Conscription and Conflict in the Confederacy

By Albert Burton Moore | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II
THE FIRST CONSCRIPTION ACT AND ITS RECEPTION

WHEN the first Congress convened the proud and hopeful Confederacy, whose flag had floated vauntingly in sight of the Federal Capital, seemed to be tottering to its fall. Forts Henry and Donelson had fallen into Federal hands in February and all defenses upon the upper Mississippi had to be abandoned; Nashville and Memphis had become the unresisting prey of the invaders; and the army of defense was retreating to the confines of Mississippi and Alabama. As if to add a crowning stroke of adversity to the Confederate cause in the West, New Orleans, the commercial emporium of the South, and the forts that guarded the mouth of the Mississippi after a feeble resistance had passed into the possession of the foe. While on the retrograde movement the Army of the West fought the battle of Shiloh (April 6th) and then retreated to Corinth.

If things were going badly for the Confederate cause in the West, they were little more encouraging in the East. Roanoke Island, the key to the inland waters of North Carolina, had been captured and General Mc- Clellan was ready when the grip of winter was broken to move on Richmond with every assurance of success that numbers, discipline, organization, and equipment could afford.

Something quick and decisive had to be done. It was imperative that the dissolving Confederate forces should

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