Response to the Aug. 4, 1862, call for 300,000 nine-month troops

MAINE 9,609 7,620
NEW HAMPSHIRE 5,053 1,736
VERMONT 4,898 4,781
MASSACHUSETTS 19,080 16,685
RHODE ISLAND 2,712 2,059
CONNECTICUT 7,145 5,602
NEW YORK 59,705 1,781
NEW JERSEY 10,478 10,787
PENNSYLVANIA 45,321 32,215
DELAWARE 1,720 1,799
MARYLAND 8,532 0
OHIO 36,858 0
INDIANA 21,250 337
ILLINOIS 26,148 0
MICHIGAN 11,686 0
WISCONSIN 11,904 958
MINNESOTA 17,269 0

[source: "Official Records," Series iii, vol. 2, p.291.]

The difficulty over exact numbers for the 1862 draft is a good illustration of how truly daunting it is to abstract any sort of statistically accurate statement from the "Official Records." Even an impeccable historian like Prof. James McPherson can end up with two numbers for the same thing in his two general histories of the Civil War. In Ordeal by Fire [p.357] he counts 118,000 substitutes for the Union army. But in Battle Cry of Freedom [p.605] he writes that only 74,000 Northern conscripts provided substitutes.

Put on your wading boots; tighten your chin strap. We're about to descend into the "Official Records." I hope you've had your shots.

U.S. Provost Marshal-General James B. Fry's "Final Report" on his office's work in the Civil War is dated March 17, 1866. It is printed in abridged version in "Official Records" Ser. iii, vol. 5, pp. 599-933. The unabridged version can be found in "Journal of the House of Representatives," 39th Congress, 1st Session, 1866, H. Exec. Doc. 1, vol. 4 [Serials 1251-52]. The abridged version is abridged mostly because it omits some tables that are redundant, so most historians use it.

In 1864, Northern men who had been enrolled for an upcoming draft, but not yet drafted, could hire substitutes for the Army and have their names excused from the draft. In other words, they could opt to buy a substitute when it was a buyer's market, and take the chance that they might not get drafted. A little over 44,000 men did this.

In Fry's "Final Report" [pp. 637-39], these 44,000 (or, to be exact, the men they hired) are lumped with "substitutes for drafted men," and counted as substitutes. In the nine pages of tables toward the end of the report, however, only the substitutes for men who had actually been drafted are counted under the heading "furnished substitutes" [pp. 730-39]. In other words, if you calculate the drafts based on the tables, the 44,000 pre-draft substitutes would figure as "volunteers."

For instance, in the President's call for 500,000 men on July 18, 1864, Fry on p.637 lists 28,502 "substitutes for drafted men," and 29,584 "substitutes before draft for enrolled men," and combines them for a total of 84,291. In Table 10 [p.735], and in the recapitulation table [p.737], however, he lists only the 28,502 figure as "furnished substitutes," and combines them with others "held for service" for a total of 56,005 under that heading.

The result is that Professor McPherson's two general histories arrive at different figures for the number of Union substitutes: in Ordeal by Fire he counts the 44,000 as substitutes, and figures them into the 118,000 substitutes he lists for the Union army. But in Battle Cry of Freedom he excludes them and writes that only 74,000 Northern conscripts provided substitutes.

The difference changes the percentage of substitutes in the Union Army during the whole war from about 7 to about 10 percent. It shows how difficult and refractory a source the "O.R." can be.

So what about the Northern draft of 1862? Fry [p.610] writes in his report: "Of the 300,000 men called for[,] about 87,000 were credited as having been drafted into the service under the call. This number was much reduced by desertion before the men could be got out of their respective States and but a small portion of them actually joined the ranks of the Army."

But the state-by-state account in the "Official Records," shown in the table above, lists 87,588 men furnished.

Fry perhaps rounded down, not up as he should have. I'm willing to bet that's where Prof. McPherson got the "87,000" nine-month militia he writes of in Ordeal by Fire [p.252]. He corrected this to "88,000 militiamen" in Battle Cry of Freedom [p.492]. At least, I assume that's the more accurate figure. Elsewhere in the "Official Records" a figure of 86,360 nine-month militiamen is given.

Fry has also misled less careful historians by referring to the 87,000 as "drafted into the service," when in fact that figure actually includes both draftees and volunteers. But even once you get past this trap, there's the difficulty of discovering how many of them were drafted, how many volunteered.

E.D. Townsend, Asst. Adjt.-Gen., wrote to Sec. of War Stanton April 5, 1864 [O.R. Ser. iii, vol. 4, p.216-17], listing 18,884 "nine-months' volunteers" and 65,305 "nine months' militia."

Thomas M. Vincent, Asst. Adjt.-Gen., in an exhibit sent to the House of Representatives Dec. 23, 1863, [O.R. Ser. iii, vol. 4, p.3] wrote, "Received under said Call by draft and sent to the field with regimental organizations 66,898. Received and sent to field, singly and by squads, for old regiments 4,000. Total 70,898."

Fry, meanwhile, gives 46,347 actually conscripted in one place, 52,067 in another.

Historian F.A. Shannon [The Organization and Administration of the Union Army, 1861-65, 1928, vol. 2, p. 160] used the 52,000 figure; most historians now lean toward the lower number, in part because they seem to agree better with such state records as have survived.

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