Conscription and Conflict in the Confederacy

By Albert Burton Moore | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XVI
DID CONSCRIPTION FAIL?

THE enforcement of the conscript laws was attended by difficulties that inhered in a system of compulsory service among a proud and free people. Conscription was not only contrary to the spirit of the people but to the genius of the Confederate political system. It seemed unnatural that the new government, just set up as the agent of the sovereign States, should exercise such compelling and far-reaching authority over the people, independently of the States. Public leaders generally recognized the necessity of conscription,1 and their influence and the hard facts of war gradually reconciled the public to it; but there was always strong opposition to it. Leaders who never became reconciled to it, and conflicts with State authorities in the enforcement of it seriously impaired its efficiency.

The system had many imperfections. Substitution was a serious mistake, and class exemptions provided altogether too easy a means for evading service. A judicious selective system, supported by a policy of executive detail, would have effected much greater economy in the disposition of men. The machinery of conscription was not fully set up in all of the States until the latter part

____________________
1
President Davis told the Mississippi legislature that there was no more reason to expect voluntary service in the army than voluntary labor upon the public roads or the voluntary payment of taxes. Savannah Republican, January 14, 1863.

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