free web hosting | free website | Business WebSite Hosting | Free Website Submission | shopping cart | php hosting

Confederate Draft

The first general American military draft was enacted by the Confederate government on April 16,1862, more than a year before the federal government did the same. The Confederacy took this step because it had to; its territory was being assailed on every front by overwhelming numbers, and the defending armies needed men to fill the ranks. The compulsory-service law was very unpopular in the South because it was viewed as a usurpation of the rights of individuals by the central government, one of the reasons the South went to war in the first place.

Under the Conscription Act, all healthy white men between the ages of 18 and 35 were liable for a three-year term of service. The act also extended the terms of enlistment for all one-year soldiers to three years. A September 1862 amendment raised the age limit to 45, and in February 1864, the age limits were extended to range between 17 and 50. Exempted from the draft were men employed in certain occupations considered to be most valuable for the home front, such as railroad and river workers, civil officials, telegraph operators, miners, druggists, and teachers. On October 11, the Confederate Congress amended the draft law to exempt anyone who owned 20 or more slaves. Further, until the practice was abolished in December 1863, a rich drafted man could hire a substitute to take his place in the ranks, an unfair practice that brought on charges of class discrimination.

Many Southerners, including the governors of Georgia and North Carolina, were vehemently opposed to the draft and worked to thwart its effect in their states. Thousands of men were exempted by the sham addition of their names to the civil servant rolls or by their enlistment in the state militias. One general described a militia regiment from one of these states as having "3 field officers, 4 staff officers, 10 captains, 30 lieutenants, and 1 private with a misery in his bowels." Ninety-two percent of all exemptions for state service came from Georgia and North Carolina.

Fascinating Fact: In the last year of the war, more than one-fourth of the Confederate soldiers in the eastern armies had been drafted.

Confederate enlistment poster; courtesy Library of Congress
Written by Stephen T. Foster
Printed in USA
MCMXCHI Atlas Editions, USA
D3 602 03-11