Legacy of the Confederate Conscription Bureau
The first act passed to raise an army for defense against the United States Government having granted power and authority to the President of the Confederate States, Jefferson Davis, was enacted on the 28th day of February 1861. This newly raised army of troops would serve no less than twelve months unless otherwise discharged.
As early as March 9th, Secretary of War Leroy Pope Walker had petitioned the several states for quotas to garrison the coastal forts from South Carolina to Texas, insisting that no publication be made of the various governors' orders. This operation was to remain covert to the Lincoln Administration. Three days previous to this, President Jefferson Davis was authorized by Congress to raise an army not to exceed 100,000 men. However, under these acts prior to the bombardment of Fort Sumter the Confederate Government had activated 36,900 troops and immediately proceeding the fort's surrender only added an additional 32,000 to their ranks.
Both governments did not understand the need of troops for any great length of time until the First Battle of Manassas had come to pass. On December 11, 1861 all troops mustered into Confederate service for the prescribed twelve-month period were then converted to three-year enlistments.
The acts governing the raising of armed resistance had become clear evidence that the powers from Montgomery to Richmond understood that a centralized government was needed in the south long before their own people saw it. The priority of states rights being dispensed with as a necessity to defeat the unlimited resources of their northern belligerents.
The Confederate House of Representatives approved The Conscription Act on April 16, 1862, giving the Chief Executive the unlimited power to re-enforce all armies in the field with men residing in the Confederate States between the ages of eighteen and thirty five. Five months later an amendment added an additional ten years to the eligibility age of the conscript.
The casualty rates during this hot war were horrendous. Never before and never since had a four-year period of history wasted an entire generation of young men. By 1864 all had changed. The Confederacy was having troubles simply replenishing their ranks at all.
A highly detailed report was furnished to the Confederate War Department by Colonel John S. Preston, superintendent of the Conscription Bureau. His analysis published the chilling reality that by the close of 1864; the bureau may cease to exist based on the casualty returns of soldiers in the field.
The Local Defense Force about Richmond late in the war generally would not be permitted to serve in the field unless dire emergency dictated. The Confederacy's tradesman remained plying their avocation exempt from joining the ranks. How was war to be made while the Naval Blockade prevented the south from outside assistance rendering munitions for such a purpose?
The final year of the great war had exhausted the south's manpower resources to continue its efforts for independence. There was nothing left to draw from. While conscription began replacing wounded and dead with men in their sixties and seventies, the end became inevitably clear that it was simply a matter of time.
Editors Note: Mr.Moran is a new feature writer on the US-Civilwar.com writers staff. He may be contacted with your questions, ideas and requests at firstname.lastname@example.org