of equal value, and to fill the trenches, which were little more than altars of human sacrifice to a discredited god, with highly skilled mechanics, miners and professional men."[3] Of course, the men who go to war always resent the men who do not. But that resentment does not necessarily make for the wisest policy when trying to guide a nation to freedom out of war.

The flaws of the Southern draft were functions of all conscripted armies and prevailed in the North as well as in Europe: overzealous draft officers the host of exemptions, widely abused, however well regulated in theory and the ease with which the richer class of men of military age avoided service.

Not surprisingly, the Rebel soldiers hated the Conscript Law. It was unfair, and they knew it. It took the glory out of the war, and the war was never the same for them. Sam R. Watkins, my second-favorite rebel, serving in the First Tennessee regiment under Braxton Bragg, had this to say about it:

"[S]oldiers had enlisted for twelve months only, and had faithfully complied with their volunteer obligations the terms for which they had enlisted had expired, and they naturally looked upon it that they had a right to go home. They had done their duty faithfully and well. They wanted to see their families in fact, wanted to go home anyhow. War had become a reality they were tired of it. A law had been passed by the Confederate States Congress called the conscript act. . From this time on till the end of the war, a soldier was simply a machine, a conscript. It was mighty rough on rebels. We cursed the war, we cursed Bragg, we cursed the Southern Confederacy. All our pride and valor had gone, and we were sick of war and the Southern Confederacy.

"A law was made by the Confederate States Congress about this time allowing every person who owned twenty negroes to go home. It gave us the blues we wanted twenty negroes. Negro property suddenly became very valuable, and there was raised the howl of 'rich man's war, poor man's fight.' The glory of the war, the glory of the South, the glory and pride of our volunteers had no charms for the conscript."[4]

That was how he felt, and how his companions felt, in the spring of 1862. It was a low point of the war. They would have walked away from it, but they couldn't, so they didn't. They went back to the business of war, of being an army, which is a highly illogical business, after all, as Sophocles knew. The war went on, and their lives went on, and things looked different. Of the invasion of Kentucky that summer, Watkins wrote:

And after many more hills and valleys, high points and low points, it ended. Sam R. Watkins went home and wrote a beautiful little book about it. He thinks secession was justified. He despised the conscription and the men who ordered it. He didn't own slaves or hate black folks. He seems to have liked them better than most Yankees did. He was proud to have been in that army, and proud of how his regiment fought, and mourned his companions who died. He liked being an American. He thinks secession was legal. He uses "rebel," invariably, as a good word. He uses the phrase "Lost Cause" without a hint of shame.

And I'm willing to bet the Rebel army, like the Yankee one, was full of hundreds of thousands of Sam R. Watkinses. I see the same sentiments in personal writings on both sides: contempt for military bureaucracy, for politicians, for the stay-at-home men who made fortunes and danced with the gals that the boys in uniform left behind.

The more than one-year lapse between the Confederate conscription act, approved April 16, 1862, and the Conscription Act that passed the U.S. Congress on March 3, 1863, is often cited as evidence of different abilities or enthusiasm on opposite sides in the Civil War. This ignores that fact that in at least five states in the North an extensive draft took place in the fall of 1862. In fact, the drive to draft in the North began less than three months after the Confederate conscription act.

You can disagree with the notion that governments ought to be able to compel their citizens to fight. But you can't say the CSA is marked somehow as a special case in history, deserving of dishonor.

Volunteerism failed during the American Revolution, when much of the countryside was under direct attack by British armies. States like Pennsylvania had to draft all their able-bodied men into the militia not once but twice during the 1777 invasion, and Massachusetts and Virginia resorted to conscription in 1777 to fill their thinning line regiments.

In fact, on Feb. 6, 1778, the Continental Congress recommended that all the states adopt this policy. George Washington wrote to the president of the Continental Congress in 1778 that, "I believe our greatest and only aid will be derived from drafting, which I trust may be done by the United States." Only the French aid averted the necessity of following this plan.

Likewise during the War of 1812, again with invaders on the national soil, volunteerism failed to fill up the depleted American regiments, and Congress turned to conscription, but the sudden end of the war prevented the plan from going into action.

Nor does America offer the only example. Take France in 1791: facing invasion on all sides, the revolutionary government called up line regiments, with a militia as a supplemental force. It also sought a National Guard for home defense. In short order, France found itself with more than 2.5 million "National Guards" and only 60 of the 169 battalions of volunteers it had hoped to raise.

As the erudite British military historian Maj. Gen. John Frederick Charles Fuller, C.B., C.B.E., D.S.O., observed in writing about conscription through the ages, "the majority of the people are naturally adverse to risking their skins."[6]

America has fought its post-Civil War conflicts with overwhelmingly drafted armies. Roosevelt started beefing up the U.S. military by a draft in late 1940, even before America was at war. Here's what he said about it:

"On this day more than sixteen million young Americans are reviving the three-hundred-year-old American custom of the muster. They are obeying that first duty of free citizenship by which, from the earliest colonial times, every able-bodied citizen was subject to the call for service in the national defense.

"It is a day of deep and purposeful meaning in the lives of all of us. For on this day we Americans proclaim the vitality of our history, the singleness of our will and the unity of our nation. . In the days when our forefathers laid the foundation of our democracy, every American family had to have its gun and know how to use it. Today we live under threats, threats of aggression from abroad, which call again for the same readiness, the same vigilance. Ours must once again be the spirit of those who were prepared to defend as they built, to defend as they worked, to defend as they worshipped. The duty of this day has been imposed upon us from without. . [T]hose who have created the name and deed of total war-have imposed upon us and upon all free peoples the necessity of preparation for total defense."

A year later, he even extended the terms of men who were already in service, just like the Confederacy did. Here's what he said about it in his message to Congress describing the step:

The historian James W. Geary writes:

The North's crisis might have come even sooner, but the Lincoln administration dodged a bullet when a friendly court upheld its legally dubious Spring 1861 call-up of troops. Among those to answer that call were the First Minnesota Volunteers, who went into service with mix of enlistments ranging from three months to three years. Poorly led at Bull Run, they suffered more casualties than any other Federal regiment in the field. Amid dislike for commanding officers and dawning realization of what three years away from home would mean to their families, farms, and jobs, some of the 1st Minn. attempted to have their enlistments nullified, on the grounds that proper procedure hadn't been followed. This led to United States v. Colonel Gorman, which upheld the constitutionality of the legislation of Aug. 3, 1861, which retroactively authorized the May 3 call-up. And it upheld the validity of the three-year enlistments.

"Fortunately for Union authorities, the legality of their recruiting methods was upheld early in the war and they did not have to consider other alternatives, such as arbitrarily extending the enlistment terms of their soldiers, as the South did in the spring of 1862," Geary wrote.[8]


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