Internal Stresses of War
I n the early fall of 1862, as Confederate military prospects improved, dissension abated. Taking little comfort in this temporary lull, however, Davis complained to Congress about the "unexpected criticism" of conscription. "Only by harmonious as well as zealous action" can a "government as new as ours... fulfill its duties," he warned. Why he should have been surprised at opposition to a draft is not clear, but his frustration in dealing with governors and other disputatious politicians was beginning to show. Just as he stressed the need for unity, the president also asserted the power of the Confederate government to demand sacrifices from its citizens. State-mandated draft exemptions, for instance, could "render the Confederacy an impracticable form of Government."1
Military necessity, national unity, and political expediency all militated against defiance of Confederate laws. Dissenters risked being labeled traitors: their challenge was to attack the administration without assailing the government, to criticize policies without becoming factious, to protest without forming an opposition party. In this way, libertarian ideologues could use controversies over conscription, civil liberties, and even military strategy to create an alternative political culture within an antiparty framework.
Despite the repulse of McClellan during the Seven Days campaign and the slackening of Federal offensives in the West, the manpower demands of the Confederate army became even more voracious. In addition to the heavy losses on the Virginia Peninsula, Lee's masterful attack on John