The Government's Response to New York
On August 7, 1863, the President of the United States responded to Governor Horatio Seymour's dispute on the legalities of this most recent conscription and the problems that had risen from it as a result. In suspending the draft, he was unable to consent due to time constraints among other reasons. Mr. Lincoln had no objection whatsoever in abiding by a decision of the Supreme Court on its Constitutionality, he informed the governor he actually welcomed it if not for the time loss in doing so.
It was the summer where the Rebel Government was driving every able bodied man into the ranks with no time wasted or excuses used. These were being turned on the battle hardened veterans in the field and in order to sustain them, fresh recruits likewise needed to fill the gaps and equal the numbers.
It's rapidity had been so terribly unmatched by the central government at that late stage in the war, Congress had already deemed the old voluntary system to be so far exhausted it became inadequate. Awaiting word by the Supreme Court on Constitutionality would delay the decisive action that was certainly required to meet the demand.
The Provost Marshal General, Brigadier General James B. Fry submitted his fact finding report to the Secretary of War Edwin McMaster Stanton, on August 10, 1863. The act to enroll and call out the national forces came as early as the 25th of April at which time an officer was assigned as assistant provost marshal general and instructed to acquaint himself with the views and wishes of the governor in determining the best interests of the general government and to use all proper means to gain and maintain the confidence of New York in the execution of the enrollment. Colonel Robert Nugent, Major Frederick Townsend, and Major Alexander S. Diven were all assigned to Albany as advisors and overseers; and Governor Horatio Seymour was to take every opportunity to utilize the services of their counsel.
One of the discrepancies found in the New York enrollment process is that it did not include clergymen, colored men, and others included in the United States enrollment as a whole, but it did include men between the ages of eighteen and twenty. The overall enrollment nationwide did not take men ages eighteen to twenty, however it did include men of color.
The orders to draft from the city of New York were issued from Fry's office on Wednesday July 1st 1863, and Governor Seymour was requested by letter three months earlier in April to cooperate with the enrollment officials. He was reminded again on the 1st of July that the draft was so ordered in these specific districts and called on again to aid in the security of it. The draft did not begin for another eleven days, yet Fry never heard anything from Albany during that brief interval; nor did the governor express any objection to the enrollment act.
The excess that Governor Seymour mentioned should be accredited New York for previous enrollments, by the records of the Adjutant General's Office came to 4,695. The sum, however, did not agree with the adjutant general of the state in question; relatively eight thousand more. Unlike the Confederate system of filling gaps among the ranks of the old and original regiments in the field; the Federal system recruited for newly organized regiments to replace the older veteran outfits of 1861 and 1862. Therefore as the state of New York was seeking credit for recruits sent to fill the ranks of the original units, the Federal Government was not gaining satisfaction in obtaining newly organized and fully manned fresh regiments.
Brigadier General James B. Fry, by statistic had presented to the War Department the facts that patriotic fervor not just in New York but across the United States had dropped to such levels that to continue enforcing the nation's policy by military arm demanded it be met by forced conscription. No where did the conscription act prevent the volunteer enlistment, but rather drove those numbers up with its enforcement.
The President's views were certain. He would not feel comfortable giving up the drafted men for the certainty, much less the mere chance of obtaining volunteer soldiers. The draft was final. Swapping out drafted men for volunteers once they had been obtained would have become an administrative nightmare, again nobody let alone the national government had the time for. In spite of the draft riots of July, Governor Seymour and the state of New York would have to satisfy themselves that nothing more could be done. The war had taken another turn where all Americans would have to exercise the patience and tolerance until the Federal Government had successfully suppressed the rebellion and satisfied its own resolve.
Editors Note: Mr.Moran is a feature writer on the US-Civilwar.com writers staff. He may be contacted with your questions, ideas and requests at email@example.com