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York County, with the rest of the North, apprehensive about the 1863 draft

Gazette 6-9-63 (2)

The June 9, 1863 York Gazette explained the recently passed Enrollment Act (Conscription Act). The enrollment was being implemented, to be followed soon by the conscription (draft). You can see why this contributed to the Civil War sometimes being called “the poor man’s war.” The account was first published in the Ledger, probably the daily Philadelphia Public Ledger:

The Act for the Enrollment of the National Forces

The enrolling officers are now engaged in registering the names of citizens who are liable to do military duty. This is merely preliminary, and no one need trouble himself about his claim to exemption until he receives a printed notice that he has been drafted. He then has the privilege of appearing before the Board of Enrollment during ten days after the reception of the notice and presenting the grounds upon which he claims exemption. This will relieve the minds of many who may be considering the validity of their right to exemption. All citizens drafted will be heard and their cases carefully considered, as the law provides that none by able-bodied citizens of a certain age, legally as well as physically qualified, can be taken.

After the person has been drafted and found qualified, the citizens who prefer peace to war may be exempted from service in the field by paying $300 to the Government in lieu of service. We know it has been reported that the Secretary of War differently construes the law, but we double that the Government will set aside the clear intention of this clause of the act. It was a matter well considered during the progress of discussion upon the enrollment act, and the necessity generally admitted of putting a limit to the cost of substitutes, which is effectively done by allowing the $300 commutation. The money paid by those who do not want to fight, becomes a bounty paid to those who do want to run that risk, and with the national bounty of $100, will make a snug little sum for every recruit who voluntarily re-enlists. On experience soldier is worth half a dozen raw recruits, and among the nine months and two years’ men, just discharged, there will be found large numbers ready to return to the service with such a bounty secured to them. This alone is sufficient reason to recommend the $300 commutation. It gives the best soldiers, for immediate service, to the army, and enables the citizen who cannot afford the sacrifice of his business, to relieve himself of the liability of service by lesser sacrifices in money–Ledger.

Click here for my previous posts on the Civil War.

Just two more weeks: The Fiery Trial: York County’s Civil War Experience opening June 29 at York County Heritage Trust.