previous next

The people and the Militia Draft.

If it had been the design of the call for the militia to obtain the smallest effective force, by imposing the greatest burden upon the community, the object could not have been more fully accomplished than it is under the present call. In all drafts of militia that have been ever known in any country, the system of employing substitutes has been provided for, by which useful members of society, who could not leave their business without pecuniary ruin to themselves and great injury to the public, have been enabled to put better fighting men in their places. But no such system is new provided, and efforts to obtain information from headquarters are futile.

There are thousands of men in the community who are unfit for soldiers, who are vastly more useful to their country in their places of business than they could be in the ranks, and who would each cheerfully arm and equip a good soldier for a substitute, and not only put him into a militia company for a month's service, but into a volunteer company for twelve months; thus keeping business going at home, and adding effective strength to the army; but who cannot do so, because, owing to ignorance, or incompetency, or imbecility, or indifference somewhere, no mode has been digested by which this most advantageous arrangement can be affected. It would seem as if an irrepressible conflict of interests were raging between the Confederate and State authorities, and that those of the State were refusing to devise any means for making the call effective and convenient to the people, in the effort to make those of the Confederacy as unpopular with the country as possible. Thus it would seem that the people were to be made to endure the maximum amount of suffering from this call in order that this man in office may gain some contemptible advantage over that m in office.

We have no doubt that the Confederate Government are honestly of opinion that the militia strength of the country ought to be put in a state of efficiency at this moment. We have no doubt that in pursuance of that honest opinion, they have signified the fact in the usual legal form to the State authorities. We have no doubt that having done so, inasmuch as the matters of organization and of details belong exclusively to the State, they have left it to the State authorities to bring the militia into a state of efficiency in the manner provided by State laws.

It is precisely at this point that the burden upon the community begins. The object of the call is to furnish effective soldiers. That object can be accomplished much better by devising a judicious system of regulations for the employment of substitutes than by any other process. The furnishing of substitutes for the militia service could be greatly improved upon, by allowing the substitute to be mustered as a twelve month's volunteer. The moment it was known in Kentucky, in Maryland, and other quarters, that soldiers could be enlisted here as substitutes and provided with arms, immense numbers of men would flock to Virginia for the army, and many hundreds already here could find ready places in the volunteer companies, being provided, as they would be, with arms. The rule in regard to the minimum age of the recruit might also be modified so as to allow persons not less than seventeen or sixteen to substitute others on being provided with arms. Thus a very considerable army of armed and effective volunteers might be obtained by the call for the militia, provided only some pains were used in good faith by the Executive looking to the organization of soldiers, rather than to putting unnecessary burdens on the people.

Unless some measures of this sort are taken, it is clear that the call for the militia will prove a miserable abortion, and bring disgrace, as it has already brought odium, upon the heads of its contrivers. The people cannot be expected to do impossible things, and will not consent to take part in an affair alike absurd, ridiculous, useless, and destructive. The mustering of militia has been a standing butt of derision for fifty years, and the popular derision and execration will be turned upon the men who would re-enact the mockery in the midst of so solemn a crisis of the country. If any good could be effected by mustering an unarmed militia force, the people would encounter any mere pecuniary sacrifice or personal inconvenience, and rally to the banner of the country. But when their Government calls upon them to suffer unprecedented sacrifices, in order to take part in a grand farce and wretched mockery, it asks quite too much of their patriotism, their patience and their pride. We expect to hear of numerous popular meetings in the counties, and the universal expression of extreme unwillingness to take part in this militia tom-foolery. These expressions will doubtless be coupled with pledges to send more effective men into the field, on the volunteer system, than could possibly be obtained by mustering the militia.

The counties of the North side have responded with liberality and promptness to the call of the country for troops. They would have responded even more liberally if the volunteer spirit had not been repressed by the refusal to accept them into the service for the want of arms. Now that it is understood that they will be accepted with their own arms in their hands, they will leap to the call of the country again; but it will be done with the understanding that the Government shall not violate good faith by calling forth the militia after it has stripped the country of volunteers. One or the other force must be left to take care of home interests. The Government must practices a little honer with the people, and not first beguiles them of volunteers, then rob them of all the residue of its men.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Maryland (Maryland, United States) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: