Joseph E. Brown
Georgia & the 1864 Conscription

     Following the act of the Confederate Congress in 1864 to conscript every able bodied man from ages seventeen to fifty that were not an utter necessity to their own homeland, Major General Howell Cobb had been appointed by the Chief Executive to take command and organize the Georgia Reserve Force.

     In April of 1864, he wrote to Governor Joseph E. Brown in Milledgeville announcing his appointment and asking for the state's cooperation in defense against the military threat now present from both land and sea.

     Upon inspection of a gubernatorial address to the people of Georgia on April 9th, Cobb learned that a lot of the younger men of the state had recently been elected to fill billets in the local state government whom would be better served in the field. Older men quite qualified to hold such offices were thus taking their place among the rank and file.

     The governor's sentiment to this was simply wishing not to interfere with the choices of the people. Although the general appreciated Brown's support of the election process, he felt compelled to point out the exemptions that congress had in mind when he named those who were in the state legislature, or state officials that would be necessary to the proper administration of the government. When the legislature in Richmond enacted the conscription, Cobb reassured him, a sweeping exemption of these officials was never contemplated by them.

     The conscription of over four hundred deputy sheriffs about the state was suggested as that the legal business in the courts was nearly non existent. Under the same circumstances, the state didn't require the services of practically two thousand justices, and close to two hundred constables. Should the Confederacy one day have a need of calling boys below the age of seventeen or old men beyond the age of fifty, then perhaps the active militia itself would be entitled to avoid Confederate service. In other words, the governor posted no boundaries to his liberality on manpower.

     A reply came back in early May giving Cobb a brief history lesson in that the people don't derive their power from those in Congress, but rather Congress from the people of their respective states. This act of Congress left the decision as to the importance of those state officials to the governor of the state itself. Was the governor to believe that should in his opinion these people were of more use at home, Congress would tell him otherwise? The Georgia Supreme Court concurred that the central government would thus violate the intention of those who confer the power.

     Brown blamed the higher class of Confederates for hiding in the rear while his less favored comrades fight the war for them. He suggested that Cobb pull his numbers amongst these brave fortunate souls and determine their worth on the front line. He would run his state's government the way he saw fit.

     State's Rights soon proved its value in frustration. Troops would be denied the central government and Brown's theory would go one step further in dividing the already divided.

Dan (Aldie) Daniel Moran
© 2002

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