The Confederate Congress

By Wilfred Buck Yearns | Go to book overview

VI
CONSCRIPTION UNDER ATTACK

THOUGH ITS EARLY EFFORTS TO ENLIST AND DISTRIBUTE THE NATION'S available manpower seemed satisfactory, Congress was quickly obliged to a never-ending adjustment, exploring new avenues for raising troops and attending to existing laws. This adjustment was seldom easy, for domestic and foreign politics presented serious obstacles; but the fact that the principles of conscription and exemption were now firmly established provided at least the general direction for their solution. President Davis, who was quite willing to suggest policy in minute detail, continued to supply leadership and Congress seldom lacked for departmental advice.

On August 12, 1862, Secretary of War Randolph reported that the war had dislocated many men whom he was having difficulty enrolling. Some, refugees from occupied districts, had not set up permanent residence elsewhere; others were merely dodging about from one place to another to avoid military duty. He requested the power to enroll eligible men wherever they might be found. 1 Although no one defended shirkers, congressmen from affected districts believed that most refugees were busy seeking residence for their families and would be unjustly humiliated at being rushed into the army. The majority, however, felt that to ignore them would be to exempt most border state men, and the law of October 8, 1862, ordered them enrolled wherever found, and subject to the provisions of law as if fully enrolled in their home county.2

In October Congress passed two laws designed to reach beyond the arms of the Bureau of Conscription. In outlying areas where conscription was inapplicable a number of battalions and regiments had been organized which included some men of draft age. If the government enrolled these latter the services of the re

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