Confederate Conscription Exemptions in April 1862

The first general American military draft was enacted by the Confederate government on April 16, 1862, more than a year before the federal government did the same. The Confederacy took this step because it had to; its territory was being assailed on every front by overwhelming numbers, and the defending armies needed men to fill the ranks.

The compulsory-service law was very unpopular in the South because it was viewed as a usurpation of the rights of individuals by the central government, one of the reasons the South went to war in the first place.

Under the Conscription Act, all healthy white men between the ages of 18 and 35 were liable for a three-year term of service. The act also extended the terms of enlistment for all one-year soldiers to three years.

These are the original exemptions included in that first conscription law.  Additional exemptions were added later.

Part I of our Civil War collection, A Newspaper Perspective, contains articles gleaned from over 2,500 issues of The New York Herald, The Charleston Mercury and the Richmond Enquirer, published between November 1, 1860 and April 15, 1865.

Exemptions Under the Conscription Law of Congress

The following exemption bill was passed by Congress, and signed by the President just before the adjournment:

A bill to be entitled ‘An act to exempt certain persons from enrollment for service in the armies of the Confederate States:

SECTION 1. The Congress of the Confederate States of America do enact, That all persons who shall be held to be unfit for military service under the rules to be prescribed by the Secretary of War…

  • all in the service or employ of the Confederate States
  • all judicial and executive officers of Confederate or State Governments
  • the members of both Houses of Congress, and of the Legislatures of the several States and their respective officers
  • all clerks of the officers of the State and Confederate Governments allowed by law
  • all engaged in carrying the mails
  • all ferrymen on post routes
  • all pilots and persons engaged in the marine service, and in actual service on river and railroad routes of transportation
  • telegraphic operatives and ministers of religion in the regular discharge of ministerial duties
  • all engaged in working iron mines, furnaces and foundries
  • all journeymen printers actually employed in printing newspapers
  • all presidents and professors of colleges and academies, and all teachers having as many as twenty scholars
  • superintendents of the public hospitals, lunatic asylums, and the regular nurses and attendants therein, and the teachers employed in the institutions for the deaf and dumb and blind
  • in each apothecary store now established one apothecary in good standing, who is a practical druggist
  • superintendents and operatives in wool and other factories, who may be exempted by the Secretary of War, shall be, and are hereby, exempted from military service in the armies of the Confederate States.

Collection: The Civil War – Part I: A Newspaper Perspective
Publication: The Charleston Mercury
Date: April 26, 1862
Top Image: Southern “Volunteers” by Currier & Ives ca. 1862

All images included in blog posts are from either Accessible Archives collections or out of copyright public sources unless otherwise noted. Common sources include the Library of Congress, The Flickr Commons, Wikimedia Commons, and other public archives.

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