Posted 7-21-01
United States Draft Riots 1863


This country of ours held its first military draft in the year 1863 and along with it problems that should have been foreseeable. There has been a lot that has never been published about the Draft Riots of 1863, most importantly while most remember the days of chaos in New York City seeking conscripts and allowing other's to buy their way out with $300.00 for a substitute to take their place in the ranks (a fee that was the going average annual salary at that time), riots broke out all over the north, and New Hampshire was no exception.

The Governor of the state came up with the brilliant idea of utilizing artillery to suppress the riots in the street. Having aimed one battery upon the local newspaper there that was publishing "Pro Democratic" sentiments to sew for peace at any cost.

The bounties were offered by both state and federal government to gain needed conscripts that had no loyalty to Union at all, but would consider enlisting for bounty. The trouble is, too many got the idea of bounty jumping and deserted one unit to re-enlist in another and then desert again. Lincoln had called on the state's once again for another 300,000 conscripts but after all the violence taking place in the streets all over the north, it is estimated that only 10,000 of those 300,000 ever wore the Federal Uniform.

Enlistees for bounty proved not worthy to be carrying a rifle in most cases, the regimental desertion rate jumped to astronomical proportions. The 9th New Hampshire began receiving some of these new conscripts in December of 1863. Out of 886 recruits sent to the 9th New Hampshire during the war, 491 eventually deserted, compared to only 69 desertions among 990 of the 1862 volunteers.

The 1863 draft and the bounty system created a profiteer known as the Substitute Broker. For a fee, this man would intercede between the drafted man and one of the broker's many prospective substitutes. It proved to be a dangerous game, for most of the charges that these brokers's were in contact with, were individuals that a sensitive man would not care to associate with. One Substitute Broker was murdered in the town of Derry, New Hampshire, by one of his prospective enlistees.

Thus the old saying that the Civil War was: "A Rich Man's War, but a Poor Man's Fight."

© Dan Moran - 2001