Northern Illinois University Press


We Need Men

The Union Draft in the Civil War

James W. Geary

"A remarkable new look at a war that has otherwise been thoroughly picked over by historians. This is highly recommended for Civil War collections."—Library Journal

"Carefully researched, thoughtful, and detailed."—Journal of Southern History

"The most complete study of conscription during the American Civil War."—Military Review

Spurred by the desperate need to replenish Northern troops during the Civil War, the federal government in 1862 instituted national conscription. Within two years, the government developed a massive bureaucracy to execute the draft, enrolled 3 million men of military age, and implemented four major troop calls for an additional 1.4 million men.

For the Civil War generation, the compulsory method for raising troops marked a dramatic departure from the past practice of voluntarism, and challenges to conscription were widespread. The New York Draft Riots in July 1863 represent the best-known and most violent incidences of resistance to the Union draft, but in 1864 more deeply rooted antagonism toward the administration of the system and toward such policies as quotas and credits threatened to impair what progress had been made by conscription. Defects in the drafting process and abuses such as bounty jumping further eroded public confidence in conscription.

In this comprehensive and richly detailed study, James Geary charts the creation and evolution of the draft in terms of its broad military, social, and political contexts and evaluates its success in contributing to the ranks of the Union army. Drawing in part from previously untapped sources in the National Archives, Geary explores the complex workings of the quote system—long a source of confusion. He presents composite portraits of those Union men who were drafted, those who received disability exemptions, those who paid a three-hundred-dollar exemption fee, and those who provided substitutes. In his discussion, Geary addresses an issue that has lingered for more than a century—namely, whether the Civil War was "a rich man's war and a poor man's fight" and, if so, whether the Union draft may have contributed to class discrimination in the North.

(1991) 281 pp., illus.
ISBN: 978-0-87580-157-5
cloth $35.50

Table of Contents

Introduction
1 Voluntarism
2 The Summer of 1862
3 The Militia Act and the Summer of Lost Opportunity
4 "Breath Alone Kills No Rebels"
5 Majority Strength Versus Minority Power
6 Credits, Quotas, and Confusion
7 Quotas and Other Numbers
8 Yankee Recruits, Conscripts, and Illegal Evaders
9 "$300 or Your Life"
10 "Men Not Money"
11 Commutation's Repeal and Class Discrimination
12 Alienation and the Draft
Conclusion
Appendix
Notes
Works Cited
Index

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ISBN: 978-0-87580-157-5
cloth $35.50