Online Work

Online Etymology Dictionary
The Sciolist
Slavery in the North
Civil War Writing

Civil War Causes

It's often said that the American Civil War was entirely and only about slavery. Is there another view?

Yankee Canards
Was the ante-bellum South a primitive, backwards, illiterate, violent culture?

Numbers and significance of the Southern mulatto population

Northern Racism
De Tocqueville observed that "race prejudice seems stronger in those states that have abolished slavery than in those where it still exists, and nowhere is it more intolerant than in those states where slavery was never known"

Slavery as History
How can you make an honest inquiry into American slavery without understanding the mindset of slave-owners? How can you do that without being yourself a racist?

Rebel View
Early 19th century American politics and political culture as it was seen by many Southerners

Abraham Lincoln was perhaps the greatest writer in American political history. Writers are great, in part, because of their ability to disguise what they really intend.

Lincoln and Race
"You and we are different races. We have between us a broader difference than exists between almost any other two races."

Thaddeus Stevens
The life and times of Pennsylvania's fiery anti-Southern Congressman

Sidelights on Christiana
The Christiana Riot of 1851 is sometimes described at the first skirmish of the Civil War

1860 Election
Even if all the Democrats had united behind one candidate, the Northern regional ticket would have won

The wire-pulling over the Morrill tariff bill in 1860 showed the party of the abolitionists cynically using a legitimate government mechanism to gain power in a presidential election.

Legal Issues
Secession was legal under the Constitution, based on its ratification by the states in 1787 and 1788

Cornerstone Speech
Alexander Stephens "Cornerstone Speech" in context.

Upper South
"States rights" is dismissed as a red herring argument, yet the Upper South states seem to have left the Union for this reason.

What Cost Union?
Lincoln saved the union, but at a terrible cost to America's democracy and culture of freedom.


Up from History
The evolving historical view of the American Civil War.

Soldiers and War
Responding to the slander against Southern military effort.

Why the South Lost
Was Northern victory inevitable?

War Effort
The South put forth a tremendous effort for independence.

The Southern Press
Journalism and Southern civil liberties.

An examination of the myth of massive Southern desertion.

A Closer Look
Desertion by the numbers; case studies North and South.

Ella Lonn
The original study of desertion in the Civil War.

Southern conscription was the first attempt to create a modern military system.

Draft of 1862
An overlooked draft in the North that was underway almost simultaneously with the first rebel conscription.

Albert B. Moore
An important source for the "South against the South" thesis.

The Lincoln Administration's crackdown on Maryland.

Occupied Maryland
A sampling of federal documents dealing with martial law in Maryland.

Maryland Peace Party
A pamphlet from the anti-government forces in Maryland.

Habeas Corpus
The suspension of Habeas Corpus in the North by the Lincoln administration during the war.

A Northern newspaper editor fights the administration after it closes down his press in response to anti-government articles.

"Keystone Confederates"
Some Pennsylvanians fought for the South during the Civil War.


Southern Populists
"You are deceived and blinded that you may not see how this race antagonism perpetuates a monetary system which beggars you both."

Coatesville Lynching
Zach Walker was burned alive by a white mob in Coatesville, Pennsylvania.

York Riots
A little-known but violent 1960s race riot in York, Pennsylvania.

New South
Slavery, racism, and segregation were national experiences.

New Lost Cause
A native-born Southern white woman worked with native-born Southerners, black and white, with a shared sense of decency, to accomplishing the work of desegregation in Mississippi.

Flag dispute
From 1879 to 1956, the Georgia state flag was essentially the "Stars and Bars." If you were going to link any state flag with slavery, that would be the one.

Jonathan Kozol
"So two-tenths of 1 percent marks the difference between legally enforced apartheid in the South 50 years ago, and socially and economically enforced apartheid in New York today"


sources consulted


Albert Burton Moore (1887-1967), the author of "Conscription and Conflict in the Confederacy," in his 45-year teaching career was the embodiment of a Southern scholar-gentleman.

Born and raised in Alabama, he was a descendant of Confederate veterans, and he wrote and taught at a time when many of them were yet alive. His teaching career, except for four years in Iowa, was entirely in the South. He loved the fair play of sports (he served two terms as president of the NCAA), and he loved the South. His respect for his native region was duly reciprocated, and in his old age Moore served as executive director of the Alabama Civil War Centennial Commission and director of the Confederate States Centennial Conference as well as the Jefferson Davis Foundation.

"Conscription and Conflict in the Confederacy" did not have to be an interesting book, but it is one because Moore's writing style is assured, easy, understated. And he has a keen eye for the pithiest quotes from his sources. He writes in proper British academic style, yet the voice is completely American. It is something Southern academics do splendidly.

And he knows his Latin. His Southerners regarded their battlefield victories with sincere "gratulation," and Moore cannot bring himself to write "conscripted" when he knows Cicero would only have approved "conscribed."

Moore's book is still valued by historians for both parts of its title. The 1996 introduction to the University of South Carolina edition rightly praises the book as still the fundamental introduction to Confederate conscription, as well as a groundbreaking exploration of internal divisions in the CSA, a topic which had been given short shrift by the Lost Cause version of the Civil War which prevailed in America at that time.

Yet scholarly thinking about the Civil War and related issues has changed much since Moore's day. He saw the state and local identification of the CSA's regiments as a weakness, blocking Southern nationhood. But more recent views are that these local ties were exactly the glue that kept Civil War regiments effective, whether North or South.

His assumption that secession was principally about states' rights is no longer shared by most historians. But because Moore felt the South's cause was states' rights, the "conflict" in the book's title is largely that between Davis' central government and state authorities, notably the states'-rights governors Brown and Vance.

More recent historians, trained in Marxist methodology, instead have played up "class conflict" in the Confederacy. But that is not the bulk of the conflict in Moore's book. As a historian of the Confederacy, he was of the "Died of States' Rights" school of the '20s and '30s. "Like many Southern authors of his generation," the 1996 introduction explains, Moore "can be accused of searching for an internal key to the Confederate defeat in order to avoid any suggestion that the North actually beat the South in a fair fight."

Also, Moore wrote in the same shadow that fell across Ella Lonn's 1928 book on Civil War desertion, the shadow of a more recent war. From our long perspective, America's fight in World War I perhaps seems short, enthusiastic, and unified. But in fact it was a disturbing time of repression and civil unrest in the U.S., and the war as a whole was an appalling waste of life based on tragic conscription policies among all the warring powers. "When reading Moore's criticisms of the Confederate Conscription Bureau," the introduction warns, "one should also remember that the author had witnessed the massive conscription programs of World War I." He makes frequent reference to it in his text.

Unlike Lonn's book, Moore's makes no comparison with the Union, and it makes no attempt to place the CSA's experience in the flow of military history (despite the allusions to World War I). This is, to me, a serious oversight.

Moore's book avoids statistics as much as possible, and the author always alerts his reader, if he delves into numbers, that all the figures are estimates at best, that they are often in dispute, and that surviving Confederate records are very incomplete.

Moore views conscription as a flawed, but ultimately successful system that kept the Confederacy's will to fight for independence focused in an effective military effort for four hard years. He quotes the Richmond Examiner, that the conscription act of 1862 "not only overcame the deficiencies of the voluntary system, but changed the character of the army 'from the desultory character of prompt enthusiasm to that of permanent and organized discipline.' "

Moore finds no inherent shame to the Confederate cause in the mere fact of conscription. "President Davis told the Mississippi legislature that there was no more reason to expect voluntary service in the army than voluntary labor upon the public roads or the voluntary payment of taxes." Yet he appreciates the challenge of applying such a system in the American South. "The enforcement of the conscript laws was attended by difficulties that inhered in a system of compulsory service among a proud and free people." He writes that the general public was "gradually reconciled" to the idea, though "strong opposition" remained.

His view seems to be that the South's great mistake was not in turning to conscription, but in relying at first on volunteers. "[C]onscription would have been less odious if it had been made the exclusive policy of raising armies at the outset. It might then have been regarded as a scientific way of allocating the man power of the country and distributing fairly the burdens of war. But the volunteer system was tried the first year, and after conscription was adopted volunteering was still allowed. This made conscription appear to be a device for coercing derelicts, hence the taint that attached to the conscript."

Here is what he writes of the initial impact of the 1862 act, which was to keep the 12-month men, whose terms were weeks from expiring, in the ranks:

This was a severe test of the patriotism and devotion of the twelve-months' troops. After nearly a year's experience with the diseases, privations, and hardships of the soldiers' life they were fondly anticipating a return to their homes where they could, temporarily at least, enjoy their habitual comforts and pleasures. They had, too, for self-justification, the unanswerable plea that they had borne their part of the burdens and dangers and that it was time for those equally interested and capable, who had as yet remained at home, to take their turns at the front. How great the sacrifice involved in the renunciation of their hoped-for release and pleasures may be more easily felt than described. 'Yet was there scarce a murmur of disappointment and disaffection, and not an instance, as far as known, of resistance or revolt.' "[p.16-17]

In fact, he writes, the conscription act was more popular in the army than anywhere else in the South, because it would force the unwilling into the ranks alongside the patriots, who ultimately decided they did not mind seeing their time extended if the stay-at-homes were made to fight, too.

Its second most important result was as a spur to volunteers. The combination of conscription and volunteerism was a peculiarity of the Civil War. Just as in the North (though Moore does not say this), the risk of being drafted, and the "odium" that would go with it, helped many men decide to volunteer, so they could collect the bounty held out to them and also choose their regiment.

"Many of the volunteers might have gone into the service of their own volition later," Moore writes, "but the conscription act gave them to the service just at the moment when they were absolutely necessary to check the onrush of the enemy. The powerful armies built up in the summer and fall of 1862 were the backbone of the Confederate military system that distinguished itself on the bloody battlefields of 1863 and 1864." [p.356]

Moore understood how the mere fact of conscription changed the entire nature of the volunteer. On the one hand, conscription was a spur to volunteering, but on the other, "conscription took some of the glory out of volunteering, and it probably blunted the edge of public opinion which otherwise might have driven many men to volunteer."

He also calls attention to "the significant fact, pointed out by the Mobile Register and Advertiser, that many men who waited to be conscripted were not moral slackers, but they waited because of their private obligations and the necessities of their dependents. When they were conscribed they took up their arms in good faith."

The actual drafting of men was probably the least effective part of the South's conscription policy, to read Moore. In fact, as it turned out, the timetable of it is close to that of the North. Drafting was scarcely begun in most places by the end of summer 1862, and in many others not at all until well into the following year.

Moore's concluding paragraph:

Over against the friction, confusion, and dereliction depicted in this narrative stands out in bold relief the fact of general sacrifices unsurpassed in the annals of military history. Nor is conscription a contradiction of the cheerfulness with which the sacrifices were made. There is much truth in Lord Charnwood's observation that the general patriotism of the people is not to be judged so much by the failure of the purely voluntary system as by the success of the system which succeeded it. [In a footnote here, Moore writes, "Lord Charnwood said this of the North; it might as truly be said of the South."] The dereliction of many sets in a brighter light the heroic devotion of the masses. The unsurpassed sacrifice and heroism of the Southern armies and civilian population -- the proudest and most sacred tradition of the South -- stands unassailed.

Moore's conclusion, in full

2002Douglas Harper "When misunderstanding serves others as an advantage, one is helpless to make oneself understood." -Lionel Trilling