"Volunteer While You May":
Manpower Mobilization in
Russell L. Johnson
Come, then, fellow citizens, come to the rescue. Come
from your workshops, your stores, your farms and your
labors. Come without distinction of party or nationality.
Come without regard to position in society and without
care for position in the army, save that of brave soldier in
your country's cause. Come of your own free will … vol-
unteer while you may.
Dubuque Daily Times, July 16, 1862
HISTORIANS HAVE LONG DEBATED who enlisted in the Union Army and why. The most extensive portion of this historiography focuses on conscription legislation and the contemporary assertion that it was "a rich man's war and a poor man's fight." One group of scholars argues that the draft laws are best described as "class legislation," as they allowed drafted men to buy their way out of the service for a sum roughly equal to an average worker's annual income. Another group of scholars disagrees, arguing that the law operated fairly because communities acted to help their residents purchase exemption;
* The author wishes to thank Shelton Stromquist, Malcolm Rohrbough, Linda
Kerber, Kenneth Cmiel, and Kathleen Diffley for their comments on an earlier ver-
sion of this material, and Paul A. Cimbala and Randall M. Miller for contributing to
refining this essay. The research was conducted in part with funds provided by the
State Historical Society of Iowa, Inc. and the Louis A. Pelzer Dissertation Fellowship
of the University of Iowa Graduate College.