What was the term to serve for 1861 confederate volunteers?

What was the term to serve for 1861 confederate volunteers?

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March 6, 1861 Confederate Congress act:

"The Congress of the Confederate States of America do enact, That… the President be, and he is hereby authorized to employ the militia, military and naval forces of the Confederate States of America, and to ask for and accept the services of any number of volunteers, not exceeding one hundred thousand, who may offer their services… to serve for twelve months after they shall be mustered into service, unless sooner discharged.

Sec. 2. And be it further enacted, That the militia, when called into service by virtue of this act or any other act, if in the opinion of the President the public interest requires, may be compelled to serve for a term not exceeding six months after they shall be mustered into service, unless sooner discharged"

Sec. 1 states twelve month, Sec. 2 - six month. What was the real one, intended by this act? I know that in reality confederates were eventually serving till the war end, but my question is exclusively for this act. Sorry if question looks silly, but English is not my native language (especially century and a half old English)

Section 2 specifically refers to the existing militia only (which may not necesssarily have been all volunteer). Militia is a local fighting force.

Section 1 refers to all volunteer armed forces.

Basically what this means is that if you volunteered for Confederate military service in the war you were committed to 12 months of service. If you were already in the militia, however, for whatever reason, by the act you could only be compelled to fight for 6 months.

What was the term to serve for 1861 confederate volunteers? - History

THE First Maryland Cavalry was organized at Baltimore and Wil-
liamsport, Maryland, Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, and Washington,
D. C., from August, 1861, to June, 1862, to serve three years. On
the expiration of its term of service, the original members, except
veterans, were mustered out of service, and the organization, com-
posed of veterans and recruits, retained in service until August 8,
1865, when it was mustered out of service in accordance with orders
from the War Department.

Companies A, B, C, D and E were recruited in Baltimore City, Company F at
Cockeysville and Baltimore City, Companies G and K at Pittsburg, Pa., Companies H
and I in Washington and Allegany Counties, Companies L and M in Washington
City, D. C.

The formation of this regiment by detachments at different points on different
dates divided, for a time, the regiment and their sphere of usefulness.

Companies G, I and K rendered valuable service in Western Virginia, more espec-
ially during the raid by General (Stonewall) Jackson's Confederate Army from Win-
chester, through Berkeley Springs, to Hancock, Md., in January, 1862 and Russell's Com-
pany I particularly distinguished itself at Bloomery Gap, West Virginia, February 14,

Companies A, B, C, G and I of the 1st Maryland Cavalry, under Lieutenant-Colonel
Wetschy, aided in covering the retreat from Winchester, Va., of General Banks' Divi-
sion, that had been attacked by an overwhelming army of the enemy under the command
of Generals Jackson and Ewell, May 24, 1862.

Companies D, F, H, K and L of the 1st Maryland Cavalry, under Major Deems,
arrived at Harper's Ferry, Va., on the 25th day of May, 1862, in time to aid in repulsing
any farther advance of the enemy in that direction. They wero pushed forward on the
28th day of May, 1862, with the111th Pennsylvania Infantry and Cole's Maryland Cav-
alry and a section of Artillery, to Charlestown, Va., and there encountered the advanc-
ing column of Jackson's Army a brisk skirmish ensued, in which the 1st Maryland
Cavalry incurred serious loss.

The 1st Maryland Cavalry advanced up the Shenandoah Valley, Va., via Smith-
field, to Winchester, with Banks' Division, in June, 1862, and thence into eastern
Virginia, where it became a part of General Pope's Army.

In the campaign of General Pope's Army the 1st Maryland Cavalry were con-
spicuous, and rendered splendid service in the engagements that ensued, more espec-
ially at Cedar Mountain, August 9, 1862 Centreville, August 28, 1862, and Bull Run,
August 30, 1862.

This web site is presented for reference purposes under the doctrine of fair use. When this material is used, in whole or in part, proper citation and credit must be attributed to the Maryland State Archives. PLEASE NOTE: The site may contain material from other sources which may be under copyright. Rights assessment, and full originating source citation, is the responsibility of the user.

History of the 13th Massachusetts Volunteers

The official history of the regiment, "Three Years in the Army," by Charles E. Davis, Jr., published 1894, is the primary source for most of this abbreviated history of the '13th Mass.' There are many other sources however. I have in particular relied on soldiers' letters & reminiscences for the Darnestown & Williamsport period of the history as Davis is relatively silent about this time. Eventually I intend to post at this site a bibliography of source material on the 13th Regiment.

Prologue From the Regimental History of the 13 Mass:

The present generation has no conception of the consternation that prevailed among the people of the North when the startling news was received that Fort Sumter had been fired upon. It aroused the patriotic indignation of the community to the highest pitch of excitement.

Up to this time most people were skeptical about the possibilities of a war. Threats of secession had often been made before, by politicians of the South, without being carried into effect. The feeling of hatred that existed toward the North was not fully appreciated except by comparatively small numbers of persons. Although the air was filled with rumors of war, they were generally believed to be nothing more than the irrepressible mutterings of disgruntled politicians. Therefore, when the announcement was made that Fort Sumter had been fired upon, it awoke the public mind to a realization that rebellion and secession were at hand. Public meetings were held in every town and city. Resolves were passed condemning the outrage, coupled with an expression of determination to avenge the insult to the national flag.

Such a display of bunting in Boston was never seen before. Across every street, at the mastheads of vessels lying in the harbor, in the horse-cars and on express-wagons, and upon private houses could be seen the American flag floating in the breeze and, indeed, every opportunity was taken to give expression to the prevailing sentiment by displaying the national emblem.

On the 14 th of April Fort Sumter surrendered.

The 19 th of April, which is one of the days sacred to American history, on account of the battle of Lexington, this year, received an additional interest from the events that were transpiring. It was celebrated by the ringing of bells, flag-raisings and speeches, a drill on Boston Common by one of the artillery companies, and at noon by the firing of one hundred guns in honor of the day.

While the people were thus actively engaged in celebrating the day, news was received that the Sixth Regiment had been attacked in the streets of Baltimore. The most intense excitement followed. Men gathered in groups about the streets, while crowds surrounded the bulletin boards of the newspapers to learn the particulars.

If anything was needed to arouse the patriotism of the North, it had now occurred. Public meetings were held in various parts of the city. Merchants, lawyers, physicians, and members of other professions met, and offers of service and money were proffered for the use of the State. Large loans were generously offered by the Boston banks and by the banks of other cities, for the State’s immediate use, trusting to the honor of the Legislature to reimburse them, when it met. Numerous offers of money were made to the Governor by private individuals, as aid to soldiers’ families. Nor were women lagging behind the men in enthusiasm. Rich and poor, high and low, all offered their services for the preparation of bandages and lint, the making of garments, attendance in hospitals, or any other service compatible with their sex.

Business seemed, for the time, to be forgotten in the excitement. The minds of men were too much disturbed to give proper attention to other matters. Only one subject possessed the public mind, - to protect the government from the clutches of traitorous hands.

It was under the influence of these patriotic demonstrations, as exhibited in all the cities and towns of Massachusetts during the first months of the war, that our regiment was enrolled. Many of the young men who left lucrative positions were guaranteed them on their return, by their employers. The generous impulses of all were awakened by the danger that threatened the country.


For information on the organization of the 10 different rifle companies that made up the '13th Mass' click here. Organization.

Fort Independence, May 25 th - July 29 th

May 25 th - The Fourth Battalion of Rifles reports to Fort Independence along with the Roxbury Rifle Company, (which becomes Company E).

June 29 th - Five more rifle companies which become Companies F, G, H, I & K joined the 4 th Battalion and the Roxbury Rifles at Fort Independence, Boston Harbor. (Although the regimental history gives the date of June 25 th for this event, soldiers' letters & other sources confirm the date June 29 th as the date the other 5 companies arrived at Fort Independence).

July 4 th - The Fourth Battalion of Rifles is escort to the city government in Boston’s 4 th of July parade.

July 16 th - The regiment is mustered into Federal Service at Fort Independence, as the 13 th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteers, to serve an enlistment term of 3 years.

Departure for Maryland, July 29 th - August 1 st

July 29 th - The regiment is ordered to the front. They travel to Western Maryland and the seat of War.

Aug. 1 st - The Regiment arrives in Hagerstown , MD.

Aug. 2 nd - They march 12 miles to Boonsboro, MD & bivouac in a mule yard about midnight.

Aug. 3 rd - They march 16 miles to Pleasant Valley.

Sunday, Aug. 4 th - Orders changed to proceed to Sharpsburg, MD lay in camp all day.

Aug. 5 th - March 19 miles to Sharpsburg & make camp.

Read about their departure for the front.

Camp at Sharpsburg, August 5 th – August 20 th

Aug. 6 th - Twenty-five men from Companies A & B are sent to Antietam Creek Company C is sent to Shepard’s Isle Companies E & H are sent to Blackford’s Ford Company I to Dam 4 of the Chesapeake & Ohio (C&O) Canal.

Sunday, Aug. 11 th - First Religious Services in camp.

Aug. 14 th - 13th Mass. pickets at Antietam Ford are fired upon by the enemy across the river (4 - 4:30 p.m.).

Sunday, Aug. 18 th - Pay Day. At Shepherdstown Ford, some of the boys in Company E set fire to a large mill across the Potomac River because enemy cavalry would gather there and take shots at them.

Aug. 20 th - The detached companies are ordered to return to Sharpsburg.

Aug. 21 st - March 7 miles to Boonsboro (6 p.m. - 10 p.m.).

Aug. 22 nd - March 8 miles to Middletown & rest, then march 5 miles to Broad Run.

Aug. 23 rd - March 15 miles to Sandy Hook. Company I sent to guard the river ford at Harper’s Ferry two miles up river.

Camp at Sandy Hook August 23 rd – September 2 nd

Aug. 24 th - Edwin Smith (Co. K) is the first man of the regiment wounded (by an over zealous sentry). He eventually dies from the wound in 1863.

Aug. 31 st - Splendid meteor shower is seen in the sky. In the evening Company I men cross the Potomac River and take 3 horses and 2 men captive.

Sept. 1 st - Three companies are officially detached from the regiment. Company C is ordered to Monocacy Junction to guard the railroad and river crossings, under command of Captain John Kurtz Companies I & K to (opposite) Harper’s Ferry, under command of Major J.P. Gould. These companies will remain detached until October 31 the other 7 Companies are ordered to Darnestown, Maryland.

Sept. 3 rd - Sept. 5 th - The 7 departing companies travel to Darnestown, MD to join with Major-General Nathaniel Banks, Commander of the Military Department of the Shenandoah.

Detached Companies, C, I, & K Sept. 1 st - Oct. 31 st

Sept. 2 nd - Harper's Ferry Companies I & K skirmish at Beller’s Mill, near Harper’s Ferry. Capt. Shriber and his men, are attacked by cavalry. One man, George Brown is injured.

Sunday, Sept. 15 th - Harpers Ferry Members of a scouting party under command of Lt. David Brown, Co. I, are attacked along the towpath of the C&O Canal opposite Pritchard’s Mill. John L. Spencer of Co. I, becomes the first man killed by enemy fire.

Sept. 12 th - 17 th - Monocacy Between these dates, several members of the Maryland legislature are arrested at Frederick, for allegedly plotting a vote of secession at their next scheduled meeting, September 17. Captain Kurtz and Company C assist in the arrests in some way, although specific details of the role they played are missing.

Sept. 25 th - Monocacy Captain Kurtz of Company C resigns to accept a commission as Lt.-Col. in the 23 rd Mass. First-Lieutenant William Jackson is promoted to Captain in his place.

Sept. 28 th - Monocacy At night, Company C is ordered to be ready to proceed by rail to Point of Rocks to assist Colonel John Geary who expects a Rebel attack. At midnight the boys board the cars and wait for orders to move out. At daylight the orders have still not arrived so they disembark and wait. The call does not come.

Sept. 30 th - Monocacy Co. C moves to Harper's Ferry to re-enforce Companies I & K.

Read more about the detachent at Monocacy.

Early October - Harper's Ferry Abraham Herr, a prominent citizen, with strong Union sympathies, owned a mill on Virginius Island adjacent to Harper's Ferry. His mill was disabled and 20 - 30 thousand bushels of un-milled wheat lay about the premises un-processed. He contacted Major Gould and offered the wheat to the Government, which offer was enthusiastically accepted. To harvest it, details of men from the regiment and impressed citizens from the town were instructed to load the wheat onto barges to be sent down river to Washington. Confederate Cavalry Col. Turner Ashby was keeping a close eye on these activities and decided to attack and put a stop to the work. On the Union side, Col. Geary of the 28 th Pa, commanding troops in this area, kept a sharp watch over Harper's Ferry - on the look out for just such an attack. This lead to the battle of Bolivar Heights, on October 16 th .

Oct. 16 th - Harper's Ferry Battle of Bolivar Heights Companies C, I & K. Confederates ride up from Charlestown to assault the Union troops at Harper's Ferry. Companies I and K are positioned near Herr's Mill at Virginius Island. Col. Geary, commanding the Union troops brings up re-enforcements to repell the attack, including Company C, of the 13th. He advances through the town of Harper's Ferry, and Bolivar and a sharp skirmish ensues. The Confederates eventually retreat.

Oct. 19 th - Harper's Ferry Capt. Blackmer (Co. K) leaves for home, his resignation is accepted on Nov. 5th.

October 31 st - The three detached companies leave Harper's Ferry and join the rest of the regiment at Williamsport, Maryland.

Camp Hamilton, Darnestown, Companies, A, B, D, E, F, G, & H,

September 5 th - October 9 th

Sept. 21 st - Darnestown The enlisted men play the officers in a game of baseball. It is not recorded which team won, but a lot of balls were thrown close to Lt-Col. Batchelder.

Sept. 26 th - Darnestown National Fast Day. The regiment parade to Darnestown for a review, then back to camp. Colonel Leonard’s remarks are complimentary.

Sunday, Sept. 29 th - Darnestown Baked Beans are now the regular Sunday Breakfast.

Oct. 2 nd - Darnestown Division Review by General Banks who is complimentary to the '13th Mass,' but they get other comments due to the yellow glow cast over the regiment caused by their polished brasses.

Sunday, Oct. 6 th - Company B is posted Provost Guard at General Banks' Head Quarters.

Oct. 9 th - Orders are received to march tomorrow.

Camp Jackson, Williamsport, Md October 13 th - February 29 th 1862

Oct. 10 th – 13 th - The 7 companies at Darnestown march to Williamsport, Md. During the move they engage in a friendly marching competition with the 12 th Indiana Regiment.

Oct. 15 th - The regiment is paid off at Williamsport. Captain Cary, Co. B, is posted Provost Marshal of the town. His company does provost guard duty.

Oct. 23 rd - The Williamsport contingent moves their camp to a much better spot. They remain here until March 1 st 1862.

Oct. 31 st - The 3 detached companies C, I, & K take canal boats up the river from Harper's Ferry to rejoin the rest of the Regiment at Williamsport.

Sunday, Nov. 3 rd - Chaplain Gaylord preaches in Camp. According to Sgt. Austin Stearns of Co. K, the Chaplain preaches from the text, "Company C" thanking God for that noble company. They were the heroes of the hour for their part in the battle at Bolivar Heights, Oct. 16 th . (No mention is made in the sermon of Co.'s I & K). There is a little tension between the 4 th Battalion of Rifles (Boston) and the "country companies."

Nov. 5 th - Company D is detached to Hagerstown, Md. The resignation of Captain William P. Blackmer, Co. K, is accepted.

Nov. 6 th - First-Lieutent Charles H. Hovey is promoted Captain, Co. K. Hovey is a great officer and will complete his 3 year term of enlistment as Lt-Col. of the regiment.

Nov. 7 th - All but 12 men of Co. B return to camp, the rest do provost duty in town. Co. D returns from detached provost duty at Hagerstown.

Nov. 21 st - Thanksgiving Day in Camp. The boys make a big thing of it.

Detachment of Companies A, B, E, & H, to Hancock, Nov. 26 - Jan. 2, 1862

Nov. 26 th - Companies A, B, E & H are detached and sent to Hancock, Maryland. They will stay there until Jan. 2, 1862. Company E is sent 5 miles further up the river to Sir John's Run. Several excursions across the river into Virginia from Hancock are made during this time.

Nov. 30 th - Sir John's Run - Company E has a skirmish with the Rebels across the river. George S, Cheney is wounded in the engagement.

Dec. 4 th - Hancock - Captain Clark leads detachments from companies B & H, across the Potomac River to Bath, Virginia to arrest one, Mr. Swan.

Dec. 6 th - Hancock - Another expedition crosses the river after 3 a.m. and marches to Bath, Virginia to arrest Johnson Orrick, a Captain in the 33rd Virginian, but he is not found at home.

Dec. 14 th - Sir John’s Run - Lt. Joseph Colburn takes 31 men across the river in search of a Confederate Col. Buck. The Col. is not at home, so they search several houses and return with commandeered poultry & ham. They cover 32 miles in 12 hours, there and back.

Read more about the detachment at Hancock.

Dec. 5 th - Williamsport - Co. D ordered to Hagerstown.

Dec. 6 th - At Dam #5 of the C&O Canal the pickets are fired upon.

Skirmish at Dam #5 of the C&O Canal, Dec. 7 th - 8 th

Confederate Major Elisha Franklin Paxton of the 27 th Va. arrives at sunset on the Virginia side of the river opposite Dam #5. His artillery opens fire, surprising & driving away a small force of Union pickets. Paxton attempts to destroy the Dam and disrupt navigation on the C & O Canal. For 5 hours his men work at destroying the Dam in the ice cold water. At 11 p.m., Co. C arrives from Williamsport as re-enforcements to the troops at Dam #5. The opposing sides exchange fire until 2 a.m. Co. D returns to Williamsport from Hagerstown.

Sunday, Dec 8 th - Co. G relieves Co. C at Dam #5. The Confederates shell the Union troops sheltered by the canal but no damage is done. The dam-wreckers are under constant Union fire so Major Paxton withdraws. Co. K is dispatched to Dam #4 but while en route they are overtaken and ordered to return to camp.

Dec. 10 th - Williamsport - John S. Burnap of Co. K, age 21 years, dies in camp after an illness of 2 weeks. His father is at his side.

Dec. 11 th - Williamsport - Co. C is sent to Dam #5 but recalled before night.

Dec. 12 th - Williamsport - Col. Leonard reports to General Banks, 2 regiments of enemy infantry & 2 companies of cavalry with artillery, attacked his 2 companies positioned at Dam #4 of the C & O Canal. Col. Leonard sends a field gun to their support.

Dec. 14 th - Williamsport - Companies D and K sent to Dam #5, but returned the same night.

Dec. 17 th - 18 th - Williamsport - Company I sent on picket to Four Locks near Dam #5.

Read more about the camp at Williamsport.

2 nd Skirmish at Dam #5 of the C&O Canal, Dec. 17 th - Dec. 21 st

Dec. 17 th - Dam #5 again. This time no less than Stonewall Jackson shows up on the Virginia side of the river in an effort to destroy Dam no. 5 of the C& O Canal. He hopes to disrupt the canal transportation from Ohio to Washington D.C. Jackson sends a diversionary force to Falling Waters to throw the Union troops off guard. The rest of his force hides behind the bluffs on the Virginia side of the river across from the dam. Sentries are posted to prevent Union river crossings while his dam wrecking crew goes immediately to work. Col. Leonard suspects that Falling Waters is a diversion and keeps a good number of troops at the dam. Sporadic gun fire is kept up all night. Worried that the assault at the dam is a diversion for an attack on Romney, Va., Leonard notifies Gen’l Banks. Banks orders up troops to Col. Leonard’s support. Co. K is ordered to Falling Waters to support Co. F, already there.

Dec. 18 th - Lt. Col. Batchelder marches to Falling Waters with Co's. C, D, & G along with a section of Capt. Best's artillery. Col. Leonard reports to Gen’l Banks he has enough men at hand to take care of the threat posed by Jackson. In the morning Confederate artillery blasts a brick house across the river at Dam #5 and scatters Union sharpshooters positioned there. But Col. Leonard has brought up his own artillery and Union guns of the 4 th US Artillery open fire, - catching Jackson’s troops behind the bluff off guard. Jackson calls up more of his artillery but decides to hold their fire when the Federal shelling stops. The dam-wreckers have built a stone barrier to protect themselves from enemy fire while they try to knock a hole in the structure of the dam (in freezing cold water) but Union gunfire is still too intense they can only work at night. At night Union artillery destroys a mill across the river sheltering Confederate sharpshooters. The conflagration lights up Dam #5. The Confederate dam-wreckers keep working under terrible conditions.

Dec. 19 th - At daybreak, as a ruse, Jackson conspicuously moves his troops with pontoons down river giving the impression he may try to cross. Col. Leonard follows with his only battery, and some troops giving the dam-wreckers a few hours to work. But Leonard soon returns in force with the re-enforcements Gen’l Banks has sent from Frederick. They drive the Rebels from the river. Company K returns to camp at Williamsport from Falling Waters.

Dec. 20 th - Jackson’s men are still trying to wreck the dam but give up at 3 p.m. having only caused a few leaks. Companies D, C, and G return to Williamsport from Falling Waters.

Dec. 21 st - As the rebels withdraw Col. Leonard sends troops over the river into Virginia in pursuit. Two Confederate deserters claim Jackson has a large number of men, discouraging the pursuit. Col. Leonard reports to Bank’s that the canal boats are running. Gen’l Banks congratulates Col. Leonard on his defense of the dam.

Dec 22 nd - Williamsport George C. Haraden, age 18 years, (Co. K) dies of heart disease at Williamsport.

Dec. 24 th - Col. Leonard writes to Gen’l. Banks that it is “all quiet along my line.”

Dec. 30 th - There are reports that the rebs are again at Falling Waters and Dam #5. Plenty of Union troops guard the area.

The Civil War (1861-1865)

When the Civil War began on April 12, 1861, Minnesota's governor, Alexander Ramsey, was in Washington, D.C. Ramsey immediately promised President Lincoln a regiment of 1,000 volunteer soldiers from Minnesota. These were the first troops offered to fight for the United States during the Civil War. In order to organize and train these raw recruits, the state of Minnesota reopened Fort Snelling to serve as a rendezvous and training center for the volunteer soldiers.

While at the fort, recruits learned the basics of soldiering and spent the majority of their time marching, drilling with their weapons, and standing guard duty. After the draft was instituted in 1863, several large wooden barracks were constructed outside the fort's stone walls to accommodate the large numbers of new soldiers. Fort Snelling also served as a mustering-out location for Minnesota units completing their term of service. From 1861–1865 nearly 25,000 soldiers passed through Fort Snelling.

Minnesota's soldiers played pivotal roles in many battles across the south. Among the state's most famous units was the First Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment, which was not only the first regiment of soldiers offered to fight for the Union army, but also halted a determined Confederate assault at Gettysburg in July 1863, helping to save the Union line. Other units, like the Second Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment, fought in the war's western theater and distinguished themselves in battles at Shiloh, Vicksburg, Chickamauga, and Atlanta as well as on General William T. Sherman's "March to the Sea." Others, such as the Third Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment, returned to Minnesota and fought in the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862.

In total, Minnesota furnished 11 infantry regiments, two companies of sharpshooters, several units of artillery and cavalry, and several dozen sailors. During the war 104 African American men from Minnesota volunteered for service in the army's segregated African American units, including the First Iowa African Infantry Regiment, as well as the Eighteenth and Sixty-eighth Regiments of United States Colored Troops (USCT). More than 2,500 Minnesotans died in battle or from illness, and many more were wounded during the Civil War.

Civil War Conscription Laws

If it can be said that necessity is the mother of invention, then it can also be said that war is quite often its midwife.  This was certainly the case in the American Civil War when the requirements of creating, supplying and transporting armies led to various innovations.  In the history of the United States perhaps the most revolutionary innovation was the raising of armies by conscription and by necessity of war the Confederacy led the way.

In 1861 the Confederate Provisional Congress passed a number of laws to create a national army.  By the end of the year upwards of 200,000 men were under arms and the volunteer and militia systems provided the bare minimum of men needed to defend a large country.  But by the beginning of 1862 it became obvious to members of the Confederacy’s political and military elites that once the terms of enlistment for the volunteers started to expire, and many men decided not to reenlist, the country would face a manpower shortage.  Earlier legislation attempted to address this problem by offering liberal incentives to reenlist, but these incentives proved to be ineffective.  In recognition of this problem, Jefferson Davis sent a message to the Confederate Congress on March 28, 1862 recommending the enactment of a system of conscription.

Photograph by Donna Sokol

On April 16th, the Confederacy adopted a law that provided for support of the army by extending the terms of enlistment of currently enrolled soldiers to three years from the date of original enlistment.  In addition, the law made all white males between the ages of 18 and 35 who were citizens of a state in the Confederacy subject to national military service for a term of three years, unless released at an earlier date by the President.  The law allowed for individuals subject to conscription to hire a substitute, who would normally be exempt from service.  Substitution quickly proved to be unpopular since it allowed for wealthy men to escape military service while leaving men of lesser resources exposed to the draft.  The individuals who served as substitutes also were viewed with suspicion since it was felt they were mercenaries and would desert at the earliest possible moment.  In late 1863, substitution was abolished by an act of Congress in January, 1864 a second act required that men who had hired substitutes report for duty as either volunteers or inductees.

One immediate concern about the law was its effect on the economy and civil government of the Confederacy. To address these concerns the Confederate Congress passed a law on April 21, 1862 which provided a number of occupational-related exemptions to conscription.਎xemptions were granted to men who served in national and state governments to men who worked in heavy industry and mining਌ommunications and transportation industries and, various occupations which directly served the public such as teachers, ministers and druggists.  The provisions for exemptions were, as with the provisions for substitutions, subject to abuse and controversy.  Because the law did not specify the need for qualifications or experience men suddenly became teachers who had no prior experience in teaching, and druggists who had no prior experience in compounding drugs.

However, these provisions were not the most controversial exemption.  That was adopted in October 1862, when the Confederate Congress, after an extensive lobbying campaign, adopted the so called “Twenty Negro Law,” which granted an exemption to an owner, or one overseer on each plantation with twenty or more able-bodied slaves.  This provision immediately became unpopular with men serving in the army as is reflected by the sentiments of General D.H. Hill who said “[S]ome examples claim to own twenty negroes, and with justice might claim to be masters of an infinite amount of cowardice.”[1]  This provision was amended in 1863 and again in 1864 when the requirement of the $500 payment was changed to a bond to provide 100 pounds of meat to the government for each able-bodied slave. In addition, at this time, the age range for enrollment was extended from 17 to 50 although active service applied only for men between the ages of 18 and 45.

Because the Confederacy had only a nascent system of national courts, most individuals who wished to challenge the conscription laws sued in a state court which exercised concurrent jurisdiction with national courts in conscription cases.  The state courts agreed that the Conscription Act of 1862 was a constitutional exercise of the national government’s power to raise and regulate armies.  The main source of legal controversy concerned the operation of the system of exemptions and who had the power to release men from the army.  The state courts adopted a view that the provision of the act that gave the enrolling officers exclusive power to release inductees was an unconstitutional delegation of power.  Instead the state courts ruled that they had the power to review decisions of the enrolling officers, and of the War Department.  If necessary they could grant relief to a man who was held counter to the provisions of the law.[2] 

Photograph by Donna Sokol

The Law Library’s collections include the published reports of the appellate courts from the individual states.  In addition, the Law Library has two slip opinions from the Confederate District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia concerning the exemption from army service of two individuals who contracted for mail carrier contracts.  In his decisions granting the contractors’ petitions for habeas corpus relief, District Judge James D. Halyburton held that the use of the word “exempt,” in the statute required the release of the petitioners from army service.  He also cited the specific exclusion of mail contractors from the operation of the conscription laws.

Conscription was not a complete success for the Confederacy but it did provide upwards of 90,000 men for the army and helped to keep the ranks filled early during the Civil War though it had negative effects on the Confederacy’s society and economy.

[1] Clark County Journal, May 14, 1863.  Quoted in ALBERT BURTON MOORE, CONSCRIPTION AND CONFLICT IN THE CONFEDERACY, 71 (1924)

Slaves Forced to Serve Confederate Army Had to Choose Freedom or Family

Lieutenant J. Wallace Comer of the Army of Tennessee's 57th Alabama and his camp slave, Burrell. (Courtesy of the Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

Cooper H. Wingert
August 2019

Many blacks who entered Pennsylvania with the Army of Northern Virginia escaped—but many accepted bondage as the price of contact with loved ones

Members of a Georgia unit pose in camp with an enslaved man. (Courtesy of Robert Gray)

Slaves were ubiquitous in Confederate armies dating back to the war’s earliest days. Legions of enslaved people labored as servants, cooks, and teamsters, helping to free Southern whites to fight. In May 1861, an Alabama recruit’s first taste of camp life included winding his way through “throngs of negro cooks.” As they adjusted to army life, Confederate soldiers frequently wrote home, imploring relatives or acquaintances to “send me a negro boy.”

The presence of slaves allowed Lee’s soldiers to configure their camps as “small Southern communities,” in which bondsmen completed everyday tasks such as laundry, cooking, and caring for animals, while also seeing to their master’s personal comfort. While “a man can do everything that a soldier has to do,” reasoned a Mississippian who later joined Barksdale’s Brigade, “it is needlessly making a slave of himself if he can get some one else to do it for him.” Before his family sent an enslaved man named Jim to act as his servant, the Mississippi officer “scarcely had time to write a letter or read a line now I have plenty to do both.”

Often lacking the funds to purchase their own slave, many enlisted men pooled their money to hire (or “rent”) an enslaved person from his master, or hire a free black servant. “We have hired a negro man to cook for us,” wrote one Confederate soldier. “We don’t pay but 80 cts a piece a month for him, and I had much rather pay that than to be standing over a hot fire cooking.” Samuel Burney and his mess mates in Cobb’s Georgia Legion shared a camp slave named Daniel, who “does all for us brings wood, water, cooks, spreads down beds, blacks shoes, &c.” Although Daniel was not his slave, Burney seemed satisfied with his function as a shared servant, opining that he “does me as well as if he were mine.”

L ife for camp slaves was often grueling and harsh. One of Lee’s divisional commanders, Maj. Gen. William Dorsey Pender, was “horrified

Confederate Maj. Gen. William Pender Dorsey paid his camp slave Joe a decent wage, but did not hesitate to whip him. (Library of Congress)

to see how white men calling themselves gentlemen neglect their poor helpless negroes in this camp.” Paralleling the experience of many soldiers, slaves fell ill in startling numbers as unsanitary conditions and exposure to new diseases took their toll. Pender, a North Carolinian, looked on with dismay as slaves and “free boys” alike—“in most cases forced from home,” he added—came down sick and “are allowed to die without any care on the part of those who are responsible for their well being.” And just like soldiers, homesickness plagued slaves who were separated from family and loved ones, often for prolonged periods of time.

To reconstruct the lives and experiences of enslaved people, historians are often forced to sift through diaries, letters, and reminiscences left by whites. Reading between the lines, we can attempt to recover some of what enslaved people experienced, but crucially not all of their thoughts, feelings, and motivations are clear to us. Accounts left by several disgruntled slave owners suggest that some slaves preferred the army as a welcome reprieve from monotonous labor at home, offering opportunities for travel generally unavailable to slaves in the antebellum period—and not to mention the improved prospect of escape to Union lines. During the summer of 1862, a Charlottesville, Va., slaveholder groused that this slave George ran away, and “passing as a free man” joined up with a Confederate artillery unit. Farther to the south, an Amelia County, Va., slave owner advertised for the return of a slave who had accompanied him during the Peninsula Campaign “and has since been anxious to go to the army again.”

Slaves and a small number of free African Americans might also have received cash for taking on additional tasks, or simply as a “bonus” for good work. Pender, who castigated the treatment of camp slaves, paid his servant Joe $15 per month—higher than the average Confederate private’s monthly wage ($11). Yet as events quickly demonstrated, Joe’s status was still secondary to that of white Confederate soldiers.

Shortly after the Antietam Campaign, Joe instantly aroused jealousy from white Confederate soldiers by purchasing “a nice gray uniform, french bosom linen shirt.” Pender determined that Joe would make no further purchases without his consent. “I have ordered him to allow me to be his treasurer,” Pender wrote home. Nor did Pender’s earlier criticisms prevent him from administering the lash. “I gave Joe a tremendous whipping last night,” Pender scribbled in a note to his wife. “He is a good and smart boy but like most young negroes needs correction badly.”

W hen slaves were near the front lines, amused Confederates drew on heavy dosages of slave vernacular and the “Sambo” stereotype, to depict them as clueless, “comical bystanders,” who lacked the battlefield courage of white Southerners. Shortly after the First Battle of Manassas, the Richmond Enquirer ran a satirical column about a camp slave named Sam who had purportedly followed his master into the thick of the “popin of de guns.” Sam wrapped up his story with a joke that seemed to place him in lockstep with white Confederates. Why was the place of battle called Manassas, he asked? Because “de abolitioners met us dar—we was de ‘men’ and day de ‘asses.’” While Sam’s parting quip—if indeed his own words—might have conveyed some vague sense of camaraderie, white Southerners were quick to remind him and other camp slaves of their secondary status. Reading the Enquirer from his camp in northern Virginia, a member of the 16th Mississippi copied the joke into his diary—complete with slave vernacular. Rolling with laughter, he recorded its provenance from “one of our negro cooks.” Although Sam’s story was that of a slave on the front lines, this Mississippi soldier—along with most white Southerners—considered Sam first and foremost a slave, not a fighting man.

Marlboro Jones, a slave of Captain Randal F. Jones of the 7th Georgia Cavalry, sat for a formal portrait in a Confederate uniform. The canteens indicate his role as a camp slave rather than a fighting man. (Virginia Museum of History and Culture)

The loyalty of Confederate slaves has proved a bedeviling topic in public memory of the Civil War. During the conflict, Southern papers churned out sentimental stories of “faithful” slaves combing battlefields to retrieve the bodies of their wounded or slain masters, anecdotes that painted the slave system in a harmonious and favorable light. In postwar reminiscences, former Confederates extolled the virtues of their similarly “devoted” slaves. Remarkably, many recent websites, books, and articles have accepted these claims as fact—with little or no critical analysis. Some have even gone as far as to declare broadly that the Southern Army’s legion of camp slaves were active supporters of the Confederacy.

During the war, most Confederates believed their slaves were loyal. “Out of the many negroes in this army I haven’t known one to even try to make his escape to the enemy,” boasted James Paul Verdery of the 48th Georgia. “There are several in my Reg’t and they are all so well contented, that every thing moves along easy with them.” When slaves did escape, disgruntled Confederates echoed the accusations that slaveholders had been repeating for decades—a third party, an abolitionist or a “Yankee,” had “seduced” their slave into leaving.

Most Confederates were unwilling or unable to believe that slaves had legitimate reasons for leaving, much less the agency and wherewithal to plot their own escapes. An Alabama officer leveled just such an accusation after his “negro cook” Charles ran away in 1864. “My opinion is that he was enticed away or forcibly detained by some negro worshipper,” the Alabamian reasoned, “as he had always been prompt and faithful, and seemed much attached to me.”

L argely convinced of their slaves’ loyalty, Confederates confidently toted their human property into a Northern free state. Slaves had accompanied the Army of Northern Virginia into Maryland in September 1862, but the Gettysburg Campaign would mark the first and only time Lee’s army carried a substantial number of slaves into a free state. While the British observer Arthur Fremantle recorded that each of Lee’s regiments had from “twenty to thirty negro slaves,” the precise number of camp slaves the Army of Northern Virginia brought to Gettysburg remains unknown. Estimates ranged as high as that of Thomas Caffey—another Englishman, serving as a Confederate artillery officer—who placed the number at 30,000 “colored servants who do nothing but cook and wash,” to the more conventional figure of 6,000–10,000, adopted by most scholars.

As Lee’s columns entered Pennsylvania in late June 1863, Confederates were eager to establish their slaves’ loyalty. From Mercersburg, Confederate surgeon Thomas Fanning Wood proudly reported that a slave in his brigade had refused the invitation of local “abolition women” to help him escape. “Our negroes are not at all prepossessed with their Yankee brethren,” Wood wrote home, “and I don’t suppose one in the Regt. could be induced to leave.” Confederates seized upon their slaves’ supposed loyalty on free soil to paint a picture of affectionate master-slave relationships and a benign slave system. “A chance for freedom they had,” bragged Private William S. White of the 3rd Richmond Howitzers, “but they preferred life and slavery in Dixie to liberty at the North.” Thoroughly coached in proslavery paternalism, White predicted that freedom would be an “absolute curse” to “careless” African Americans, who would “ever miss their kind and considerate masters.”

Some even claimed that slaves were more eager than white Confederates to wreak havoc on Yankee territory, in revenge for the hard war waged throughout much of the Union-occupied South. General Pender boasted that his servant Joe “enters into the invasion with much gusto and is quite active in looking up hidden property.” Pender maintained the excitement extended beyond just Joe and included the army’s entire accompaniment of slaves, who “seem to have more feeling in the matter than the white men and have come to the conclusion that they will [im]press horses, etc., etc. to any amount.” Members of the Washington Artillery of New Orleans (Eshleman’s Battalion) similarly testified that Lee’s General Orders No. 72—instructing Confederates to respect civilian property—came “much to the disgust of the negro cooks, who cannot understand why the army should act so differently from the Federal armies in Virginia.”

These claims require more context. Although Pennsylvania was a free state, throughout the Gettysburg Campaign Confederates occupied large swaths of the south central part, and were already rounding up blacks without regard to their legal status. Escape, under these circumstances, would have amounted to a “suicide mission,” in the words of scholar Colin Woodward. Not only that, but despite their own aspirations for freedom, many bondsmen remained tied to the South through enslaved family members back home. Just like the Virginia slave Beverly, the prospect of a prolonged, perhaps permanent separation from loved ones—coupled with fears of retribution against relatives still in bondage—discouraged many slaves from running away once the army reached Pennsylvania soil.

Former Confederate camp slaves, some wearing ribbons proclaiming them as "ex slaves," attended a 1927 reunion in Tampa, Florida. These men formed bonds of camaraderie even while forced to serve a cause dedicated to keeping them in bondage. (National Civil War Museum)

Similarly, the excitement Pender and others attributed to their slaves could stem from a multitude of factors, not just zealous loyalty to the Confederate cause. Most slaves had spent their entire lifetime in slavery, and the past several years in war-torn Virginia. The southern Pennsylvania countryside, by comparison, seemed a veritable cornucopia of agricultural bounty. Just as white Southern soldiers ate well in Pennsylvania, so too did the army’s contingent of slaves. And if camp slaves were eagerly searching for stashes of food and livestock, in many cases it was because their masters ordered them to do so.

Family ties likely influenced George, the slave of an English-born Confederate officer. On July 1, 1863, George’s master, Colonel Collett Leventhorpe, led his 11th North Carolina Infantry (Pettigrew’s Brigade) across Willoughby Run and smashed into the left flank of the famed Iron Brigade. In the furious fighting that blanketed Herbst Woods, Leventhorpe fell with wounds in his hip and arm. As the battle raged on to the east, the fallen colonel was joined by his slave. George “nursed his wounded master”—first at the impromptu field hospital set up at the Samuel Lohr farm, and later still in Union captivity, at hospitals in nearby Mercersburg, and eventually at Fort McHenry in Baltimore.

It was in Union hands that George’s story takes a surprising turn. “Discovering that he would be forced to become a Union volunteer,” a North Carolina paper later swanked, “he skillfully duped the Abolitionists by donning Federal uniform and by a feigned conversion to yankee philanthropy and bribery.” His deception complete, George procured a pass from a garrison officer to run some routine errands, and “with the aid of this pass…and by some strategy, George safely reached Dixie, as he says, ‘heartily sick of all yankees and all yankeedom.’”

If the North Carolina newspapers that celebrated George’s tale were to be believed, here was a slave running away to the South. Yet just months earlier, the colonel’s wife had offered George a potent reminder of the family ties that probably motivated his return. “Tell George his Mother & all are well,” Louisa Leventhorpe added in a letter to her husband written in February 1863.

George’s return was not the only such instance. On July 6, several slaves belonging to the 3rd Richmond Howitzers were captured by Union forces, only to return to Confederate lines three days later. An enslaved man by the name of George Washington also returned south. Washington was owned by Joseph Bryant of Bossier Parish, La., who hired him out as a cook to Private Burrel McKinney of the 9th Louisiana (Hays’ Brigade). Washington was “captured by the Yankees with our wagon trains in Pennsylvania,” but escaped, swam across the Potomac River, and eventually made his way to Richmond. There he was jailed as a runaway, and his ultimate fate remains uncertain. While Confederates viewed their slaves’ return as proof of unflinching loyalty, in most cases enslaved people’s true allegiances rested with their family members, who remained in bondage.

W hile each of these men had their own, perhaps complicated reasons for returning south, the vast majority of enslaved people made their loyalties known. The claims of fidelity and devotion that Southern diarists and columnists were all too eager to trumpet unraveled before their eyes as the war progressed. Through word-of-mouth and eavesdropping, slaves learned of the rise of the Republican Party, Lincoln’s election and the outbreak of war. When the opportunity presented itself, slaves consistently ran to—not from—Union lines. The wartime “desertion” of more than half a million slaves undermined many Southerners’ long-held proslavery convictions.

“As to the idea of a faithful servant, it is all a fiction,” the North Carolina diarist Catharine Devereux Edmondston concluded in September 1863. “I have seen the favourite & most petted negroes the first to leave in every instance.” According to General Joseph Johnston, “desertion” also plagued Confederate armies’ camp slaves. “We never have been able to keep the impressed Negroes with an army near the enemy,” he admitted in January 1864. “They desert.”

Even Robert E. Lee acknowledged in May 1863 that “our negroes” constituted “the chief source of information to the enemy.” Escaped slaves often proved valuable informants to the Army of the Potomac’s intelligence chief, Colonel George H. Sharpe. Just days after Lee’s cautionary epistle, a slave who ran away from Brig. Gen. George H. Steuart’s Brigade correctly informed one of Sharpe’s men that the Confederate army “intended to march to the [Shenandoah] valley and visit Maryland.” A week later, after the fight at Brandy Station, Va., two slaves identified as officer’s servants came into the Union lines and shared more valuable information. One enslaved man, a servant in Cobb’s Legion, confirmed the presence of Lee and all three corps commanders at a recent review in nearby Culpeper, while also shedding light on the army’s trajectory toward Pennsylvania.

“A great many negroes have gone to the Yankees,” wrote Edgeworth Bird, a quartermaster for Benning’s Georgia brigade, in a letter dated July 9. A Chambersburg minister who had taken special note of the Southern army’s sizable contingent of “colored servants and teamsters” reported rumors that some had deserted. Just how many camp slaves escaped during the Gettysburg Campaign remains unknown, though several individual cases do survive. An enslaved man named Joe—who served a group of brothers in the 18th Mississippi—disappeared during the retreat from Gettysburg. Unwilling to completely forsake Joe’s loyalty, an advertisement for his return speculated that he “ran away…or was captured…on Gen. Lee’s retreat from Pennsylvania.”

During the retreat, Captain Charles Waddell of the 12th Virginia (Mahone’s Brigade) briefly left the regiment, returning to find that his slave Willis had seized the opportunity to escape, taking with him Waddell’s camp equipage. And while his slave did not escape, Captain Shepherd G. Pryor of the 12th Georgia (Doles’ Brigade) expressed frustration with the newfound assertiveness of his camp slave, Henry. As the army entered Pennsylvania, Henry became “very trifling,” Pryor wrote, and “dont care for any thing but to make money for himself.” Pryor thought that Henry “will get better” once he “got farther away from the free states.”

Many camp slaves who fell into Union hands were brought to Baltimore’s Fort McHenry. By July 30, the fort’s commandant, Brig. Gen. William W. Morris, could count 64 “Negroes, Servants of Officers in the Rebel Army” from Gettysburg and the retreat. Shortly after their arrival, the men were visited by Colonel William Birney—the older brother of Maj. Gen. David Bell Birney, who had fought at Gettysburg and whose father was a prominent prewar abolitionist. During the summer of 1863, Birney was in Baltimore tasked with recruiting U.S. Colored Troops—often concentrating his efforts in the city’s slave pens and prisons, much to the ire of Maryland slaveowners. When word of the captured camp slaves reached him, Birney headed directly to Fort McHenry. There the abolitionist colonel “appealed to them as freemen,” and pointing to the “glorious” stars and stripes floating above, “urged them to assert their rights, and strike the blow that should deliver their oppressed brethren from the tyranny of their so called masters.”

At least 16 followed Birney’s call and enlisted, while another eight left with Union regiments as cooks. Morris was optimistic that the remaining number might be employed as “laborers, teamsters, &c&c,” though he noted that several of the men declared themselves to be free, “and have families to whom they desire to return.” Union officials debated this request, though Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton ultimately decided that no black detainees would be sent south. Still, at least six managed to escape—a testament to the strength of family bonds.

For enslaved people, the Gettysburg Campaign had a wholly different meaning than the decisive Union victory celebrated in Northern papers, or the bitter defeat that Southerners only begrudgingly conceded. Stepping foot on free soil (most likely for the first time), they confronted a cruel dilemma—family or freedom. While some took flight as opportunities presented themselves, others stayed put, aspiring to keep their families intact despite slavery. Like Beverly, they were forced to maintain a painful, evasive silence about their heart-wrenching brush with freedom, a uniquely human story of Gettysburg that remains largely untold.

The Myth of ‘Black Confederates’

The A frican Americans accompanying the Army of Northern Virginia as camp slaves were noncombatants. The myth of “Black Confederates” has misconstrued and distorted the nature of slavery within Confederate armies. Many proponents of the myth point to a post-battle report published in the New York Herald on July 11, 1863, which counted “among the rebel prisoners…seven negroes in uniform and fully accoutered as soldiers.” These men, however, were not soldiers, but among the thousands of camp slaves accompanying Lee’s army. If anyone would be baffled by modern-day claims about “Black Confederates,” it would be Confederate soldiers. Decades of antebellum slave codes in Southern states had strictly curtailed African-Americans’ access to firearms, and most Confederates warmed to the idea of arming blacks only during the winter of 1864-65, and even then only out of sheer desperation to continue the fight for independence.

Thousands of black men accompanied Confederate armies into the field, but virtually none were fighting men. Most performed menial tasks like this man ready to shine an officer’s boots. (Library of Congress)

At Gettysburg, enslaved people were present in large numbers in the Army of Northern Virgina, but not in the battle lines sweeping toward Union positions. Camp slaves occupied much of the First Day’s battlefield after it was firmly in Confederate hands, tending to the wounded, cooking meals for Southern soldiers, and caring for the army’s multitude of horses and animals. After the fighting on July 1 had concluded, Confederate artillery officer Coupland R. Page met his “negro boy, Pete” along the Chambersburg Pike west of town. Pete had “kindled a bright fire” and procured food from “four full haversacks” scavenged off the lifeless corpses of Union 1st Corps dead. “He then took my horse, fed him, and returned to the fire,” recalled Page. “By 8 o’clock my mess were all filled with real coffee and other substantials.”

A prisoner from the 1st Minnesota encountered a similar scene on the morning of July 3, as he was escorted behind Confederate lines, observing “long lines of negro cooks baking corn pone for rebel soldiers at the front.” Once the firing sputtered to a close, many camp slaves were faced with the unenviable task of traversing the battlefield in search of their wounded or potentially slain masters. “Negro servants hunting for their masters were a feature of the landscape,” recalled Confederate artillerist Edward Porter Alexander. When referring to camp slaves, Confederate soldiers consistently used the terms “servant,” “cook,” or “negro”—making a clear distinction that the African Americans traveling with Lee’s army were laborers and servants, not soldiers. –C.H.W.

Cooper H. Wingert is a historian and the author of 12 books, including The Confederate Approach on Harrisburg, Slavery and the Underground Railroad in South Central Pennsylvania and Abolitionists of South Central Pennsylvania. Wingert has appeared on CSPAN Book TV, and is currently a student at Dickinson College.

Confederate Conscription Woes

Gloom, deepening by the week, had settled across the Confederacy as the winter of 1861-62 gave way to spring. Wherever Southerners looked, Union forces were achieving gains. In Tennessee the Federals had captured Forts Henry and Donelson and occupied Nashville. Along the Atlantic Coast, combined Army-Navy forces had closed the mouth of the Savannah River and seized Roanoke Island. Finally, the massive Army of the Potomac had landed on the tip of the Virginia Peninsula, beginning a campaign that threatened to take Richmond.

While the setbacks darkened Southern hopes, a graver crisis potentially awaited. Nearly half of the Confederacy’s troops— tens of thousands of men—could leave the Army with the expiration of their one-year enlistments. The fervid patriotism of the war’s initial weeks, which had brought forth a flood of volunteers, had diminished, resulting in few new enlistments. “The romance of the thing is entirely worn off,” declared a veteran soldier in Virginia, “not only with myself but with the whole army.”

The Confederate Congress had tried to resolve the issue with the passage of the Furlough and Bounty Act in December 1861. The law granted one-year men who reenlisted a $50 bounty and a 60-day furlough. The legislation also allowed the men to join new regiments and elect their officers. But the act created more difficulties than it resolved. General Robert E. Lee described it as “highly disastrous.”

Lee advised President Jefferson Davis that the achievement of Confederate independence demanded a draft of able-bodied men for the duration of the war. On March 28, 1862, Davis submitted a bill to Congress that called for the conscription of Southern men into the service. For a government founded on a pillar of individual states’ rights, Davis’ measure was a momentous assertion of national power.

States’ rights advocates in Congress protested against the bill, arguing that it contradicted the rationale for secession and the war. One senator countered: “We need a large army. How are you going to get it?…No man has any individual rights, which come into conflict with the welfare of the country.” In the end, on April 16, more than two-thirds of the members of both houses voted for the legislation. The existence of the Confederacy seemed to be at risk without an influx of new troops, and that sobering possibility moved the members to enact the revolutionary measure.

The law prescribed, with some exceptions, that all white Southern males aged 18 to 35 were now subject to conscription for three years’ service. One-year men in the Army had their enlistments extended for an additional two years. If a man volunteered, he could join a unit of his choice and elect its officers. Months later, Congress expanded the age limit to 45.

The measure and a supplemental act, passed five days later, provided exemptions from service. A drafted man could hire a substitute to serve for him and no longer be subject to conscription. The additional law listed various occupations as exempt from service, including Confederate and state civil officials, telegraph operators, railroad and river workers, teachers, druggists and clergymen. While certain jobs were necessary for the war effort, the exemptions invited fraud— resulting, for instance, in a rise in the number of apothecary shops in the Confederacy.

Although the prospect of conscription induced more men to volunteer in order to avoid being drafted, the law fomented widespread resistance. States’ rights governors, particularly Joseph Brown of Georgia and Zebulon Vance of North Carolina, vehemently opposed the expansion of national power. They circumvented the law by enlarging the number of exempt civil servant positions.

In areas of Unionist sentiments, notably in the mountains of Tennessee, North Carolina and Georgia, conscription officers faced violent opposition that frequently resulted in bloodshed. Eventually gangs of deserters and draft dodgers preyed upon civilians and ruled over whole sections of the countryside. Detachments from the armies were sent to quell those disturbances and to capture the outlaw groups.

The most controversial aspect of the law was the hiring of substitutes. Poorer Southerners deeply resented the ability of wealthier individuals to avoid service by securing a replacement. They claimed that the provision made it “a rich man’s war but a poor man’s fight.” In turn, many substitutes—after collecting money from a drafted man and entering the army— deserted, only to repeat the practice in another region. Abuses of the substitute system became so bad that Congress revoked it in December 1863.

The Federal Congress enacted a national conscription law in March 1863. It contained provisions similar to the Confederate legislation and also encountered resistance. It had been the Confederate States of America, however, that initially had broadened its national power over states and individuals. Doctrine had given way to necessity. The Confederacy could not contain the revolution it had begun.

Originally published in the October 2006 issue of Civil War Times. To subscribe, click here.

First to Serve

Captain William Mathews –a free black, a businessman and station master on the Underground Railroad –recruited former slaves into the 1st Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry Regiment at Fort Scott. He lost his rank when the unit was federalized but later served as an artillery officer.

Kansas State Historical Society

"Now is Our Time to Strike"

During the celebration of the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863 at Fort Scott, Kansas, Captain William D. Mathews, commanding Company D of 1 st Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry Regiment, gave a speech highlighting the opportunity for blacks to fight in the Civil War (1861-1865). He declared: "Today is a day that I always thought would come …Now is our time to strike. Our own exertions and our own muscle must make us men. If we fight we shall be respected. I see that a well-licked man respects the one who thrashes him."

The regiment's commanding officer – Colonel James M. Williams – also spoke, insisting that "this will be no mere struggle for conquest, but a struggle for their own freedom, a determined and, as I believe, irresistible struggle for the disenthralment of a people who have long suffered oppression and wrong at the hands of our enemies."

Kansas was the first Northern state to recruit, train, and send black soldiers into combat during the Civil War. Fort Scott served as the home base for both the 1 st and 2 nd Kansas Colored Infantry, with both regiments being mustered into federal service on Fort Scott's former parade ground. The Emancipation Proclamation officially authorized the recruitment of African American soldiers for federal service (although the 1 st Kansas Colored had earlier been recruited as a state unit in August 1862). This meant it was now legal for free blacks and former slaves to fight back against the institution of slavery and seek to abolish it through armed resistance. As virtually every Southern slave code prohibited blacks from carrying guns, the proclamation had a profound psychological impact across the region.

Kansas the Land of Freedom

Before the Civil War, enslaved people sought freedom through self-liberation or slave revolts. During the Civil War, they were often assisted by Jayhawkers, Free-Staters and abolitionists from Kansas who destroyed pro-slavery resources in Missouri. Jayhawkers often emancipated slaves as contrabands of war and brought them back to Kansas. Enslaved people across the region escaped to Kansas seeking freedom because slavery was prohibited in the state. Having self-liberated or otherwise found freedom, black Americans joined the Union Army hoping to free family members still enslaved.

Recruitment of Black Troops

When war erupted, President Abraham Lincoln rejected the idea of using African Americans in combat. He believed the Border States, where slavery existed, would secede from the Union. Many whites in the North and South feared an indiscriminate armed insurrection against whites. However, Kansas Senator –James Lane –promoted the idea of using fugitive slaves in combat asserting ". that the effect of marching an army on the soil of any slave State will be to instill into the slaves a determined purpose to free themselves and…will crush out everything that stands in the way of acquiring that freedom." 'Lane envisioned that 'there would be a colored army marching out of the slave States while the army of freedom was marching in."

In August 1862, Lane began recruiting free blacks and former slaves into the 1 st Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry Regiment. The 1 st Kansas Colored was first organized as a state unit, not a federal unit. While the Militia Act passed by Congress in July 1862 authorized the recruitment of black soldiers, President Lincoln chose not to do so for political reasons.

The 1 st Kansas Colored Infantry first saw combat at the Battle of Island Mound in Missouri on October 29, 1862. In this skirmish, roughly 225 black troops drove off 500 Confederate guerillas. Senator Lane used the victory as proof that blacks could fight with intelligence and bravery. Richard Hinton –the 1 st Kansas Colored Infantry adjutant –had this to say on the 1 st Kansas Colored's victory at Island Mound, he proclaimed, "The men fought like tigers, each and every one of them, and the main difficulty was to hold them all well in hand."

When the Emancipation Proclamation was issued, the Confederate States ignored it. Additionally, enslaved people in the loyal Border States and in Union occupied Southern territory were not included. However, the Emancipation Proclamation authorized the enlistment of free blacks and former slaves as soldiers in the Union Army. On January 13, 1863, the 1 st Kansas Colored was mustered into federal service on the former parade ground at Fort Scott. On December 18, 1864, the 1 st Kansas Colored was later reorganized as the 79 th United States Colored Troops (USCT), and the 2 nd Kansas Colored was organized as the 83 rd USCT.

Although black soldiers were enlisted in the Union Army, discrimination persisted. Black troops were paid less than their white counterparts as black soldiers were paid $10 per month while white soldiers were paid $13 per month. The War Department refused to commission black officers until late in the war. Notably, about 125 African Americans did gain commissions, including William D. Mathews, who served as a lieutenant in an independent black artillery unit. Also, if captured by Confederate soldiers, black soldiers were executed on the field of battle or taken back into slavery.

Battle History of the 1st Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry Regiment

  • Island Mound, near Butler, Missouri (October 28, 1862)
  • Reeder Farm, near Sherwood Missouri (May 18, 1863)
  • Cabin Creek, Indian Territory (July 1-2, 1863)
  • Honey Springs, Indian Territory (July 17, 1863)
  • Poison Springs, Arkansas (April 18, 1864)
  • Flat Rock Creek, Indian Territory (September 16, 1864)
  • Timber Hills, Indian Territory (November 19, 1864)

Freedom was their Cause

African Americans served in the Union Army for many reasons, and it is clear that the efforts of more than 180,000 black soldiers directly contributed to Union victory. Slavery was finally abolished and African Americans were granted citizenship through Constitutional amendments. While prejudices remained, preventing many from enjoying the fruits of newfound freedom, the soldiers of the 1 st and 2 nd Kansas Colored Infantry Regiments, indeed all who served in the United States Colored Troops, had begun the long march toward civil rights for all people, a noble goal that continues to this day.

What was the term to serve for 1861 confederate volunteers? - History


THE Second Regiment of Infantry, Potomac Home Brigade, was
organized at Cumberland, Maryland, from August 27, 1861, to
October 31, 1861, to serve three years.

On the expiration of its term of service, the original members
(except veterans) were mustered out and the veterans and recruits
consolidated into a battalion of three companies, viz., companies
A, B and C. A new company was organized in March, 1865, to
serve one year, and assigned to this battalion as Company D.

The organization was mustered out of service May 29, 1865, in accordance with
orders from the War Department.

Companies A, B, C, E, G, H, I and K were recruited in Allegany County, Company
F at Hancock, Washington County, and Company D at Piedmont, Virginia, on the
border land.

Immediately after the completion of the organization the regiment was assigned to
duty in Western Virginia, in that part of the Army of West Virginia under General B.
F. Kelly, and, for a brief time, under General F. W. Lander's command.

During the raid of General (Stonewall) Jackson's Confederate Army through Berke-
ley Springs to Hancock, Md., in January, 1862, and the subsequent movement of this
Confederate Army to Romney, West Virginia, the 2d Regiment Potomac Home Brigade
Infantry took a very active part, and had several severe skirmishes with the enemy.
On September 17,1862, the 2d Regiment Potomac Home Brigade Infantry had a skirmish
with the enemy near Romney, West Virginia.

Company F of the 2d Regiment Potomac Home Brigade, Captain George D. Sum-
mers, had been mounted as cavalry and sent into the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia in
the summer of 1863, where they rendered efficient service, more especially in a brisk
skirmish at Berryville, Virginia, in June, 1863, with a portion of Rhodes' Division of
Confederate Infantry, on their march to get to the rear of General Milroy's Division,
then at Winchester, Virginia.

Subsequently this company was placed in a squadron under the temporary command
of Captain George W. F. Vernon, of Company A, Cole's Battalion of Cavalry, Maryland
Volunteers, and rendered valuable service during the Gettysburg campaign.

On October 7, 1863, Company F (Cavalry) of 2d Regiment Potomac Home Brigade
had a skirmish with Gilmor's Battalion, Maryland Cavalry (Confederate), at Summit
Point, where its gallant Captain, George D. Summer's was killed whilst leading his
company in a cavalry charge.

This web site is presented for reference purposes under the doctrine of fair use. When this material is used, in whole or in part, proper citation and credit must be attributed to the Maryland State Archives. PLEASE NOTE: The site may contain material from other sources which may be under copyright. Rights assessment, and full originating source citation, is the responsibility of the user.

Civil War Recruitment Advertisements: What Induced Your Ancestor to Serve?

Introduction: In this article, Mary Harrell-Sesniak searches old newspapers to find recruitment ads that induced men, both in the North and the South, to enlist in the Civil War. Mary is a genealogist, author and editor with a strong technology background.

If your ancestor served in the Civil War, do you know what induced him to sign up?

Photo: unidentified Union soldier. Credit: U.S. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Many people think that Civil War recruits were drafted, or they volunteered for love of country. Yes, many did – but the perks that were extended for signing up swayed their choices. Since many of these inducements were advertised in newspapers, take an excursion through the classified sections of old papers to understand why your ancestor may have signed up, or chose a particular branch of the service.

Photo: unidentified Confederate soldier. Credit: U.S. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

What you find may surprise you. The newspaper recruitment advertisements are fascinating!

Appealing Slogans

Both the Union and Confederates armies needed recruits, and they needed them in a hurry. Not surprisingly, as seen in these advertisements from an 1862 Louisiana newspaper, different groups and branches of the service had competing ads with fun slogans. (New Orleans, the largest Confederate city, fell to Union forces on 1 May 1862, which is why these newspaper recruitment advertisements published in a New Orleans newspaper on 18 October 1862 are calling for recruits to the Union forces.) Some of the recruitment ads were for guards, volunteers and other troops:

  • Young man, your country wants you! (Louisiana Volunteers)
  • Fall in! Fall in! (Nelson Guards)
  • Union! Fraternity! Equality! Rally! Rally! Rally to the Call! (John Brown Guards)
  • Rare chance to enlist. Four buglers and a few able bodied men needed. (Regular U.S. Artillery)

Bounty Land

One of the recruitment ads in the New Orleans newspaper shown above is for “patriotic colored citizens, wishing to enroll themselves in the First Company formed in the State.” A bounty, which is an inducement of something of value, was offered. Recruits could receive $100 or 160 acres of land with arms, rations and equipment, along with rations for their families. The pay was $13 to $22 per month with $38 in advance.

Daily Delta (New Orleans, Louisiana), 18 October 1862, page 4

Notice in the next recruitment ad, from an 1862 New Hampshire newspaper, a $100 bounty was offered for mounted service in the U.S. Army. Unmarried men between the ages of 21 and 35 who could serve for three years would be paid from $13 to $22 per month, but no advance payment was mentioned. They would leave Concord, New Hampshire, for training and as soon as proficiency was achieved, would be transferred to active service.

New Hampshire Patriot and State Gazette (Concord, New Hampshire), 1 January 1862, page 3

Free Military School

Inducements for commanders often differed from what was offered enlisted men. For example, in this 1864 Pennsylvania newspaper recruitment ad, applicants for commands of colored troops were offered the chance to attend a free military school.

Washington Reporter (Washington, Pennsylvania), 13 January 1864, page 3

Shortened Service

A big concern for recruits was how long they would be away from their families and occupations. One enticement was to give credit for full service but allow them to complete a shorter term.

An example can be seen in this 1861 New York newspaper recruitment advertisement. The 18th Regiment N. Y. S. Volunteers needed about 200 men between the ages of 21 and 40. They received the same pay and bounty as those enlisting for three years – but their service was shortened to eighteen months, as they would be completing “the unexpired term of two years from the 17th of May last.”

Another recruitment ad in the same New York newspaper offered a competing inducement: to equip a company of sharpshooters “with the very best weapons that can be procured.” The offer was further sweetened by the promise that “the inducements are largely ahead of any other branch of the service.”

Albany Evening Journal (Albany, New York), 30 December 1861, page 1

In addition to sign-up bounties, laws were passed to grant pensions after service. Although we don’t see many of these pension offers printed in advertisements, GenealogyBank’s collection of historical and government documents, such as the U.S. Congressional Serial Set, has many pension-related articles to review.

U.S. Congressional Serial Set Vol. No. 1220, Report: H.Exec.Doc. 1 pt. 5, 5 December 1864

The Military Draft

And we mustn’t forget about the draft. When recruiting efforts failed to get enough men to enlist, drafts were imposed.

Notice in this 1861 Louisiana newspaper draft announcement how regiments were formed by address.

Daily True Delta (New Orleans, Louisiana), 1 May 1861, page 3

What fun. If you can identify your ancestor’s regiment, you could pinpoint where the family lived. Some draft announcements mention specific streets and parishes, such as the Twelfth Regiment which was comprised of the Parish of St. Bernard. Others were:

  • First Regiment: From the lower side of Canal street to the upper side of Conti street inclusive and from the Mississippi River to the east side of Rampart street.
  • Second Regiment: from the lower side of Conti street to the upper side of St. Peter street inclusive, and from the Mississippi river to the east side of Rampart street.
  • Third Regiment: From the lower side of St. Peter street to the upper side of St Philip street inclusive, and from the Mississippi river to the west side of Rampart street.

The same draft announcement specified who was required to enlist under the recent act:

All free white males who have resided [in] the state sixty days, and are eighteen years of age, and not yet forty-five, and who are not attached to any volunteer company of this state, and who are not yet exempt under the laws of the Confederate States, or of this state, are liable to militia duty and all such persons residing within the limits of the Brigade will be enrolled forthwith, and will be required to perform the same under the act above referenced to.

By order of CHAS. A. LABUZAN
Brigadier-General Commanding.

I hope this blog article induces you to take a stroll through Civil War recruitment advertisements in old newspapers. You are sure to find other surprising offers that enticed your ancestors be sure to tell us what you find in the comments section below.


  1. Matei


  2. Dasho

    I have to say this - confusion.

  3. Ogaleesha

    What necessary words... super, excellent idea

  4. Aethelred

    Yes, happens...

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