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“A Sin to Join the Army”

“A Sin to Join the Army”

The Debate over Conscription

(p.87) 4 “A Sin to Join the Army”
Across the Divide
Steven J. Ramold
NYU Press

This chapter examines how conscription became a debatable issue between Union soldiers and Northern civilians during the Civil War. A large number of Union soldiers entered the service under the terms of the Enrollment Act of 1863. Conscription has always caused controversy in American military history, particularly in its inaugural use in the Civil War. Sharp differences of opinion arose between those who favored conscription as a means of creating the armies necessary to win the war and those who were not comfortable with the expansion of government power. The most significant debate sparked by conscription was across the experience divide between soldiers in the field and the civilians at home. Union soldiers were dismayed to find that many Northerners were not in favor of the draft. They even found conscription opponents within their own communities and even their own families. This chapter also discusses the controversies surrounding commutation, substitution, and the bounty system in the military.

Keywords:   conscription, Union soldiers, civilians, Civil War, Enrollment Act 1863, experience divide, commutation, substitution, bounty system, American military

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