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[Detail] Battle [drawing], Hillen

Election of 1860  | Secession | War | African Americans in the Civil War | Recruitment and Conscription

Recruitment and Conscription

As the war lengthened, recruiting troops became a challenge. In 1863, Congress passed and President Lincoln signed into law the Enrollment Act of Conscription. The Act made all single men between the ages of 20 and 45 and married men between the ages of 20 and 35 subject to a draft, unless they could afford to pay for a substitute. Draftees were to be chosen through a lottery. In New York City, on July 12, 1863, the day after the first draftees were drawn, citizens rioted. Many of the rioters were Irish and German immigrants who were struggling to survive in low-paying jobs. Angry at the rich, who could buy their way out of service, and African Americans, with whom they competed for jobs, the rioters roamed the city, looting stores, attacking blacks, and burning a black church and orphanage. A number of people were killed in the rioting, and federal troops were called in to quell the riots.

Investigate conscription and the draft riots of 1863 by conducting an Internet search. Also examine documents in the Civil War Treasures collection, including the Volck etching “Buying a Substitute in the North During the War” and Union enlistment posters offering bounties for substitutes, such as “Wanted! Wanted! Wanted! 1000 Substitutes!”

If you were a farmer in Indiana or an Irish immigrant in New York, how would you react to the practice of buying substitutes? Write an editorial about the practice, explaining why the practice was established and your opinion on the fairness and effectiveness of the practice.