Measures for a "speedy conclusion": a reexamination of conscription and Civil War federalism.
This story is now outdated. A reexamination of the path toward national conscription on the national and state levels demonstrates that scholars have tended to overstate the extent to which the federal government exerted its will over allegedly feeble state governments. Ultimately, not only was the draft enacted with the general compliance of the states, the policy was often proposed, encouraged, and sanctioned by state and local leaders. Using New York as a window into the Civil War relationship between state and national governments, this essay will demonstrate that Lincoln and Congress pursued a conscription policy that state and local representatives had long been considering and promoting. (6) To these New York officials, a rigorous prosecution of the war in 1862 and 1863 demanded a draft, whether it should originate from state governments or from the U.S. Congress.
This new understanding of conscription contributes to what appears to be a significant paradigm shift in the study of federalism and the Civil War era. While older histories have argued that the war provided the federal government with an opportunity to permanently seize power from the states, recent work on party politics, confiscation, and recruitment by scholars such as Mark Neely, Adam I. P. Smith, Silvana Siddali, and William Blair illustrate a more nuanced relationship among local, state, and federal officials as well as the northern public. (7) As these historians show, the federal government relied on cooperation, conversation, and even advice from party members closer to the ground. A new analysis of northern conscription will further emphasize the complex nature of Civil War federalism.
This essay revises the traditional story of Civil War conscription in three ways. First, while most scholars have focused either on federal policymaking or the state response, I examine both levels of government and how they interact. (8) The number of letters, directed editorials, telegrams, and visits among federal, state, and local officials illustrates just how important vertical political relationships were to determining war policy and conscription in particular. These state and local leaders were often able to influence or alter legislation and executive department orders. (9) Some even provided advice that would prove essential to Union strategy. (10) Furthermore, in the tense atmosphere of Civil War politics, state and local officials often looked to the federal government to propose and enforce somewhat unpopular and politically dangerous measures, like conscription.
The relationship between state and federal officials is more complex in the context of divided government. After the 1862 elections, many states found themselves with one branch controlled by Democrats and the other in the hands of Republicans. In the case of New York, Democrat Horatio Seymour--the new governor in the spring of 1863--strongly opposed conscription and has often been historians' focus in portraying a reluctant or resistant state government. Yet, large numbers of local Republican officials in cities from Albany to Utica to New York City, had demanded an expanded draft as early as August 1862, and continued their support for conscription throughout the spring and summer of 1863. The federal government may have imposed conscription on Seymour against his will, but the governor should not be considered representative of the entire state government.
Second, historians have started their analysis of the draft too late in the war. Conscription discussions did not begin with Congress in January 1863 or even with the Militia Act of July 1862. As early as the spring of 1861, states had discussed the possibility of organizing their militias. In April 1862, before federal officials had even begun seriously discussing a federal draft, New York passed a state militia act that expressly provided for national conscription. This state law helped pave the way for acceptance of the federal Militia Act in July. Finally, events on the battlefield and experiences on the home front must be seen as symbiotic. Local leaders fully believed that more troops meant more victories. New Yorkers increased their calls for a draft amid northern armies' bloody defeats or when Union troops seemed on the verge of ending the war with a knockout blow. Low enlistments and the federal government's failure to use the Militia Act of July 1862 led newspapermen to ask why the federal government was dragging its feet or remark, "our government is always just too late" in prosecuting a successful war effort. (11) These northerners did not view the draft as an infringement on their constitutional rights, but rather as a crucial means of winning the war and maintaining the Union. Ultimately, the draft was not the vehicle of an overly zealous central State, but the product of a months-long discussion among various government officials. Conscription was merely one example of the ways in which politicians of all levels of government worked together to produce a strong military policy.
Like many of the states that remained in the Union, New York found itself in the midst of political upheaval at the start of the war. In 1861, the nascent Republican political organization struggled to maintain the fragile coalition of interests that had elected Lincoln the year before. Republican leadership in the Empire State split into two contentious camps, each with local, state, and national connections. Historians have often described the first as the "radical" wing of the Republican party, a group that insisted upon emancipation as part of the Union's war aims. Horace Greeley, the fiery editor of the New York City-based Tribune, served as the state mouthpiece for this faction, primarily made up of former Free-Soil Democrats. Greeley's importance to the radical Republican organization cannot be overstated. As the primary propaganda tool of party machines, newspapers like the Tribune reflected policy positions of men throughout the radical faction. In Washington, Secretary of the Treasury Salmon Chase held the president's ear on behalf of New York's radicals, while New York City mayor George Opdyke, Collector of the Port of New York Hiram Barney, and 1862 gubernatorial candidate James Wadsworth led statewide organizational efforts. (12)
A second more "conservative" Republican group took their cues from William H. Seward, Lincoln's Secretary of State. In Washington, Seward was Chase's chief cabinet rival for Lincoln's attention and tension between the two men lingered throughout their service to the president. In New York, Seward and his old friend Thurlow Weed, editor of the Albany Evening Journal, had long controlled Whig patronage and continued to exercise influence within the new Republican party. Along with the Evening Journal, Henry Raymond's New York City-based Times promoted local conservative ideology and Raymond also served as a powerful leader in the State Assembly. Like the Tribune, Raymond's paper was an important mouthpiece for his wing of the party. Although Seward, Weed, and Raymond all had antislavery roots, they generally cautioned Lincoln against emancipation and other radical policies; bringing the states back into the Union was their primary concern. (13)
If Republicans were divided at the end of 1861, the Democratic party in New York was practically in shambles. In 1860, Democrats had split into three groups: the regular state organization, led by the Albany Regency; Tammany Hall, the regular Democratic organization in New York City; and Mozart Hall, a New York City-based faction created by Fernando Wood in opposition to Tammany. (14) Wartime further complicated matters, as many hard-line New York Democrats abandoned the party organization to support the Lincoln administration. These "War Democrats" were among the enormous bipartisan crowed--more than 100,000 people--that assembled in New York City's Union Square in April 1861 to declare its commitment to the Union cause. (15) With so many unwilling to stick to partisanship after Fort Sumter, by late 1861, Democrats struggled to maintain any semblance of an organized political party. To make matters worse, even while Republicans were divided, they controlled the governor's mansion and held a towering majority in the New York Legislature: twenty-three seats to the Democrats' nine in the Senate and ninety-three to thirty-five in the Assembly. Although they would rebound in the 1862 elections, Democrats found themselves disorganized and politically weak in the first year of the Civil War. (16) Republicans overwhelmingly controlled New York policy. (17)
Regardless of their factional conflicts, New Yorkers began the war remarkably united in providing military support for the Union war effort. As early as January 1861, Republicans in the New York State Legislature proposed a bill to organize the state militia. Although Democrats succeeded in postponing action on the measure until April, after Fort Sumter republican governor Edwin Morgan worked with legislators to push through a new bill, authorizing him to enroll 30,000 volunteers for two years and appropriating $3 million for that purpose. The bill passed with near unanimous support and New Yorkers began filing into the Union army ranks. (18)
With the Union army's capture of New Orleans in late April 1862 and the slow but successful capture of Yorktown in early May, northerners' spirits were high and New Yorkers predicted a speedy end to the war once General George McClellan, commander of the Army of the Potomac, finally crushed the rebels. (19) The Union had stopped recruiting new volunteers in April, believing they had enough manpower to deal a deathblow to the Confederate armies. Amid these tactical developments, the New York State Legislature had begun considering the possibility of increasing manpower through a draft. State senators and congressmen focused much of their attention on "an act to provide for the enrollment of the militia, the organization and discipline of the National Guard of the state of New York, and for the public defense." The bill passed easily on April 8 and included eleven sections providing for the enrollment of white males between the ages of eighteen and forty-five. (20)
Historians have generally disregarded the significance of this April Militia Act in illustrating the extent to which New Yorkers were ready for a draft. (21) A closer look at the provisions of the bill, however, demonstrates that, at least the men of the New York Legislature believed that a draft was likely. With exceptions for ministers, Quakers, educators, firemen, lunatics, and others, the act provided that "all other white male citizens shall be enrolled" in the state militia "as often as the Commander-in-Chief shall deem necessary, and at least once in two years by the commandant of the company district." Upon the enrollment of such men, Title 9 of the new act declared, "when a draft is ordered by the President or Commander-in-Chief of a number equal to one or more companies to each brigade, such draft shall be by lot, drawn by the commanding officer of the brigade in the presence of the commandants of the respective regiments composing it." Title 11 reaffirmed that "the Commander-in-Chief is authorized to establish such regulations as he shall deem proper for the general government of the military forces of the State, and to carry into effect the provisions of this act." (22) Thus, not only were New Yorkers preparing for conscription, they expected one: the State was prepared "when" the president would call a draft, not if he would. In the midst of Union victories, however, the provisions of the state's militia act remained unused.
The face of the recruiting situation changed in early July 1862 after stunning Union defeats in the Seven Days' Battles and McClellan's ensuing retreat. Lincoln immediately realized that any appeal for new recruits following the disaster of Seven Days' would create panic in the states. As he told Secretary of State Seward in a private letter, "I would publicly appeal for [a] new force [of 100,000 troops], were it not that I fear a general panic and stampede would follow--so hard is it to have a thing understood as it really is." (23) Rather than immediately issuing a call for more troops, Lincoln decided to send Seward to New York City to meet with the various northern governors and solve Union manpower problem together.
Before leaving Washington, Seward devised the scheme of printing a public address made by the governors of the Union States (which the secretary of state would write himself) asking the president to call for new volunteers from the states. To avoid the appearance of panic in the face of McClellan's defeat, Seward would backdate the address to June 28. Once he arrived in New York on June 29, Seward found the governors enthusiastic for such a plan. They fully supported Lincoln's call for troops, pressing the president to call for up to 500,000, as Seward reported to Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton. Lincoln, perhaps fearing the cost of so many troops, asked for 300,000. Lincoln's more conservative call, however, illustrates the cautious behavior on the part of the administration. As he told Edwin Morgan in a telegram, "It was thought safest to mark high enough." (24)
Papers around the country printed the governors' letter and Lincoln's response on Wednesday, July 2. The Seward-crafted document explained that the governors "heartily desire that the recent successes of the Federal arms may be followed up by measures which must insure the speedy restoration of the Union," and further, that "all believe that the decisive moment is near at hand and to that end the people of the United States are desirous to aid promptly in furnishing all re-enforcements that you may deem needful to sustain our Government." (25)
The editorial reaction of the Tribune to this massive call for volunteers illustrates a key theme that state and local leaders invoked for the next thirteen months when discussing both volunteering and the prospect of a draft. Greeley's newspaper praised the governors, explaining that "A 'SPEEDY CONCLUSION' of the war is what the nation demands." (26) In the months following Lincoln's request, leaders in Washington and New York began to discuss the best way to reach that speedy conclusion. It was in the context of new recruiting that New York politicians began to further develop and emphasize two divergent views of how to reach Union victory and what that victory should entail.
Greeley and his radical Republican associates had long advocated emancipation as a central war aim. But with the prospect of a prolonged war in July, the radicals began to push even more forcefully for black freedom and arming of black troops as a way to injure the Confederacy and strengthen Union manpower. For men like Greeley and Chase, the draft was a good military option, but only in conjunction with emancipation. Conservative Republicans, however, were hesitant to endorse a policy of emancipation for both practical and ideological reasons. Instead, men like Seward and Raymond believed conscription would serve as the most effective means for winning the war and preventing the president from pursuing emancipation. Moderate Democrats, such as National Democratic party chairman August Belmont, sided with the Conservatives, protesting any change in blacks' status. In sum, both factions of the Republican party and moderate Democrats supported and promoted conscription; radical Republicans merely made it a secondary goal.
Thus, immediately following Lincoln's call for troops, many New York politicians at home and in Washington began to discuss the possibility of a draft. The New York Evening Post, another paper with radical Republican sympathies, argued, "We need ... an army sufficient to fall upon the weakened and suffering forces of the enemy and destroy them. To do this in time we must resort to a draft." A letter from transplanted New Yorker Frederick Law Olmstead to his U.S. senator, Preston King, also suggested that a draft would help solidify a successful advance on Richmond. "Conscription would greatly hasten volunteering," Olmstead explained. "Thirty thousand fresh men, each placed between two veteran volunteers, three weeks hence, would add greatly to [the army's] strength." Furthermore, the senator should not worry that a draft would be unpopular for it would "convince the people that their government is in downright earnest in its purpose to overcome the rebellion whatever it costs." (27)
Little did Olmstead know that Henry Wilson, a Republican senator from Massachusetts, had proposed such a bill in Congress on the evening of July 8. Wilson's bill particularly satisfied the radicals as it called for both a draft and the enlistment of black troops. Congressmen in Washington rushed to complete debate on the Militia Bill and give the president a much-needed boost in manpower before the session was scheduled to end, little more than a week later. Congressional debate centered primarily on the question of whether African Americans should be employed by the Union armies in hard labor tasks such as digging ditches. Yet, the possibility of a draft did provoke some controversy. Vermont senator Jacob Collamer was particularly troubled that the Militia Bill would "amount, or may amount really to a [draft]." Historically, Congress had rejected such a practice, unwilling to "adopt anything like the European conscription." Others disagreed. Wisconsin senator Timothy Howe insisted, "Let us order [our reserve] up, and do not let us dole it out to the commander-in-chief; do not let us peddle it out to him. In point of fact we have been a little too modest and a little too prudent and economical about these matters." (28)
While Congress remained somewhat conflicted over the draft, New York leaders praised the possibilities of the Militia Bill. In the days following the bill's introduction, Republican and moderate Democratic papers began to push their federal representatives and Lincoln toward conscription. The Utica Daily Observer, a moderate Democratic paper, argued that a draft would help make all classes of men in New York "bear their share of the burdens and responsibilities of civil strife." Others agreed. On July 11 the Times declared that "as time presses" a draft "may be necessary." (29)
To further demonstrate their overwhelming support for the Militia Bill and the Union war effort in general, New York City organizers coordinated another mass meeting in Union Square. This second outpouring of support on July 15, fifteen months after the first mass gathering at that location, was punctuated by the speeches of several prominent New York financial leaders and politicians in favor of conscription. An oration by a moderate Democrat, Judge Charles P. Daly, received some of the most enthusiastic applause of the afternoon. He declared: "If it should be found that by the system of volunteering 300,000 men cannot be obtained, in time to meet the pressing wants of the Government, I see no objection to resorting to a draft. It has, at all events, this democratic quality, that it falls alike upon all classes--the rich and the poor." Furthermore, Daly continued, "If a man is unwilling to defend this free Government when the lot falls upon him, he is unworthy to live in it and to enjoy its blessings." (30)
Francis Lieber, a prominent intellectual and Columbia professor, reassured listeners that a conscription law would not be a repressive measure as it had been in the Confederacy. "I know it does not sound well in the ears of Americans," Lieber explained, "for drafting has been made use of in Europe in despotic governments, and in the South, which I have not the least doubt is a despotic Government. But drafting is not necessarily a despotic measure. The Government in our own case is nothing but a number of agents we have appointed; and should they adopt such a measure it would work well." Similarly, W. J. A. Fuller argued that if New Yorkers "won't volunteer, we must draft." To sum up the message of the meeting, John Austin Stevens Jr., secretary of the New York Chamber of Commerce, presented a set of resolutions to the New Yorkers assembled in the park that day. As Greeley had pleaded only a few weeks before, Stevens asked for a speedy conclusion to the war. "We urge the Government to aid and strengthen" the army and navy "by all the means in its power ... [t]o prosecute the war with increased vigor and energy until the Rebellion is utterly crushed ... and that to accomplish these ends, we pledge to our rulers, our faith, our fortunes, and our lives." (31)
While Lieber, Daly, Fuller, Stevens, and others used the mass meeting to convince their fellow New Yorkers to support a draft, Governor Edwin Morgan was frantically trying to put together the means to recruit a new set of regiments. In a July 3 letter to the governors, Lincoln had stressed that he needed troops as quickly as possible. "If I had fifty thousand additional troops here now," Lincoln had written, "I believe I could substantially close the war in two weeks." The New York Legislature had adjourned, and the governor feared he would not be able to recruit enough new men. Aware of the conversations in Washington, Morgan telegrammed President Lincoln on July 14: "Congress should not adjourn without providing by law if it has the power to do it for filling up the Volunteer Regiments in the field and those now organizing by a draft." (32)
Morgan's request was granted; Congress passed the Militia Act on July 17. The final act consisted of sixteen sections and provided that the president could specify the period of service--not to exceed nine months--and issue regulations for enrolling all able-bodied men between the ages of eighteen and forty-five into the militia. Most exciting to radicals like Greeley, the act provided a clause for emancipating rebel-owned slaves who served the Union and stipulated the pay of freedmen who entered federal service. (33)
Yet, Lincoln was not necessarily in favor of using the Militia Act to issue a draft at that point. On July 22 the cabinet met to discuss the issue, but had not reached a consensus on whether a draft should be called. Although Stanton and Seward both proposed that the president draft at least 50,000 men, Lincoln was unsure. The president was particularly wary of increasing his earlier troop request. In a letter to Stanton, he explained, "I think it will be better to do nothing now which can be construed into a demand for troops in addition to the three hundred thousand for which we have recently called. We do not need more, nor, indeed, so many, if we could have the smaller number very soon." (34) While the cabinet examined their options, the possibility of conscription remained up the in air for the next few weeks. (35) Lincoln took this time to gauge the recruitment efforts of each state, requesting hard numbers of state regiments from each governor. (36)
In the meantime, the Militia Act was well received by New York politicians, who awaited news of the draft. The New York Evening Post explained, "Some notion of the universal zeal in [the Act's] favor may be formed by remembering how enthusiastically, [it was celebrated] at the late Great Union Meeting in Union Square." Since the president's initial call, new regiments had sprouted up throughout the state. The leaders of the July 15 Union Square meeting had organized themselves into the bipartisan National War Committee of New York and attempted to facilitate recruiting the men Lincoln had asked for. Many New York politicians, however, hoped Lincoln would use the Militia Act to push for more than his July 1 request. "The fault is our own that the war lingers," Raymond wrote in a Times editorial. "If the Government calls into the field, at once, half a million new and fresh men, the rebels can do nothing to meet such a levy." (37)
Moderate Democrats were also anxious for a draft to begin. August Belmont wrote to Thurlow Weed in late July, asking him to give a message to the president. Belmont told Weed that the War Department "dealt a fatal blow to our army" when it stopped recruiting in April. "There is only one way to remedy our fatal error," Belmont explained: "that is for the President at once to establish a system of conscription by which, instead of three hundred thousand, at least five hundred thousand men should be called under arms." Unsure of the reach of the Militia Act, Belmont remarked, "If the authority for all these measures is not vested in the President he ought at once to call an extra session of Congress." Weed agreed with Belmont. A few days later he told Seward, "I have repressed and concealed my apprehensions as long as I can. You know that I [pressed] from the first that Volunteers would not come quick enough, and soldiers ought to be drafted. I am confirmed in this view.... An early Draft would have enabled you to fill up the old Regiments ... and given you new ones." The Albany Atlas and Argus also argued that a draft would "quicken action." Such action made sense, given that "no war of proportions like the present was ever conducted by volunteering--Throughout all Europe conscription is the rule." Moreover, the paper argued, "the public would sustain a draft rather than an abandonment of a campaign on which so much has rested." (38)
By the end of the month, New York politicians had become increasingly impatient, wondering why the War Department had not put the Militia Act to good use. "It will not do to let another month pass away with as meager results as have been [experienced] this month," remarked the New York Times. "If the present method of raising the armies needed, prove unsatisfactory and slow, there must be a draft." The Evening Post pushed Lincoln to act as soon as possible: "Let us get rid of red tape. The one thing needed now is to render our armies immediately able to attack the enemy.... We cannot afford to await the slow process of enlistment, which suffices in ordinary times. We have lagged too long." The Democratic New York Herald echoed the Republicans' call: "The question still recurs, why delay a general draft or a call upon the militia, which, in thirty days, would place at the President's disposal five hundred thousand fresh men, and end the war in three months? ... Call out the men.... The country is anxious to bring its strength to bear at once upon this rebellion." Local radical George Templeton Strong particularly hoped the president would make use of the section allowing for the arming of slaves. "I greatly fear that we are on the eve of some vast calamity," Strong wrote in his diary: "Why in the name of anarchy and ruin doesn't the President order the draft of one million fighting men at once and the liberation and arming of every able-bodied Sambo in Southronia. We shall perish unless the government begin singing in that very key (of all sharps)." (39)
As July turned to August, local leaders were adamant: Draft! "Nothing could more strikingly illustrate the temper of the public mind than the fact that it is the Government that is unwilling to resort to [the draft]," a Times editorial declared on August 4. "The people wish it.... The rapidly-growing sentiment in favor of drafting arises not from any unwillingness to volunteer, but from the conviction that it is, on the whole, the best means of promptly filling up the army." Of course, the Militia Act only gave the president the power to draft men for a period of up to nine months, a fact the Times found "an unfortunate limitation." Still, with the combination of volunteers and this limited draft, the war would soon end. "Let the President therefore order a draft of 300,000 additional men, and we shall then be able to put them to the important work of garrisoning places that must be held, while the 300,000 volunteers are pushed forward to complete the old regiments." A second editorial the same day went as far as to call Lincoln cowardly for failing to produce the draft. "Our Government is always just too late," the Times railed. "The President is apparently so fearful of doing something rash that he does nothing in time to be of service. If he had ordered a draft of a million men a month ago, enough could now have been in the field to drive the rebels from Richmond." To be perfectly clear, Raymond continued, "If this war is to go on with any hope of success, the country must resort to a draft of militia and that immediately." (40) Overall, Strong, Belmont, and Raymond, and many others, not only supported a draft, they demanded a stronger conscription policy than Congress and the president had initially considered. (41)
Washington finally heeded New Yorkers' calls. Unimpressed with the states' troop levels and pace of recruitment, Lincoln's instructed his secretary of war to release General Orders 94 on August 4, providing a draft for 300,000 militiamen in addition to the 300,000 three-year volunteers called for on July 1. (42) The New York Republican and moderate Democratic press responded with elation. "We believe the country will generally hail this decisive step with exulting approval," declared an August 6 Tribune editorial. "The New draft for 300,000 militia is a most hopeful symptom," the Times echoed. "It not only adds so much to the effective military force of the country in its contest with the rebellion,--but it shows that the Government is not afraid to throw itself upon the People for support." The Independent, a New York-based Republican-leaning news magazine agreed. "The suspicion that the Administration was only half in earnest in striking at the Rebellion, had so effectively dampened the enthusiastic confidence of the people, that volunteering was practically at an end," the editors explained. "Not that the people need the coercion of a draft to make them willing to serve, but to restore their flagging confidence in the Government." The New York Herald was also quick to "congratulate the friends of the Union, from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean that our government has at length entered upon a system of war measures which will inevitably and speedily put an end to this desperate and defiant Southern rebellion." (43)
Yet, the Republican and moderate Democratic press did more than simply support Stanton's draft call. For the next four months, New Yorkers urged the national government to push conscription further than a mere 300,000 militiamen. While the War Department dallied in implementing the draft, postponing it week after week throughout the fall, New York leaders increasingly appealed to the federal government for action. Two circumstances fueled these demands. First, as 1862 wore on, Union armies continued to falter. Battles at Cedar Mountain and Second Bull Run in August ended in terrific losses of Union manpower and Confederate victory. Although the Union armies managed a draw in Antietam and Perryville in September and October, the summer and fall of 1862 felt like one long series of defeats. (44) Anxious to quickly put an end to a war they thought the Union should be winning, New York leaders believed an expanded draft was necessary.
A second reason for New Yorkers' growing insistence on conscription related to Lincoln's preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. As early as July 13, Lincoln had discussed the proclamation with members of his cabinet. Still, he feared that, amid the sorry state of the Union war effort, emancipation would not receive the public approval he needed. Even as men like Greeley pushed him to free the slaves, the president waited to issue the proclamation until the army stopped its losing streak. (45) Apparently McClellan's "half-victory" at Antietam would have to do. On September 23, the Washington and New York papers published the proclamation, which provided that on January 1, 1863, "all persons held as slaves within any state, or designated part of a state, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States shall be then, thenceforward and forever free." (46)
Emancipation quickly became embroiled in the conscription discussion. Greeley and other radicals, while maintaining their commitment to militia drafts, began to focus even more closely on the role of blacks in the army. Conservatives, on the other hand, along with many of their Democratic counterparts, were less comfortable with Lincoln's actions. While some conservatives supported the proclamation, all believed that ending the war quickly would prevent the country from facing the controversial issue of emancipation on January 1. Still, neither the radicals nor the conservatives had abandoned their primary goal: a speedy conclusion of the war. Only the tactics for reaching that goal had been altered by emancipation.
Thus, immediately after Stanton's initial draft order on August 4, radicals, moderate Republicans, and moderate Democrats alike demanded a stronger draft. Not only should the federal government draft 300,000 men to supplement volunteers, the Times argued, "we should have a million of men under arms, ready to move at an hour's notice." The government "must have armies in reserve as well as in the field." Nor should Washington hesitate to call for extra men through an expanded draft for fear that the states would protest. "This is no time for hair splitting distinctions--for nice questions of State rights or National supremacy," Raymond insisted, "nor are the people in a mood to require or tolerate such discussions. They demand blows, and liberty to strike them. They are involved in WAR, and they ask permission to wage it." Even some New York religious leaders joined the clamor. The New York Herald particularly praised New York City archbishop John Hughes for a "patriotic sermon" calling for the government to finally implement the draft. "The people should insist on being drafted," Hughes preached, "and so bring this unnatural strife to a close." According to the paper, Hughes suggested that an additional 300,000 men should be drafted in addition to the president's initial request. (47)
Through August and September, New York papers continued to publish weekly articles about the draft and the need for expanded action. Although they supported the federal government, the slow pace at which the War Department moved toward conscription particularly frustrated newspaper editors. Even with the steady rate of enlistments throughout the state, the army could not reach its capacity before January, they argued. "By the draft, a fortnight suffices to make the levy--an absolute certainty against the vaguest contingency," the Times explained. "We need it--to equalize the service, to vindicate the National power, and above all, to add resistless strength to the force which will thus be able to enter on the new and final campaign." The Tribune implored the federal government to employ every means possible--a draft, emancipation, the arming of black troops--to win the war. "The People, whose Constitution and Union are at stake, will tolerate in their rulers anything necessary to preserve them," Greeley explained. "They will forgive them for doing almost any act tending to this end. But they will not excuse them for hesitation, timidity, blundering, nor especially for doing or not doing anything through fear of hurting, of despoiling, or even exterminating Southern traitors, or of offending their secret coadjutors in the North." After Antietam and a second round of Confederate conscription, the papers emphasized the importance of following up on success with an expanded army that could face the newly strengthened Confederate forces. "The only way to meet this contingency is to promptly draw from those immense reserved forces which the draft alone can reach," the Times explained. "This should be done immediately.... A Union army must swiftly follow up and destroy the forces of the rebellion." (48)
Local newspapermen were not the only New Yorkers pushing for an expanded draft. The National War Committee of New York began regular meetings on August 25, and frequently debated the subject of conscription. The expressed purpose of the committee was to facilitate troop volunteering, particularly through raising bounties. Still, many were in favor of conscription and the members found themselves divided over the measure. For example, on September 8, Abram Wakeman urged the committee to pay a sum of $7500 to the judge advocate general of New York as an advance to complete the enrollment of the city in order to facilitate an early draft. John Austin Stevens Jr. opposed the motion arguing that "although personally and always in favor of a draft and opposed to the present bounty system," the committee ought to focus on its task of recruiting. Yet, the committee would begin to sway toward advocating conscription in the following weeks. On Thursday, September 11, the committee discussed two important resolutions regarding the draft. The first, submitted by Francis Lieber on Tuesday, September 9, argued that the secretary of war "be urged to make a draft contemplated under the authority of the United States and by United States officers." (49)
The second resolution was a report from the War Committee's "Committee on the Condition of the Militia and the Defences of the State." This subcommittee, made up of David Dudley Field (a close friend of Greeley and Chase), Jonathan Sturges, and C. H. Marshall, was appalled by the sorry condition of the Empire State's military defense system. The three men implored the state that it should "return immediately to the system of our fathers" in exercising the power to enroll every male citizen into the New York militia. They believed the War Committee ought to request that the governor "exercise without delay all the power with which he is invested, to arm, drill, and organize the whole reserve Militia of the State." As negotiations within the committee rolled on throughout September, most members became convinced of the need for an expanded draft, including Stevens. In early November, Stevens "suggested to the Committee the importance of preparing for submission to Congress at its next session a draft of a general militia law" which would include "a plan for proper military organization, including a law of draft, regulations as to exemption, bounties, recruiting, &c." (50)
This last resolution by the War Committee is emblematic of how discussion of the conscription issue began to change by the end of September. As the fall months passed and the next session of Congress grew closer, New Yorkers directed their ideas and demands toward the Legislative branch and away from the War Department. Their reliance on Congress may have also stemmed from Lincoln's clear hesitation to implement a draft. As Secretary of the Treasury Chase reported in his diary, Lincoln and other members of his cabinet opposed statewide drafts, believing the expense of arming and outfitting a large number of conscripts was too large. When Pennsylvania governor Andrew Gregg Curtin requested that the president issue a statewide call to service, Lincoln "said he was averse to giving the order, on the score of the expense." (51) State leaders looking for federal action were forced to direct their requests elsewhere.
Thus, even when the Union governors met with Lincoln in Washington in late September to talk about recruiting, they looked to Congress for action. The leaders discussed the state of the Union army, the status of certain generals, conscription, and other pressing military issues, and as the Tribune headline read, "Mr. Lincoln and the Governors in Perfect Accord." Not only did the state leaders favor a militia draft, they "went so far as to agree informally that they would heartily cooperate in carrying out a conscription act framed for the purpose of filling up the old regiments, if Congress should pass one." (52)
These state and local leaders switched tactics not only in response to the upcoming congressional session and unresponsiveness of the president, but also because of the November 1862 midterm elections. The combination of Lincoln's preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, suspension of habeas corpus, and the threat of a draft combined to make many locals nervous about the upcoming contest. Conscription was intimately tied to the election since registering to vote also meant the possibility of being enrolled by the militia. (53) Thus, partially because of the elections, the War Department postponed the draft again in mid-October and rescheduled it for after the election. In addition to discontent over possible conscription, Republicans faced a difficult gubernatorial contest. Governor Morgan had declined to run for another term and the Republicans were split in their regular moderate and radical camps over who should receive Republican support. When the radicals successfully nominated James Wadsworth, a Greeley pawn, Wadsworth traveled the state speaking in favor of emancipation. Frustrated by this radical behavior, Weed and Seward did little to help elect him. In the end, even with Republican's cautious efforts regarding the draft, Democrats made a dramatic comeback in New York in November, including sending Horatio Seymour to the governor's mansion. (54)
Initially Seymour's election did not provoke widespread alarm in the Republican camps. New York Democrat Daniel Dickinson told Abraham Lincoln, "The result means nothing, except that a combination of mean politicians and demoralizing & unpatriotic influences have succeeded over men who can stand fire in a time of trial." Privately George Templeton Strong agreed: "We are in a state of dyspepsia and general indefinite malaise suffering from the necessary evils of war and from irritation at our slow progress," Strong wrote in his diary. We take advantage of the first opportunity to change, for its own sake." (55) Although the election of a Democrat made these men nervous, Republicans and moderate Democrats believed that northerners had not lost their patriotism.
Moreover, the election had not changed New Yorkers' minds about conscription; leaders still wanted their federal representatives to act. In fact, the Times agreed with Strong that the people had voted for Seymour because of unhappiness with the progress of the war. Thus, the paper argued, Seymour's election demonstrated the need for an expanded army. "His election is a protest against the immobility and inefficiency of our armies," a November 6 editorial read. "Tens of thousands of true and loyal men have voted for him merely because they desired a change." The Times suggested that Seymour's best course would be to "insist upon a more vigorous prosecution of the war. He must aid it by all the means in his power." Still, the paper had little faith in Seymour and looked toward the efforts of the federal government. One thing is to be certain," the editorial continued, "if the Government at Washington is still capable of being stimulated to action by the pressures of peril, it can smile at any attempts which Gov. Seymour may make to thwart or embarrass its prosecution of the war. Our own apprehensions, we are free to confess, turn upon that contingency. We fear the inactivity of the National Executive far more than the hostility of the Governor elect." (56)
Others seemed to agree that New York leaders should be more wary of the administration's dawdling than of the new governor. Calls for a draft by prominent New Yorkers continued into the New Year. Francis Lieber published one such request in an anonymous article in Brownson's Quarterly, which demanded "conscription as the assertion of the authority of the United States as a sovereign state." Similarly, the New York Herald hoped that in light of the Emancipation Proclamation, "no time will be lost in commencing a draft" for the purpose of enrolling black soldiers. (57)
Congress would not disappoint. The pleadings of state and local leaders and devastating losses at the Battle of Fredricksburg in one single day of fighting combined to produce a general demand for conscription, not only in New York, but also among political leaders in Washington. (58) Thus, on January 28, after having conferred with Secretary of War Stanton, Henry Wilson introduced a bill to the U.S. Senate providing for a federal draft law. In early February, debate in the Senate began on Wilson's "Enrollment Act," and the bill passed a few weeks later. After a slightly more abbreviated debate, the House passed the measure on February 25 and the conscription act became law on March 3, only days before the end of the session. (59)
New Yorkers who had advocated an expanded draft for months were elated by Congress's actions. After the bill passed the Senate, the Times commended their federal representatives. "The Conscription Act, which has just passed the Senate, is the grandest pledge yet given that our Government means to prevail, and will prevail," a February 20 editorial told its readers. "It is really the nation's first assertion of a purpose to command the means for its own preservation. Hitherto these means have been contingent and precarious." But the administration had finally come through. "It is now for the first time plain that we have a Government strong enough for its work--strong enough in power, and strong enough in will." A March 6 article reporting the final provisions of the bill included particular praise from the Times's Washington correspondent. "Congress has done well in declaring principles and in framing provisions," the man wrote. "Will the President and those charged with the Executive power prove equal to the enactment? I believe they will.... I have seen something of public men, and in these essentials he exceeds any I have known." (60)
The Conscription Act also pleased moderate Democrats. On March 6, a collection of New York City Democratic leaders met at Cooper Union to express support for the war. Several Republican city official joined them, including newly elected New York City mayor George Opdyke. As the New York Tribune reported, "earnest and telling" speeches were made by Democrats Judge Daly, and John Van Buren--men whose great popularity with the Democratic party entitles their opinions to be taken as those of a very large mass of their fellow Democrats." In particular, Van Buren "expressed his hearty support of the president, and approved of the acts giving him full control of the purse and the sword." As the paper reported, Van Buren argued, "There should be no outcry against 'extraordinary powers' except from those who wanted to see the Rebellion prosper." (61)
Although happy with the Enrollment Act, New York politicians continued to discuss aspects of the draft throughout the spring and summer of 1863. In addition to simply defending the act against Peace Democrats, New Yorkers discussed when the draft should actually begin. (62) The Times was quick to point out that the federal government should move immediately. The editor recalled the cumbersome process of enrolling for the Militia Act the previous fall and was frustrated that a month and a half after the Enrollment Act passed the "War Department has not been able to fix upon suitable agents to execute the law in the various states." Still, considering the constraints on the Department, "the fixing of the 1st day of July for the beginning of its operative power to put men in the field" was "not a blunder, but a careful and successful calculation." (63)
Others warned the president to relax his emancipation efforts so as to make a draft more palatable to the northern public. In regard to the progress of the war, Thurlow Weed told Lincoln on March 9, "there is a more healthful and hopeful reaction in the public mind, but it needs encouragement or the Conscription Act cannot be made effective. Democrats will prefer Party to Country if Abolition is thrust forward as a reason for Prosecuting the War." Weed knew this from experience. Only a few weeks before, Cooperstown Democrat Samuel M. Shaw had warned Weed that the Republicans were demanding too much. "You can easily see that even the most loyal Democrats are sorely tried with the policy of the Administration on some important points," Shaw told him. "Opposed to the Confiscation bill, the Proclamation, &c, still do we falter for the Union? No! But we need some little help, which the Administration can easily give." (64)
Although Weed was one of Lincoln's closest confidants, the president would not budge on emancipation; the president's policy on African Americans was now set in stone. Yet, while he was adamant about black freedom, Lincoln remained sensitive to state power and jurisdiction in pursuing his conscription policy. The cabinet and other federal officials routinely requested updates on troop recruitment and worked closely with local officials in implementing conscription throughout the spring and summer of 1863. In order to facilitate a more efficient draft, the Lincoln administration assigned federal officers to work with local district leaders in enrolling the northern public. Yet, as Provost-Marshall-General James B. Fry wrote to newly elected New York City mayor George Opdyke, the administration hoped to work with city officials, not supersede local political power. "The War Department will be pleased if your Honor will communicate freely with him," he explained, "and secure as far as possible for all officers appointed under the enrollment act in these districts the co-operation of the civil officers of your city." (65) By keeping lines of communication open among state, local, and federal officials, Lincoln's administration was better able to implement military policies, in spite of what some Republicans and Democrats thought of emancipation. (66)
Lincoln was able to sustain this federal-state coordination, in part, because the Union army started winning. In early July the federals gained two important victories, at Gettysburg and Vicksburg. Some northerners believed these victories meant a draft would be unnecessary. But the Times warned against this. "The conscription is necessary," a July 10 editorial explained. "Even after the late great victories, a new army of 300,000 men must be got ready to move upon the confederacy. Let the rebel States see that not only are they beaten now, by the forces at present in the field, but that in the Fall they must meet the same veteran armies, recruited, and 300,000 stronger." The Democratic New York Herald agreed in a pointed editorial: "We see that several papers are recommending that the draft should not be enforced, in consequence of our recent victories. This is absurd. The draft should go on, and a new army be prepared to take the field." (67)
As the Times and New York Herald hoped, a New York draft went ahead as scheduled on Saturday, July 11. (68) Yet, the result was not as these papers expected. That morning, as draft officials began calling names in the predominantly Irish ninth district, discontent was evident almost from the start. By Monday, the New York City draft riots were in full swing, and they would last for four more chaotic days. (69) Many of the city's most prominent Republicans blamed Governor Seymour for failing to adequately provide for New York's defense. The governor was out of town when the riots began, and he did not return until several days into the disturbance. (70)
Although the riots temporarily upset city order, communication did not break down among local, state, and national officials. Those both in and outside Washington did not shy from expressing their opinions and giving suggestions to the president about how to handle both the riots and the draft. On July 15, New York Republican William Hall wrote Postmaster General Montgomery Blair, "We have had for the last 48 hours a bloody riot." Still, he did not think the city's difficulties should prevent conscription from going forward. "Do not my dear Sir, have the draft suspended," he pleaded, "for if this be done we must give up in despair--Enforce the draft and give us Genl Butler & all will be well with us." (71) Other New Yorkers asked Senator Preston King to intercede with the president. "I am requested by some very good men here to write to the President and protest against any abandonment of the draft," he told Lincoln in a July 20 letter. "I have not supposed it would be abandoned or suspended--I regard it as essential to carry out the draft faithfully and impartially.... The Public confidence in the justice and impartiality of the Government and its power and confidence in itself must be maintained." (72)
These early communications to Lincoln were just the beginning of a local Republican campaign to continue the draft. Although the riots had temporarily produced disorder in the city, the chaos would not prevent New Yorkers from a continued effort to enforce a draft.
The events leading to the Enrollment Act of March 1863 and the ensuing draft riots have been told as a national story for too long. Historians writing from the perspective of congress or the president have claimed the government exercised its authority, imposed its will, and cared little for the opinions of state and local leaders. By examining the draft through the eyes of men in all levels of government, however, the role of state and local politicians in pursuing conscription becomes clear. New Yorkers were not merely innocent bystanders who reluctantly supported the Lincoln administration's military policies; they fully participated in discussions about the utility and importance of calling a draft.
Scholars have neglected these vertical connections in large part because they have overlooked the circumstances surrounding two important pieces of military legislation in 1862 and their relationship to the Enrollment Act. First, the New York Militia Act of 1862 provided the means by which the president could call a draft. The legislators who passed this act had no doubt that Lincoln would make use of their bill. The language of the measure expressly dictated the obligations for the state "when a draft is ordered by the President," not if the commander-in-chief chose to act. Without prompting from Washington, this state government provided the means for a militia draft well before the Militia Act of July 1862 had ever been considered.
Not only have many historians missed the importance of the predecessors to this July Militia Act, they also fail to understand its consequences. The reaction of Republican officials to the act has been written off as merely supportive, embracing the administration's military policies. A closer look at New Yorkers' letters and newspaper articles in the months following the act, however, illustrates a more nuanced reaction. These locals did more than simply follow the company line; New York Republicans and moderate Democrats pushed the president and Congress to expand the draft to significantly greater numbers than the July and August calls. In fact, New Yorkers demanded more than the administration was initially willing to give on the issue of conscription. Therefore, when viewed as a story of constant discussion among these New Yorkers and Washington, March conscription no longer appears nationally imposed. Although few leaders had suggested the particulars eventually included in the Enrollment Act, congressmen gave New York Republicans just what they had asked for: an expanded draft. Accordingly, local and state politicians were not surprised when Congress and the president finally heeded their calls for more conscripts.
Certainly not all of the Empire State's leaders agreed with the administration's draft policy, and the entanglement of conscription and emancipation complicated the issue within New York. Military defeats, Democratic victories, and tension over freeing southern slaves combined to produce uneasiness with and, in some cases, outright defiance of the national government. But this local discontent should not be confused with a weak state government imposed upon by an increasingly powerful central authority. New York Republicans and moderate Democrats remained strongly in favor of an expanded draft and the Enrollment Act proved a reasonable solution.
The real story of conscription provides a template for reevaluating federalism during the Civil War. No longer can we assume that the federal government acted without the consultation of state and local officials. The exigencies of war and the remnants of long-standing party patronage machines helped produce a national government that relied on its state and local political relationships to understand party opinion and shape the public consensus. The backbone of these relationships can be found in the various conversations and consultations American leaders engaged in as part of their nineteenth-century political life; they can be found in the personal letters and telegrams, visits to Washington or back to hometowns, requests on behalf of party friends and personal acquaintances, newspaper articles and correspondence, and even in the longstanding personal animosities both in and out of party politics.
I would like to thank William Blair, Gary Gallagher, Michael Holt, Sean Nalty, Mark Neely, Peter Onuf, Mark Summers, and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and suggestions on earlier versions of this essay. I could not have completed my research for this article without the generous support of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History at the New-York Historical Society.
(1.) James W. Geary, We Need Men: The Union Draft in the Civil War (DeKalb: Northern Illinois Univ. Press, 1991), 51-52. Also see David Herbert Donald, Jean Harvey Baker, and Michael F. Holt, The Civil War and Reconstruction (New York: Norton, 2001), 233-35; and William B. Hesseltine, Lincoln and the War Governors (New York: Alfred Knopf, 1948), 273, 275, 284.
(2.) James M. McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (New York: Ballantine, 1988), 600. For example, the 37th Congress passed the National Banking Act, which became law on February 25, 1863, authorizing the federal government to grant charters to banks that met certain standards and required them to purchase the number of U.S. bonds equal to one-third of their capital. This policy reversed the long-standing ones implemented under Andrew Jackson that prevented a centralized monetary system (594.) Bray Hammond, Sovereignty and an Empty Purse: Banks and Politics in the Civil War (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton Univ. Press, 1970), 321-40.
(3.) The federal government had never used formal conscription before in the short history of the nation. Some areas of the country had resorted to local drafts during the Revolutionary War, and the U.S. Congress passed militia acts in May 1792 and 1795 calling for the enrollment of men in local militia companies, but the president did not have the power to call these militiamen into federal service. During the War of 1812 President James Madison also asked Congress for a conscription law that would have allowed him to draft eighty thousand militiamen into the regular army, but the war ended before the legislation passed. See Geary, We Need Men, xiv.
(4.) The best single volume on the circumstances surrounding the draft riots is Iver Bernsteins The New York City Draft Riots: Their Significance for American Society and Politics in the Age of the Civil War (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1990). Bernstein provides a complex assessment of New York City in the era of the Civil War, demonstrating that the riots brought class divisions and tensions over economic change to the surface. Like many other historians of the period, he argues that the riots were "a communal uprising against the power of an expanding and centralizing federal government" (4).
(5.) There is a longstanding historical tradition of marking the actions of the Civil War federal government as producing the beginnings of the expanded "modern State." Scholars argue that national conscription was simply one more piece of legislation in a series of centralizing behavior on the part of the 37th and 38th Congresses that marked the end of state-centered government. Federal power was able to expand, in part, because of the circumstances of war, but the end of the conflict produced more centralization, rather than a return to states rights and a weakened federal government. See Hesseltine, Lincoln and the War Governors, particularly on the role of conscription; Heather Cox Richardson, The Greatest Nation of the Earth: Republican Economic Policies during the Civil War (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press, 1997); Leonard P. Curry, Blueprint for Modern America: Nonmilitary Legislation of the First Civil War Congress (Nashville, Tenn.: Vanderbilt Univ. Press, 1968); Richard Franklin Bensel, Yankee Leviathan: The Origins of Central State Authority in America, 1859-1877 (New York: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1990); and Garrett Epps, Democracy Reborn: The Fourteenth Amendment and the Fight for Equal Rights in Post-Civil War America (New York: Holt, 2006) in particular on the legal status of states rights after the Civil War.
(6.) I chose New York as my test state for myriad reasons, including the financial importance of the Empire State to the war effort and the extent to which the federal government relied on its banking services, the number of New Yorkers in prominent federal and military posts during the war, and the reputation the state had for opposition to conscription policy, particularly in conjunction with the draft riots of 1863. See Sidney David Brummer, "The Political History of New York State during the Period of the Civil War," in Columbia Studies in the Social Sciences, no. 103, Studies in History, Economics, and Public Law, vol. 39. no. 2 (New York: Longmans, Green & Co., 1911)
(7.) The works by Neely and Smith are part of a reignited debate about the extent to which political parties and organizations remained active during the Civil War and how much these factions might have facilitated or hindered the Union war effort. Eric McKitrick was among the first to argue that two-party competition in the North helped tip the scales toward Union victory. Eric McKitrick, "Party Politics and the Union and Confederate War Efforts," in The American Party Systems: Stages of Political Development, ed. by William Nisbet Chambers and Walter Dean Burnham (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1967). Civil War historians unreservedly accepted McKitrick's interpretation until recently. In a thought-provoking 2002 work, Mark E. Neely Jr. challenged his thesis, arguing, "Lincoln's relations with states across the Union were facilitated not by two-party competition but by one-party dominance." Mark Neely, The Union Divided: Party Conflict in the Civil War North (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press, 2002), 184. In one compelling chapter, he shows how the partisan rhetoric of northern newspapers (and their complete misunderstanding of military strategy) even influenced Abraham Lincoln in questioning George McClellan's military "strategy." In this example and others, state and local politics had a tremendous impact on federal military policy.
While Neely's work provides significant insights into the contours of party politics during the war, ultimately he underestimates the importance of old party patronage systems to northern success. As Adam I. E Smith rightly points out, "the Lincoln administration undoubtedly benefited from the power of the party, in an organizational sense at least." Smith's explanation hinges directly on the idea that conversations among various levels of government helped facilitate war policies. He argues, "The network of active partisans who undertook the prosaic business of conducting a canvass to determine likely supporters and 'doubtful' voters, distributed campaign pamphlets, organized meetings, and, on election day, cajoled voters to the polls, provided a powerful mechanism for communicating ideas and influencing public opinion." Smith's work helps to demonstrate my contention that the federal government did not act without consulting state and local leaders. Adam I. P. Smith, No Party Now: Politics in the Civil War North (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 2006), 160.
Siddali's book is an important contribution to the study of Congress's First and Second Confiscation Acts. She argues that, contrary to what historians have previously believed, the northern public was not opposed to confiscation. Republicans were eager to punish the Confederates through confiscation, and even many of the Democrats were amenable to many of Congress's property schemes. The northern public was not afraid to press for confiscation, particularly when Congress was slow to act. As she explains, "during the war, Americans were deeply engaged with congressional politics; they felt they had a right to be heard on the legislative and military conduct of the war." Silvana Siddali, From Property to Person: Slavery and the Confiscation Acts, 1861-1862 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State Univ. Press, 2005), 11.
Blair's work investigates a disconnect between historians' praise of Pennsylvania governor Andrew Curtin for key support of the Lincoln administration and Curtin's unwillingness to abide by federal recruitment policies. Blair shows that political circumstances, such as an upcoming gubernatorial election in Pennsylvania, the failure of many Democrats to volunteer for the army (giving them more political sway in the election), and the inefficiencies of recruiting efforts, motivated Curtin's clashes with Washington politicians in late 1862. Because of these pressures, Curtin forced a compromise with federal officials that allowed him to count nine-month recruits as part of Pennsylvania's quota. Blair's work thoughtfully illustrates the nuances of northern relations between state and federal officials during the Civil War era. William Blair, "We Are Coming Father Abraham--Eventually: The Problem of Northern Nationalism in the Pennsylvania Recruiting Drives of 1862," in The War Was You and Me: Civilians in the American Civil War, ed. by loan Cashin (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton Univ. Press, 2002).
(8.) One reason scholars have overlooked the conscription debates among the various levels of Civil War government is that most choose to study either the national stage or individual states As Michael Holt remarked in a 1998 synthesis of wartime politics, "Governance during the war ... at the local and state levels, on the one hand, and in Washington, on the other, has been treated [by historians] as though its various manifestations took place on different planets." Michael F. Holt, "An Elusive Synthesis: Northern Politics during the Civil War," in Writing the Civil War: The Quest to Understand, ed. by James M. McPherson and William J. Cooper Jr. (Columbia: Univ. of South Carolina Press, 1998), 113.
(9.) One important example of such influence is the constant clamor of New York Republicans against Secretary of War Edwin Stanton's August 1862 order that no citizen liable to be drafted into the militia should be allowed to be "absent from his state" This order was quickly rescinded by the War Department. See, for example, Allan Nevins and Milton Halsey Thomas, eds., The Diary of George Templeton Strong: The Civil War, 1860-1865 (New York: Macmillan, 1952), 246-47; New York Times, Aug. 10, 1862, 4; New York Tribune, Aug. 9, 1862, 4.
(10.) Abraham Lincoln thanked New York City politician Hiram Walbridge for one such piece of valuable advice. Walbridge pointed out Port Royal and Beaufort as "advantageous places to make lodgements on the Southern coast." Abraham Lincoln to Hiram Walbridge, Nov. 18, 1861, in Correspondence between His Excellency President Abraham Lincoln, The Hon. Simon Cameron, Secretary of War ... (New York: J. F. Trow, printer, 1865), 21.
(11.) New York Times, Aug. 4, 1862, 4.
(12.) Greeley was actually one of the few members of this radical group to have origins in the Whig party. See Ralph Ray Fahrney, Horace Greeley and the Tribune in the Civil War (New York: Da Capo, 1970). Chase actually hailed from Ohio but had become so embroiled in New York politics in the years leading up to the war that contemporaries considered him a representative of Empire State interests. See John Niven, ed., The Salmon P. Chase Papers: vol. 1, Journals, 1829-1872 (Kent, Ohio: Kent State Univ. Press, 1993).
(13.) Weed became one of Lincoln's most important confidants early in the war. Although he was dispatched to Britain in 1862 to facilitate constructive dialogue with the European powers regarding the war at home, Weed maintained close contact with New York leaders and resumed his widespread influence upon his return. See Thurlow Weed Barnes, ed., Memoir of Thurlow Weed, 2 vols. (New York: Houghton, Mifflin, 1884), 2:262. By 1861 tremendous tension existed between the two factions. Seward, who had hoped to run for president in 1860, blamed Greeley for his failure to secure the nomination. Following the 1860 Republican convention, Raymond wrote a scathing attack on Greeley's efforts in the Times, further cementing the Republican split. In return for Greeley's machinations, Seward and Weed had helped to block Greeley's choices for Lincoln's cabinet. Chase and Seward also held long-standing personal and ideological animosity toward each another, making future clashes all but certain. Harry J. Carman and Reinhard H. Luthin, Lincoln and the Patronage (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1943), 914, 23, 34-37; Brummer, "Political History of New York State" 19, 62-66. Of course neither of these factions was completely rigid. Many New Yorkers moved back and forth between the two groups on ideological issues, particularly in regard to emancipation after the president's Emancipation Proclamation in January 1863.
(14.) Wood had been one of the key players in Tammany in the 1850s, but upon losing control of the faction, he decided to set up Mozart with the help of his brother, Benjamin. Mozart Hall did not have the same kind of political clout as the Regency or Tammany but controlled City Hall in 1860. Members of the Regency and Tammany Hall often combined their efforts to subdue Mozart Hall's power. Brummer, "Political History of New York State," 25-31.
(15.) Ernest A. McKay, The Civil War and New York City (Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse Univ. Press, 1990), 61-63. Historians have not come to any consensus on the meaning of the term "War Democrat." For example, see conflicting descriptions in Christopher Dell, Lincoln and the War Democrats: The Grand Erosion of Conservative Tradition (Cranbury, N.J.: Associated Univ. Presses, 1975) and Joel H. Silbey, A Respectable Minority: The Democratic Party in the Civil War Era, 1860-1868 (New York: Norton, 1997). Contemporaries often used this label to describe former Democrats who joined the Republican or Union parties. The most prominent examples of defected Democrats include John Dix and Daniel S. Dickinson, both of whom voted for southerner John Breckinridge in the 1860 election. However, some historians have also extended the label to the pro-war members of the Democratic party who did not abandon the Democratic organization. Here I will use "moderate Democrats" to describe both former hard-line Democrats who abandoned their party and pro-war men who remained loyal Democrats.
(16.) Weed and Seward sympathizer Edwin D. Morgan held the governor's chair. Brummer, "Political History of New York State:' 104. There seems to be some disagreement over the numbers of Republicans in the assembly. John Kirn places the number at 128. This discrepancy may stern from the ambiguous nature of parties during the war. John Kirn, "Voters, Parties, and Legislative Politics in New York State, 1846-1876" (Ph.D. diss., Univ. of Virginia, 2003), 819. Fernando Wood did serve as the mayor of New York City from 1860 to 1862 but struggled to exercise control over state and local affairs. The New York Legislature had passed several provisions in the 1850s that limited the New York City mayor's authority, and Wood's power over the city was choked by a hostile Common Council and other important city officials opposed to Mozart Hall. Brummer, "Political History of New York State," 32-35.
(17.) Because of this Democratic disorganization and weakness, this article will primarily focus on the Republican camps and moderate Democrats who supported the war. Even some of the more radical Democrats occasionally voiced interest in and approval of conscription measures, but never as a unified political organization.
(18.) Kirn, "Voters, Parties, and Legislative Politics," 712-13. The state's 1861 efforts to fill the army were representative of recruiting in general during this period: Lincoln asked for troops and state governments complied, sending volunteers and members of the state militia. The northern armies were composed of the regular army, established before the war, which included approximately sixteen thousand troops; state militia men, who were enrolled and drafted by state governments but could also be subject to national militia drafts; and volunteers. Donald, Baker, and Holt, Civil War and Reconstruction, 225. Lincoln initially called for 75,000 militia for three months of service in the days following Fort Sumter. He would make several more calls for military reinforcements following the first battle of Bull Run, until April 1862, when assurances from Gen. George McClellan convinced Secretary of War Edwin Stanton that the Union army would crush the Confederates in Richmond and no additional troop reinforcements would be necessary. Stanton issued General Order 33 on April 3, effectively discontinuing recruiting in the North. Herman Hattaway and Archer Jones, How the North Won: A Military History of the Civil War (Urbana: Univ. of Illinois Press, 1991), 27; New York Tribune, Apr. 5, 1862, 4; Geary, We Need Men, 8.
(19.) New York Times, Apr. 24, 25, 27, 1862, May 1-6, 1862.
(20.) Kirn, "Voters, Parties, and Legislative Politics," 753; New York Tribune, Mar. 25, 1862, 6.
(21.) Historians typically identify the July 1862 Federal Militia Act as the point at which "Northern practices in the mobilization of military manpower would never be the same." Geary, We Need Men, 11. Also see McPherson, Battle Cry, 490-93. Focusing on this national act helped to keep the typical story of conscription limited to increasing federal power and centralization.
(22.) The text of the act when initially proposed in March can be found in the New York Tribune, Mar. 25, 1862, 6.
(23.) Letter from Abraham Lincoln to William H. Seward, Executive Mansion, June 28, 1862, microfilm edition, William H. Seward Papers, Rush Rhees Library, University of Rochester.
(24.) McPherson credits the idea of backdating the address to Seward but the evidence is more suggestive than definitive. McPherson, Battle Cry, 491. Geary and others either tell the story of Seward's visit to the governors slightly differently or ignore it altogether. William H. Seward to Edwin M. Stanton, New York, July 1, 1861 The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, 128 vols. (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1880-190l), ser. 1, vol. 2:187 (hereafter cited as OR). In addition to supporting the president's call for troops, the governors pushed Seward to include a bounty for future recruits, a policy the federal government had not yet endorsed. With some pressure from Seward, Stanton and Lincoln agreed to include the bounty. Abraham Lincoln to Governor E. D. Morgan, War Department, Washington, D.C., July 2, 1862, OR, set. 3, vol. 2:200.
(25.) New York Tribune, July 2, 1862, 1; "Call for 300,000 Volunteers," Washington, D.C., July 1, 1862, in The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, Roy P. Basler, ed., 8 vols. (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers Univ. Press, 1953), 5:296.
(26.) New York Tribune, July 2, 1862, 6.
(27.) Letter from Frederick Law Olmstead to Preston King, Berkely, James River, July 9, 1862, Abraham Lincoln Papers, Library of Congress.
(28.) Congressional Globe, 37th Cong., 2d Sess., July 8, 1862, 3178; July 10, 1862, 3227; July 11, 1862, 3250. Geary argues that "the need for added protection and the desire to keep prodding Lincoln in an antislavery direction were the principal motives behind Wilson's decision to sponsor the Militia Act. Lincoln was threatening to disapprove the Second Confiscation Act, but as president he could not very well veto a bill that resembled a conscription measure for strengthening the army" (We Need Men, 28-29).
(29.) Greeley published a series of praising articles regarding the bill. See New York Tribune, July 9, 1862, 5, and July 10, 1862, 5; Utica Daily Observer, July 12, 1862 (also quoted in Albany Atlas and Argus, July 15, 1862, 2); New York Times, July 11, 1862, 4.
(30.) New York Tribune, July 16, 1862, 2.
(31.) New York Tribune, July 16, 1862, 8, 1; New York Evening Post, July 16, 1862, 1.
(32.) Abraham Lincoln "To Union Governors," Washington, July 3, 1862, in Collected Works, 304; telegram from Edwin D. Morgan to Abraham Lincoln, Albany, July 14, 1862, Lincoln Papers. Lincoln received similar letters from other governors. See for example, Letter from O. P. Morton, et al. to Abraham Lincoln, Indianapolis, July 9, 1862, in OR, ser. 3, vol. 2:212. Lincoln asked that the Senate and House postpone their adjournment, but this was in part because he hoped they would pass a bill for compensated emancipation. See "To the Senate and House of Representatives," July 14, 1862; "To Solomon Foot," Washington, July 15, 1862; "To Galusha A. Grow," Washington, July 15, 1862; all in Collected Works, 324-26.
(33.) Congressional Globe, 37th Cong., 2d Sess., July 17, 1862, 3404; Geary, We Need Men, 28; Donald, Baker, and Holt, Civil War and Reconstruction 227. Donald, Baker, and Holt argue that the Militia Act had several organizational defects, in particular that "although the changes in the Militia Act created a precedent for enhanced national authority, a minor modification of the militia could not create a huge emergency army."
(34.) Lincoln to Edwin M. Stanton, Executive Mansion, Washington, July 22, 1862, in Collected Works, 338.
(35.) Geary, We Need Men, 32; David Herbert Donald, ed., Inside Lincoln's Cabinet: The Civil War Diaries of Salmon P. Chase (New York: Longmans, Green, 1954), 100. William Hesseltine erroneously argues that the secretary of war issued a call for a draft "without warning" and was exercising an increased centralized power endowed by the Militia Act. The response of New York leaders to this legislation illustrates how attune to political conversations about conscription state and local politicians really were. Hesseltine, Lincoln and the War Governors, 277.
(36.) See for example, A. Lincoln to Governors of All Loyal States, War Department, Washington, D.C., July 28, 1862; E. D. Morgan to A. Lincoln, Albany, N.Y., July 28,1862, OR, ser. 3, vol. 2:265, 268. Some states replied to Lincoln's inquiries by recommending an immediate draft. See Allen C. Fuller to Edwin M. Stanton, Springfield, Ill., Aug. 1, 1862, OR, ser. 3, vol. 2:289.
(37.) New York Evening Post, July 22, 1862, 2; New York Times, July 23, 1862.
(38.) August Belmont to Thurlow Weed, July 20, 1862, in Letters, Speeches, and Addresses of August Belmont (N.p.: privately published, 1890), 236. Weed showed the letter to Lincoln, who responded to Belmont on July 31. "To August Belmont," July 31, 1862, Collected Works, 350. Thurlow Weed to William H. Seward, Albany, July 29, 1862, Seward Papers; Albany Atlas and Argus, July 31, 1862, 2, and Aug. 1, 1862, 2.
(39.) New York Times, July 28, 1862, 5, 4; New York Evening Post, July 26, 1862, 2 (also see the Rochester Union and the Albany Statesman, July 26 to Aug. 1, 1862); New York Herald, Aug. 1, 1862; "Saturday, July 26, 1862," in Nevins and Thomas, Diary of George Templeton Strong, 243-44.
(40.) New York Times, Aug. 4, 1862, 5, 4.
(41.) Geary agrees that Lincoln and Stanton "certainly felt pressure to exert their authority" from many governors, as well as the military. Furthermore, he acknowledges many of these supportive articles in the Times, as well as similar ones in the Cincinnati Daily Commercial, Daily Ohio State Journal, Boston Daily Journal, and Washington, D.C., Evening Star and explains that these articles demonstrate that "the administration ... enjoyed widespread editorial support" (25).
(42.) General Orders No. 94, Aug. 4, 1862, OR, ser. 3, vol. 2:291. Also see McPherson, Battle Cry, 492.
(43.) New York Tribune, Aug. 6, 1862, 4; New York Times, Aug. 6, 1862, 4; Independent, Aug. 7, 1862, 4; New York Herald, Aug. 6, 1862, 2. The Herald particularly praised the draft, which "will supply any number of soldiers that may be desired."
(44.) McPherson, Battle Cry, 526, 532, 561. Union general Nathaniel P. Banks lost 30 percent of his force at Cedar Mountain on August 9. At the end of August, John Pope, the newly named commander of the Army of Virginia, lost 16,000 men out of a total force of 65,000 at the Second Battle of Bull Run.
(45.) The most direct appeal by the radicals came from Horace Greeley, who published "The Prayer of Twenty Millions" in the Tribune on August 19. Among other complaints, Greeley told Lincoln that it was "preposterous and utterly futile" to crush the rebellion without eradicating slavery. In his famous August 22 response, Lincoln said he was entirely focused on the Union. "If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that." See New York Tribune, Aug. 19, 1862, 4; "To Horace Greeley," Washington, Aug. 22, 1862, Collected Works, 388-89; David Herbert Donald, Lincoln (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995), 368.
(46.) New York Tribune, Sept. 23, 1863; Allen C. Guelzo, Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004), 152-54.
(47.) New York Times, Aug. 5,1862, 4 (also see New York Tribune, Aug. 5, 1862, 3, Aug. 6, 1862, 4; New York Times, Aug. 8, 1862, 1); New York Herald, Aug. 18, 1862, 2.
(48.) New York Times, Aug. 31, 1862, 4 (also see New York Times, Sept. 1, 1862, 4, Sept. 2, 1862, 4); New York Tribune, Sept. 4, 1862, 4 (also see New York Evening Post, Sept. 4, 1862, 2); New York Times, Sept. 17, 1862, 4.
(49.) Sept. 8, 1862, Meeting #9 and Sept. 9, 1862, Meeting #10, National War Committee of New York, Minutes, New-York Historical Society, New York City.
(50.) Sept. 11, 1862, Meeting #11 and Nov. (marked as 8 but probably was Nov. 10) 1862, Meeting #32, National War Committee of New York, Minutes, New-York Historical Society.
(51.) "Thursday, Sept. 11, 1862," in Salmon P. Chase Papers, 1:379. William Blair argues that because the draft was difficult administer at home, Curtin preferred the War Department direct recruitment and conscription. Further, by allowing the federal government to implement the draft, Curtin would be able to deflect criticism of wartime policies to the Lincoln administration. See Blair, "We Are Coming," 197.
(52.) New York Tribune, Sept. 29, 1862, 3. Also see New York Evening Post, Sept. 26, 1862, 2.
(53.) This became a tool for the Democrats against the draft, particularly as they tried to register immigrants to vote. See New York Times, Nov. 2, 1862, 4. Also see Brummer, "Political History of New York State," 209, and Kirn, "Voters, Parties, and Legislative Politics," 776.
(54.) New York was not the only state to experience big losses in the 1862 elections. Five states that had voted Republican in 1860 delivered slender majorities to the Democrats and Republicans nearly lost control of Congress. Donald, Baker, and Holt, Civil War and Reconstruction, 413-14. Seymour won the election by 10,752 votes. McKay, Civil War and New York City, 166. Horatio Seymour was an Albany Regency-trained Democrat. He had lately been swayed more toward the Peace Democrats, as he strongly protested the Emancipation Proclamation, but was not unwilling to work with the administration. See Mitchell, Horatio Seymour of New York, 274. Sidney Brummer argues that the discussion of a possible draft throughout the summer and fall of 1862 helped produce the Democratic victory. He explains, "Although the draft was not publicly attacked by the Democrats, the prolonged agitation over it doubtless had great effect in arousing dissatisfaction with the ruling party." Brummer, Political History of New York State" 209. Whether because of the draft or other issues, the Democrats were able to mobilize 15 percent of the electorate that had not voted in 1861 and attract 2 percent of the electorate that had voted Republican in 1861. Kirn, "Voters, Parties, and Legislative Politics," 785.
(55.) Daniel S. Dickinson to Abraham Lincoln, Nov. 9, 1862, Lincoln Papers; "Wednesday, Nov. 5, 1862," in Nevins and Thomas, Diary of George Templeton Strong, 271-72.
(56.) New York Times, Nov. 6, 1862.
(57.) Francis Lieber, "Conscription and Volunteering as Methods of Recruiting for National Armies," Brownson's Quarterly Review 25 (1863), 61, quoted in Geary, We Need Men, 51; New York Herald, Feb. 5, 1863. Congress introduced a bill to enroll black troops in early February, a provision the Herald and other papers supported.
(58.) Union forces lost nearly 13,000 men at Fredricksburg, while Confederates suffered fewer than 5,000 casualties. McPherson, Battle Cry, 572.
(59.) The complicated story of the Enrollment Act in the U.S. Congress is comprehensively told in Geary, We Need Men, 49-64. The differences between the Militia Act of July 1862 and the Enrollment Act of 1863 are primarily in enforcement. State officials controlled the enrollment and recruitment of the militia in 1862, but after the Enrollment Act, the federal government took over the process, providing enrollment officers organized by congressional districts, boards of enrollment and provost marshals. Donald, Baker, and Holt, Civil War and Reconstruction, 228.
(60.) New York Times, Feb. 20, 1863, 4, Mar. 6, 1863, 1.
(61.) New York Tribune, Mar. 7, 1863, 4, 8.
(62.) For articles criticizing Ohio Copperhead Clement Vallandigham and other Peace Democrats, see New York Times, Mar. 10, 1863, and Mar. 23, 1863; New York Tribune, Mar. 10, 1863. The papers also discussed the $300 exemption and substitutes in articles on May 17 and May 26 of the same year.
(63.) New York Times, Apr. 18, 1863, 4.
(64.) Thurlow Weed to Abraham Lincoln, Albany, Mar. 9, 1863, Samuel M. Shaw to Thurlow Weed, Cooperstown, Feb. 15, 1863, both in Lincoln Papers.
(65.) James B. Fry to George Opdyke, Washington, D.C., Apr. 25, 1863, OR, ser. 3, vol. 3:169.
(66.) The Official Record is littered with almost daily communication between the Lincoln administration and state or local officials. See for example, John Sprague to Lorenzo Thomas, Albany, Mar. 17, 1863, OR, ser. 3, vol. 3:74; James B. Fry to Frederick Townsend, Washington, D.C., Apr. 25, 1863, 167; James B. Fry to Simeon Draper, Washington, D.C., Apr. 27, 1863; O. P. Morton to Edwin M. Stanton, Indianapolis, Ind., May 7, 1863, 196.
(67.) New York Times, July 10, 1863, 4 (also see July 11, 1863, 4); New York Herald, July 9, 1863, 4.
(68.) Although many New York City officials were unsympathetic to Lincoln's war aims, the administration still believed it was safe to draft in the city. As Iver Bernstein explains, "The Lincoln administration followed political developments in New York City but concluded that the Peace movement there offered no real threat to Republican rule." Bernstein, New York City Draft Riots, 12.
(69.) Geary, We Need Men, 105. For a detailed description of the riots and their causes, see Bernstein, New York City Draft Riots, 13-45.
(70.) As Stewart Mitchell writes, Seymour was an opponent of conscription from the start. Lincoln and Seymour had corresponded for several months before the riots. Lincoln hoped that Seymour would go along with the federal draft, but the governor consistently tried to talk Lincoln out of this measure. See "To Horatio Seymour," Washington, Mar. 23, 1863, Collected Works, 145-46; Mitchell, Horatio Seymour of New York, 313, 515-16.
(71.) William A. Hall to Montgomery Blair, New York, July 15, 1863, Lincoln Papers.
(72.) Preston King to Abraham Lincoln, Ogdensburg, July 20, 1863, Lincoln Papers.
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|Author:||Shelden, Rachel A.|
|Publication:||Civil War History|
|Date:||Dec 1, 2009|
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