Military Procedures & Events--Impressment. War Material



As the American Civil War extended into its third year, the Confederate government found itself deeply indebted and unable to provide food, clothing, and other necessities for its army. On March 26, 1863, the Confederate government passed the Impressment Law. Under this law, state boards of impressment, with the assistance of local commissioners, impressed food, fuel, enslaved persons, and other commodities to support the war effort and to pay off its debts. Commissioners met with local farmers to fix prices for their commodities, subject to revision every two months. One month later, the Confederate government enacted a tax-in-kind. The tax-in-kind required farmers to donate ten percent (to be judged by a collector) of their produce in lieu of taxes paid in currency.

Both of these policies increased tensions between white southerners and the Confederate government. Farmers and their families often felt cheated by government agents offering far less than market value for their goods. Areas close to fighting also disproportionately experienced impressment, as Confederate armies on the ground often stripped their farms clean. The Confederacy also impressed enslaved persons to perform labor, and the brutality of that labor often resulted in the death, injury, or mistreatment of the enslaved, who, if returned at all, did so in much worse condition than they left. The Confederate government also routinely failed to pay for impressed goods and kept enslaved persons longer than their agreed impressment period. Impressment, then, led to protests among rural white southerners, some of whom hoarded their goods from collectors or impersonated collectors in order to acquire food for themselves and their families. The tax-in-kind alone garnered roughly $62 million for the Confederacy from 1863 to 1865, yet combined with impressment, these policies alienated much of the Confederacy's local support and failed to fully pay its debts or win the war. (Encyclopedia Virginia)

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