American Civil War for Kids - Building a Military, the Draft Illustration

American Civil War for Kids - The Draft

Building a Military: It's important to remember that during the Civil War there were two governments - the Federal government (North, Union, Yankees) headed by Abraham Lincoln, and the Confederate government (South, Confederacy, Rebels) headed by Jefferson Davis, and each needed a military.

The South, Confederate Draft: The first general draft was established by the Confederate government. The first draft law stated all healthy white men between the ages of 18 and 35 had to serve in the Confederate military for 3 consecutive years. As time went on, the age limit was changed to age 50. Some men were exempt if their job was deemed important to the war effort. Those jobs included railroad workers, miners, and teachers. In the beginning, men could also get out of serving in the military by hiring someone to serve for them, or to pay $300 to the war effort, but both these escape routes were soon made illegal. The South needed fighting men. Not all the 11 states in the Confederacy agreed with the draft law. Both Georgia and North Carolina were totally opposed, and both states enlisted men in state militias and then exempted these men from serving in the Confederate Army as they were already serving in a military unit on the state level. 

The North, Union Draft: President Lincoln did not believe the Civil War would last more than 90 days. The Union had 24 states. The Confederate had 11 states. The North had factories. The South had plantations. At the beginning of the war, Lincoln simply called for volunteers. Over two million men responded to his call. Some volunteered to serve in the Union army out of duty, others for adventure. Some volunteered to receive the enlistment bounty, a payment of money, and planned to desert as soon as they could. Some re-enlisted several times in different locations or by using different names. One man bragged he enlisted 32 times! The Union soon realized their current system of building and maintaining an army was not working. As the South had done, the North soon established a wartime draft law.

New York City Draft Riots, 1863

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