Military Procedures & Events--Military service exemption



By 1862 the initial waves of men who enlisted into Confederate military service diminished as enthusiasm for the war diminished, and both the Union and Confederacy enacted drafts to fill their armies. Nearly one year before the Union (March 1863), the Confederacy instituted a national draft in April 1862. There were important social implications to this policy, especially within the exemptions the Union and Confederacy provided. Similar to the Union, the Confederate act allowed drafted men to hire substitutes to serve in their place (often lower-class men willing to serve for much-needed income) and excused men from military service for medical reasons, "workers deemed necessary to maintain society," including select government employees. And unlike the Union, beginning in October 1862, men who enslaved a minimum of twenty (later fifteen) people were exempt.

The Twenty-Slave Law exemption was a reaction to President Abraham Lincoln's recent announcement of the
Emancipation Proclamation. While many southern whites worried about enslaved people uprising with so many white men away at war, these policies cultivated a feeling among impoverished people that they were doing the majority of fighting and suffering for a “rich man's war.” Scholars like Joseph Glathaar proved this was not the case in Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia where the wealthy were overrepresented compared with impoverished soldiers, but it is unclear if this was the case in areas like Mississippi, and the perception of unfair protections for the wealthy fueled resentment. (William Marvel, "A Poor Man's Fight," National Park Service)

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