The Start of Confederate Conscription
Today marks the sesquicentennial of the first Conscription Act passed by the Confederate Congress (April 16, 1862)—and the first time the draft was employed in American history. Designed to help the Confederacy overcome manpower shortages, the law required all white males ages 18 to 35 to be eligible for military service. Inadvertently, the law also defined the parameters of southern loyalty and duty as the Conscription Act automatically reenlisted one-year volunteers into three year contracts and provided stricter punishments for deserters. Subsequent provisions to the Conscription Act included the Twenty-Slave Law—which exempted white men who owned more than 20 slaves—and further enraged non-slaveholding whites already frustrated with the draft.
For more thoughts on Confederate Conscription, please see Robert Moore's "“Pressed”, drafted, and conscripted – a quick note" and Kevin Levin's "Remembering Confederate Conscription."
Image Credit: The Trans-Mississippi Theater Virtual Museum.