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Chapter 21: the conscription and its consequences.

  • The “more men!” cry
  • -- passage of the act -- State troops turned over -- appointment of Generals -- Longings for home -- Exemptions and “details” -- the substitute law -- Mr. Davis' wisdom vindicated -- Governor Joe Brown kicks -- State Traits of the conscripts -- Kentucky's attitude -- Tennessee's “Buffaloes” -- the “Union feeling” fallacy -- conscript camps -- morals of the “New Ish” -- food and money Scarcer -- constancy of the soldiers -- the extension law -- Repeal of the substitute act -- home-guards -- “the cradle and the grave.”
    In the midst of the gloom, weighing upon the country about the days of Shiloh, the Confederate Congress moved on a point of vital import to its cause. Weak and vacillating as that body had proved; lacking as it was in decision, to force its views on the executive, or to resist popular clamor, backed by brutum fulmen of the press-a moment had come when even the blindest of legislators could not fail to see.

    More men, was the cry from every general in the field. With more men, the army of Manassas could have carried the war over the Potomac frontier; perhaps have ended it there. With more men, Nashville would have been saved and Shiloh won. With more men, the enemy, pouring over the daily contracting frontiers, if not checked in their advance, might be restrained from, or chastised for, the brutal and uncivilized warfare that now began to wage, away from all great army centers.

    Great as was the need for new blood and new brains, in the council of the nation-still more dire was the need for fresh muscle in its armies. Levies must be raised, or all was lost; and the glories that had wreathed the southern flag, even when it drooped lowestprice-less blood that had been poured as a sacrament to consecrate itwould all be set at naught by the imbecility of the chosen lawgivers of the people. Thus, after a pressure of months from cooler heads in government, the more thoughtful of the people, and the most farsighted of the press, the few live men in Congress wrung from it the “Conscription act” on the 16th day of April.

    The reader may have gained some faint idea of the alacrity with which men of all classes rushed into the ranks; of the steady endeavor and unmurmuring patience with which they bore the toils and dangers of their chosen position; of their unwavering determination to fight the good fight to the end. That the same spirit as genuinely [175] pervaded the masses of the army now, there is little doubt; but the South-instead of husbanding her resources, had slept during these precious months the North utilized to bring a half million of men against her.

    Now, when she woke to the plain fact that her existence depended --not only on keeping in the ranks every man already there, but of adding largely to their numbers — it was but natural that the Government's torpor had, in a slight degree, reacted upon its soldiers.

    When the Government had assumed more form and regularity with increased proportions and the conviction, forced upon the most obtuse mind, that a struggle was at hand demanding most perfect organization, the looseness of a divided system had become apparent. The laws against any State maintaining a standing army were put into effect; and the combined military power was formally turned over, as a whole, to the Confederate authorities. This change simply meant that complete organizations were accepted as they stood, as soldiers of the Confederacy instead of soldiers of the states; the men were mustered into the Confederate service and the officers had their state commissions replaced by those from the Confederate War Department. From that date, the troops were to look to the central Government for their pay, subsistence, and supplies.

    In mustering in, all troops — with only exceptions where their contracts with state governments demanded — were received “for three years of the war.” At Montgomery, many admirable organizations had been tendered to the Government for one year; and much discussion had ensued on the subject of their reception. It was then generally believed, even by the longest heads in the Cabinet, that the war would be only a campaign. I have elsewhere alluded to the tenacity with which its supporters clung to this idea; and Mr. Davis was almost alone in his persistent refusal to accept the troops for less than three years, or the war. To the one campaign people he said, very justly, that if the troops were taken for twelve months, and the war were really over in six, here was the Government saddled with the incubus at a standing army, infinitely greater than its needs; and here large bodies of men who might be of incalculable service elsewhere, tied to the vitiating and worse than useless influences of a peace camp. On the other hand, should the war last longer, in its very climax a large body of educated soldiers, just trained to a point [176] of usefulness, would have the right to demand their discharge, when their places would be difficult to fill even with raw levies. There was much dissatisfaction among the one campaign people; but their own argument-that, if received for the war, the troops would get home before their proposed twelve months expired — was unanswerable. Now, when the same arguments were used to enforce the passage of the Conscription Act, the enemies that Mr. Davis had by this time gathered around him, little recked that in their wisdom, they were quoting him.

    This transfer to the Confederate Government covered all the troops of the several states, except the militia. This, of course, remained under the authority of their respective governors.

    Naturally, with the addition to the force originally contemplated by “the assembled wisdom of the land,” the five brigadier-generals allowed by Congress proved totally inadequate. A law had subsequently been forced from them, granting the appointment of five generals — a rank paramount to that of field-marshal in European armies — of the regular army, who were to command volunteers; and allowing the President to appoint such number of brigadiers of volunteers as the necessities of the service demanded.

    There had been little hesitancy in the selection of the generals-all of them men who had served with distinction in the army of the United States; and who had promptly left it to cast their lot with the new Government. So little difference could be found in their claims for precedence, that the dates of their old commissions decided it. They were Samuel Cooper, Albert Sidney Johnston, Robert E. Lee, Joseph E. Johnston and Pierre G. T. Beauregard.

    These nominations had been received with unanimity by the Senate, and with profound satisfaction by the people. Had fitness and right been consulted equally in other appointments, much priceless blood might have been saved to the South.

    Still, at the time, it was believed that the commissions of brigadier of volunteers were conferred upon the most meritorious of the resigned officers; or, where there was reason to hope good results to the service-upon the best of those men the troops had chosen as commanders. Strong pressure was, of course, brought to bear upon the President, regarding these appointments; but the verdict of army and people was that these first selections were made with as much [177] judgment and impartiality as the untried state of the army permitted.

    But fifteen months quiet endurance of hardship, danger and doubt; the universal wail from homes that had never before known a dark hour, but where unaccustomed toil now fought vainly against misery and disease; a pervading sense of insecurity for any point, and that those homes-broken and saddened as they were-might meet a yet worse fate-all these causes had done their work. Undaunted and unconquered as the men were, the bravest and most steadfast still longed for a sight of the dear faces far away.

    The term of service of more than a hundred regiments would expire soon; enlistments had become slow and were not to be stimulated by any inducements legislation could offer. The very danger that had been pointed out in refusing more “twelve months men” became too imminent to evade.

    The soldiers of the South were more anxious than ever to meet the foe. Added to their love for the cause, many now felt bitter personal incentive to fight; and every blow was now struck alike for country and for self. But while panting for the opportunity, they had a vague feeling that they must fight nearer home andforget-ting that the sole protection to their loved ones lay in a union, closer and more organized than ever-each yearned for the hour when he would be free to go and strike for the defense of his own hearthstone.

    The intent of the conscription was to put every man in the country, between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five, into the army; restricting “details” from the field within the narrowest limits of absolute necessity. It retained, of course, every man already in the: field; and, had its spirit been vigorously carried out, would have more than doubled the army by midsummer.

    It provided for the separate enrollment of each state under as “Commandant of conscripts;” and for collecting new levies at proper points in “Camps of Instruction,” under competent officers, that recruits might go to the army prepared in drill and knowledge of camp life for immediate service.

    But, the Conscription Act, like all other congressional measures, was saddled with a companion, “Bill of Exemptions.” Thiswhile so loosely constructed as almost to nullify all good effect of the law-opened the door to constant clashing of personal and public interests, and to great abuses of the privilege. [178]

    It would, of course, have been folly to draw every able-bodied male from districts already so drained of effective population as to have become almost non-producing. Such a course would have put thousands of additional mouths into the ranks, and still further have reduced the straitened means for feeding them. And it would have been equally suicidal to draw from forge and from lathe, those skilled artisans who were day and night laboring to put weapons in the hands of those sent to wield them.

    But the “Bill of Exemptions” left possible both of these things, at the same time that it failed to restrain abuses of privileges in certain high quarters. The matter of “details” was, of course, essential; and it was only to be supposed that generals in the field could best judge the value of a man in another position than the front.

    But the most objectionable feature to the army was the “Substitute law,” which allowed any one able to buy a man, not subject to the action of conscription, to send him to be shot at in his place. Soldiers who had endured all perils and trials of the war, naturally felt that if they were retained in positions they objected to, those who had been comfortably at home-and in many instances coining that very necessity into fortunes — should be forced at the eleventh hour to come and defend themselves and their possessions. Besides, the class of men who were willing to sell themselves as substitutes were of the very lowest order. All citizens of the South were liable to conscription; and the “exempts” open to purchase, were either strange adventurers, or men over and under age, who-argued the soldiers — if fit for service should come of their own free will.

    Veteran troops had a low enough opinion of the “conscript” as a genus; but they failed not to evince, by means more prompt than courteous, their thorough contempt for the “substitute.”

    These causes produced much discontent, where men would cheerfully have acquiesced in a law essential to the preservation of the fabric they had reared and cemented with their blood. To quell this feeling, a reorganization of the army was effected. A certain time was allowed for any liable man to volunteer and choose his branch of the service and, if practicable, his regiment; and so great was the dread of incurring the odium of conscription, that the skeleton veteran regiments rapidly filled up to a point of efficiency. They were then [179] allowed to choose their own officers by election; and, though this lost to the service many valuable men who had become unpopular, still the army was better satisfied within itself.

    The refilled regiments were re-brigaded by states when practicable, a general from a different state being sometimes placed in command; and the whole army was divided into corps, of three divisions each, commanded by a lieutenant-general.

    Whatever the weakness of its construction-and the abuses of the exemption and detail power in carrying it out — there can be little doubt that the conscription at this time saved the country from speedy and certain conquest; and credit should be given to the few active workers in the congressional hive who shamed the drones into its passage.

    Had the men whose term expired been once permitted to go home, they could never again have been collected; the army would have dwindled into a corporal's guard here and there; the masses the North was pouring down on all sides would have swept the futile resistance before it; and the contest, if kept up at all, would have degenerated into a guerrilla warfare of personal hatred and vengeance, without a semblance of confederation, or nationality.

    Once passed, the people of the whole country aquiesced in and approved the conscription, and gave all the aid of their influence to its progress. Here and there a loud-mouthed demagogue would attempt to prejudice the masses against the measure; but scarcely a community failed to frown down such an effort, in the great extremity of the country, as vicious and traitorous. The opposition that the project had met in the administration — from doubt as to its availability — was removed by its very first working. What had been in its inception an unpopular measure, received now the approbation of all classes; and the governors of every state-save one-went to work with hearty good will to aid its carrying out.

    This exception was Governor Joseph E. Brown, of Georgia, who entered into a long wrangle with the administration on the constitutional points involved. He denied the right of Congress to pass such an act, and of the Executive to carry it out within the limits of a sovereign state; averred — with much circumlocution and turgid bombast — that such attempt would be an infringement of the State Rights of Georgia, which he could not permit. [180]

    Mr. Davis replied in a tone so reasonable, decorous and temperate as to wring unwilling admiration even from his opponents. He pointed out briefly the weak points that rendered the governor's position utterly untenable, ignored the implied warning of resistance to the law; and succinctly stated that he relied upon the patriotism of Georgians to grasp the full meaning of the crisis their executive failed to comprehend; and he closed by stating that the conscription must go on.

    Governor Brown found no supporters for his extreme views, even in the anti-administration party. The people felt the imminence of the danger; and here, as in all matters of deep import, they placed the conservation of the cause high above partisan prejudices, or jealousies of cliques. Utterly silenced by the calm dignity and incisive logic of Mr. Davis, and abandoned by the few supporters his defiance of the administration had at first collected around him, Governor Brown was forced to yield; achieving only the conviction that he had the general condemnation of the popular voice.

    Once set in motion, the machinery of conscription worked rapidly and somewhat smoothly. The Camps of Instruction in all states not possessed by the enemy filled rapidly, and the class of conscripts on the whole was fairly good. By early summer they began to arrive in Richmond and “Camp Lee” --the station where they were collected --became a point equally of curiosity to the exempt and of dread to the liable.

    It was curious to note the prevalence of the various state-traits, showing in the squads of conscripts from time to time passing through the city. The sturdy farmers from the interior, especially those from Virginia, Georgia and Alabama, though lacking the ease and careless carriage of the veteran soldier, had a determined port that spoke for their future usefulness. They were not merry naturally. Called from accustomed avocations and leaving behind them families defenselessand without means of support, they could scarcely have marched gaily, even when willingly, into the Carnival of Death. But they were resolute men, earnest in their love for the South and honest in their wish to serve her-with the musket, if that were better than the plough.

    Tall and lank, but long-limbed and muscular, the Georgians had a swinging stride of their own; and, even when the peculiar dialect did [181] not ring out over their ranks, something in their general style gave the idea that these were the men who would one day be fellow-soldiers of the famous “fighting Third.”

    Ever and anon came a dejected, weary squad with slouching gait and clayey complexions. Speaking little and then with a flat, unintoned drawl that told of the vicinage of “salt marsh;” bearing the seeds of rice-field fevers still in them, and weakly wondering at the novel sights so far from home, the South Carolina conscripts were not a hopeful set of soldiers. As soon as the tread of hostile battalions had echoed on her soil, the sons of the Palmetto State flew to their posts. State regulars went to the coast, picked volunteer corps came to Virginia. None stayed behind but those really needed there by the Government, or that refuse class which had determined to dodge duty, but now failed to dodge “the conscript man.” The former were, of course, as much needed now as ever; the latter did not ride into the battle with defiance on their brows, but, on the contrary, seemed looking over their shoulders to find a hole in the mesh that implacable conscription had drawn about them.

    Their next neighbors of the Old North State were hardly better in the main, but some men among them seemed not unlike the militia that had fought so well at Roanoke Island. Green and awkward; shrinking away from the chaff of passing regulars; looking a little sheepish for being conscripts, “Zeb Vance's boys” yet proved not unworthy the companionship of the men of Bethel, of Manassas and of Richmond.

    At first the border states, or those overrun by the enemy, gave few additions to the conscript camps.

    Kentucky, on whose adherence and solid aid to the cause such reliance had been placed in the beginning, had sadly failed to meet it. With the reminiscences of her early chivalry, her romantic warfare of the “Dark and bloody ground,” and the warlike habits of her men, mingled considerations of the usefulness of her vast resources and her natural points for defense, lying so near the Federal territory. But as the war wore on and the state still wavered, the bent of her people seemed strangely to incline to the northern side. Seeking a neutrality that was clearly impossible, the division in her councils admitted the Federals within her borders. Then, when it was hopeless to do more, the noblest and most honored of her sons left Kentucky [182] and ranged themselves under that banner they had in vain sought to unfurl over her.

    Like Maryland, Kentucky had early formed a corps d'elite, called the “State guard,” which numbered many of the best-born and most cultured young men of the state, with headquarters at Louisville. This was commanded by General S. B. Buckner and under the general control of Governor Magoffin. This corps was supposed to represent the feelings of all better citizens in its opposition to the Union cause.

    But when the action of political schemers-aided by the designs of a money-loving and interested populace-laid Kentucky, like Maryland, bound hand and foot at the feet of the Federal government; when the Union council of the state strove to disarm or put them in the Union ranks, the soldiers of the State guard left unhesitatingly and joined the army of the South in large numbers.

    Late in November, 1861, a convention had met; and, declaring all bonds with the Union dissolved, passed a formal Ordinance of Secession and sent delegates to ask admission from the Richmond Congress. A month later Kentucky was formally declared a member of the Confederacy; but before that time Buckner and Breckinridge had received the commissions, with which they were to win names as proud as any in the bright array of the South; a Kentucky brigade-whose endurance and valiant deeds were to shed a luster on her name that even the acts of her recreant sons could not dimwere in General Johnston's van; some of her ablest and most venerable statesmen had given up honors and home for the privilege of being freemen! All the South knew that the admission of the state was but an empty form-powerless alike to aid their cause, or to wrest her from the firm grasp the Federal government had set upon her.

    At the time of the first conscription the few men left in Kentucky, who had the will, could not make their way into Confederate camps; far less could the unwilling be forced to come.

    Tennessee, also, had been a source of uneasiness to the Richmond Government from the spread of Union tendencies among a portion of her inhabitants. Though she had been a member of the Confederacy near a year, still the half civilized and mountainous portions of her territory, known as East Tennessee, had done little but annoy the [183] army near it, by petty hostilities and even by a concerted plan for burning all the railroad bridges in that section and thus crippling communications.

    Fortunately this scheme had been frustrated, and the half-savage population — for the better class of Tennesseeans were almost unanimous in expression of loyalty to the South-kept in subjection.

    But now with her soil overrun by Federal soldiers, and with a Federal fleet in every river, the state could not respond to the call of the South; and, of course, the soldiers she yielded the conscription were from the narrow tracts in Confederate possession only.

    One hears much of the “Union feeling” in the South during the war. Immediately on its close, a rank crop of “southern loyalists” had sprung up in many quarters; basking in the rays of the Freedmen's Bureau and plentifully manured with promises and brotherly love by the open-mouthed and close-fisted philanthropy of New England. But like all dunghill products, the life of these was ephemeral. Its root struck no deeper than the refuse the war had left; and during its continuance the genus was so little known that a Carlyle, or a Brownlow, was looked upon with the same curiosity and disgust as a very rare, but a very filthy, exotic.

    With the exceptions of portions of Kentucky and Tennessee, no parts of the South were untrue to the government they had accepted.

    Florida was called “loyal” and General Finnegan proved with what truth. “Loyal” Missouri has written her record in the blood of Price's ragged heroes. Louisiana, crushed by the iron heel of military power, spoiled of her household gods and insulted in her women's name, still bowed not her proud head to the flag that had thus become hostile.

    And the Valley of Virginia! Ploughed by the tramp of invading squadrons-her fair fields laid waste and the sanctity of her every household invaded-alternately the battle-ground of friend and foewhere was her “loyalty?”

    Pinched for her daily food, subsidized to-day by the enemy and freely giving to-morrow to their own people — with farming utensils destroyed and barns bursting with grain burned in wanton deviltrythe people of the Valley still held to the allegiance to the flag they loved; and the last note of the southern bugle found as ready echo in their hearts as in the first days of the invasion- [184]

    Their foes had found enchanted ground-
    But not a knight asleep!

    In possibly one or two instances, the official reports of invading generals may have been in some slight degree erroneous; newspaper correspondents are not in every instance absolutely infallible; and perhaps it was more grateful to the tender sensibilities of the war party at the North to feel that there were hearts of brothers beating for them in the glare of burning rooftrees, or swelling with still more loyal fervor to the cry of the insulted wife!

    But at this day — when the clap-trap of war has died away with the roll of its drums; when reason may in some sort take the place of partisan rage — not one honest and informed thinker in the North believes that “loyal” feeling ever had deep root anywhere among the southern masses; or that “loyal citizens” were as one in ten thousand!

    Whole communities may have murmured; there may have been “schism in the council and robbery in the mart;” demagogues may have used wild comparisons and terrible threats about the Government; staunch and fearless newspapers may have boldly exposed its errors and mercilessly lashed its weak or unworthy members; some men may have skulked and dodged from their rightful places in the battle's front!

    But, however misplaced the world's verdict may declare their zeal-however great the error for which they fought and suffered and died — no man to-day dare refuse to the southern people the meed of their unparalleled constancy!

    Even conquered-manacled and gagged by the blind and bloodthirsty faction in power — the southern people held to the small fragments of rights left them, with brave tenacity. Willing to accept that arbitration to which they had submitted their cause, and ready to take the hand of fellowship if offered, they still preferred to suffer with the bright memories of their past, rather than to efface them by signing their own degradation.

    They were conquered and bound in the flesh, but there was enough of manhood left in the spirit to say-

    Though ye conquer us, men of the North, know ye not
    What fierce, sullen hatred lurks under the scar?
    How loyal to Hapsburg is Venice, I wot!
    How dearly the Pole loves “ his father ” --the Czar!


    No more singular sight was presented by all the war than the conscript depot at Richmond. The men from the “camps of instruction” in the several states-after a short sojourn to learn the simplest routine of the camp, and often thoroughly untaught in the manual even — were sent here to be in greater readiness when wanted. Such officers as could be spared were put in charge of them, and the cadets of the Virginia Military Institute were employed as drill officers.

    Citizens of various states-young, old, honest and vicious alikethe conscripts were crowded together in camp, left to their own devices enough to make them learn to live as soldiers; and put through constant drill and parade to accustom them to the use of arms.

    Almost every variety of costume obtained among them. The butternut jacket with blue pants of the Federal soldier, the homespun shirt with the cast-off pants of some lucky officer; and the black broadcloth frock and jauntily-cut pants that some friendly lady had ransacked her absent one's stores to give, all appeared on dress parade; surmounted by every variety of head gear, from the straw hat of many seasons to the woolen night-cap the good “marm” had knitted.

    Notwithstanding much work, there was still too much leisure time; and “apple jack” filtered its way through provost guards, and cards, the greasiest and most bethumbed, wiled many an hour for the unwary and verdant.

    The lower class of conscripts were almost invariably from the cities --the refuse population of the wharf, bar-room and hotel. Unwilling to volunteer, these gentry skulked behind every excuse to avoid conscription; but when forced off at last, they and the substitutes banded in an unholy brotherhood to make the best of their position.

    Ringleaders in every insubordination and every vice they assumed a degage air of superiority, and fleeced their verdant companions of the very clothes they wore; while they made the impure air of the camps more foul with ribald jest and profane song.

    A single glance segregated this element from the quiet country conscripts. The latter were generally gloomy, thinking of the field untilled and the wife and little ones, perhaps, unfed. When they drank “new dip” it was to drown thought, for the fumes of every stew-pan brought back shadowy memories of home and comfort; and [186] when they slept on the damp ground-wrapped in the chance rug, or worn scrap of carpet charity had bestowed — a sad procession marched through their dreams, and sorrowful and starving figures beckoned them from mountain side and hamlet.

    Great misery and destitution followed the conscription. Large numbers of men, called from their fields just as they were most needed, cut down greatly the supplies of grain. Almost all who remained at home bought their exemption by giving so large a portion of their product to Government as to reduce civil supplies still more; and these two facts so enhanced the price of food-adid so reduced the value of money — that the poorer classes rapidly became destitute of all but the barest means of life. Whether this was the result of inevitable circumstance, or the offspring of mismanagement, in no way affects the fact. Food became very hard to procure even at high prices; and the money to get it was daily more and more monopolized by a grasping few.

    The Confederate soldier now had a double share of toil and torture. When the smoke of the fight rolled away, and with it the sustaining glow of battle, thought bore him but grim companionship at the camp fireside; for he saw famine stalk gaunt and pale through what had been his home.

    When tidings of want and misery came, he strove to bear them. When he heard of burning and outrage — where naught was left to plunder — who may wonder that he sometimes fled from duty to his country, to that duty more sacred to him of saving his wife and children!

    Who does not wonder, rather, in reading the history of those frightful days, that desertions were so few — that untutored human nature could hide in its depths such constancy and devotion to principle!

    But, great as were the privation and the suffering caused by the first conscription, they were still to be increased. Through those twin abortions of legislation, the substitute and exemption bills, the results of the first law proved inadequate to fill the gaps of the fatal fights of the summer.

    Detail and substitute had done their work, as thoroughly as had the shells of Malvern Hill, the bullets of Sharpsburg, or the raw corn of the retreat to the river. [187]

    More men were wanted! At whatever cost in territory, or in suffering, more men must be had. And on the 27th September, Congress passed an act extending the age of conscription from 18 to 45 years. But the exemption and substitute laws remained as effective as ever. True, some feeble moves were made toward narrowing the limits of the former; but while it stood a law in any form, enough could be found to read it in any way. The extension law, while it still further drained the almost exhausted country-and left in its track deeper suffering and destitution, that brought famine from a comparative term into an actual verity-still left in the cities an ablebodied and numerous class; who, if not actually useless, were far more so than the food-producing countrymen sent to the front to take their places.

    Yet so blind was the Congress-so impervious to the sharpest teachings of necessity and so deaf to the voice of common sense and reason, that unceasingly upbraided it — that this state of things continued more than a year from the passage of the extension act.

    Then, when it was almost too late for human aid to save the cause --when the enemy had not only surrounded the contracted territory on every side, but had penetrated into its very heart — the substitute bill was repealed, and every man in the land between the ages of 18 and 45, declared a Confederate soldier subject to service. Then, too, the abuses of exemption and detail, so often and so clearly pointed out, were looked into and measurably corrected.

    Further than this, all boys from 16 to 18, and older men, from 45 to 60, though not conscribed, were formed into reserve “home guards;” and then General Grant wrote to Washington that the cause was won when the Rebels I “robbed the cradle and the grave.”

    But the infantile and the moribund murmured not; and more than once a raid was turned and a sharp skirmish won, when the withered cheek of the octogenarian was next the rosy face of the beardless stripling!

    Only one complaint came, and that was heard with grim amusement alike by veteran, by conscript, and by substitute.

    The substitute buyers now loudly raised a wail of anguish. Plethoric ledger and overflowing till, alas! must be left; the auctioneer's hammer and the peaceful shears must alike be thrown aside, and the rusty musket grasped instead; soft beds and sweet dreams of [188] to-morrow's profit must be replaced by red mud and the midnight long roll!

    It was very bitter; and rising in their wrath, a few of these railed at the perfidy of the Government in breaking a contract; and even employed counsel to prove that in effect they were already in the field.

    One ardent speculator even sought the War Department and logicallyproved that, having sent a substitute, who was virtually himself, and that substitute having been killed, he himself was a dead man, from whom the law could claim no service!

    But the Department was now as deaf as the adder of Scripture; and the counsel, let us hope, pleaded not very earnestly. So the substitute buyers-except in the few cases where the long finger of influential patronage could even now intervene-went, as their ill-gotten dollars had gone before.

    It is plainly impossible, in limits of a desultory sketch, to give even a faint outline of the conscription. Its ramifications were so greatthe stress that caused it so dire, and the weaknesses and abuses that grew out of it so numerous, that a history of them were but a history of the war.

    Faithfully and stringently carried out, it might have saved the South. Loosely constructed and open to abuse, it was still the most potent engine the Government had used; and while it failed of its intent, it still for the first time caused the invader to be met by anything approaching the whole strength of the country.

    Under its later workings, every man in the South was a soldier; but that consummation, which earlier might have been salvation-came only when the throes of death had already begun to seize her vitals.

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