Opposing the Confederate Draft
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Petitioning against General Order No. 46 of the Confederate War Department, which rescinded the part of the Confederate Conscription Act of April 16, 1862 that mandated the discharge of all voluntary enlistees under age 18 or over age 35 in July 1862. “These were the terms of the law. They were plain, unequivocal and mandatory. Common sense – universal public opinion … understood, accepted and adopted the law ... Shall an army order revoke a solemn act of Congress? … Have we a constitutional Government, with specific powers granted … or have we an unlimited Government, dependent only on Executive will or ministerial caprice? Are the People free or is the Executive supreme?” [CIVIL WAR – CONFEDERACY].
Broadside. “The Petition of Certain Non-Conscripts, Respectfully Presented to the Confederate States Congress.”
Richmond, August 8, 1862. Signed in print, “The Petitioners, By their Counsel, John H. Gilmer.”
1 p., 7⅞ x 10⅜ in.
President Davis, Secretary of War George Randolph, and the Confederate Congress instituted the first conscription act in American history in April 1862, after early defeats in Tennessee and North Carolina, in anticipation of the expiration of one-year enlistments signed at the war’s outset. The Conscription Act would cause all males ages 18 to 35 to be drafted into service unless exempted. Those already enlisted would be held to a three year commitment from their date of entry into the service. Conscription raised difficulties for Southern politicians who had argued for most of their careers against the broad construction of federal powers in the United States Constitution. Some believed it violated the cardinal principle of states’ rights, others, such as Georgia Governor Joseph Brown, protested its tendency toward centralization and despotism. Common folks complained about the fact that planters who owned 20 or more slaves were exempt, as were many overseers and tradesmen, and those who could afford to buy “substitutes.”
According to historian James McPherson, conscription was “the most unpopular act of the Confederate government. Yeoman farmers who could not buy their way out of the army voted with their feet and escaped to the woods or swamps. … Armed bands of draft-dodgers and deserters ruled whole counties.”
Parrish & Willingham 5422 (locating 5 copies).
McPherson, James. Battle Cry of Freedom (New York, 1988), p. 432.