In honor of Pvt. Nathan R. Oakes, CSA

150 years ago, my great grandfather, Nathan Richardson Oakes, served as a private in Company D of the distinguished 32nd Mississippi Infantry Regiment in the Army of Tennessee. He participated in the great Civil War campaigns, including the battles of Perryville, Murfreesboro, Chickamauga, Atlanta, Franklin, Nashville, and Bentonville. I am writing about his engagements as well as some details about fighting for the Lost Cause. I hope to honor him and commemorate the events and individuals that contributed to making this a renowned unit in the Confederate Army of Tennessee.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The unpopular Second Conscription Act, 1862

On today's date, the Confederate Congress passed the Second Conscription Act. The first conscription was passed on April 16, 1862, requiring military service for 3 years from all males aged 18 to 35 not legally exempt. This second act increased the age to 45. In all, the Confederacy will pass 3 such laws.

Both North and South passed similar conscription laws during the war, and resistance was widespread.  In the North, the war by this time was generally unpopular. In New York, notes Civil War Times author, Daniel Wait Howe, opponents rioted for 3 days, destroying recruiting offices, dragging bodies of murdered Union soldiers through the streets, burning colored orphan asylums, and hanging blacks.

Southerners, too, resisted the legislation requiring men to serve in the army. But volunteer troops were most rankled by conscription laws. Understandably, men in units like the 32nd Mississippi Infantry Regiment, who had enlisted for military service in defense of their country, were resentful about conscripts who only served under compulsion.

The unfairness of conscription laws, affected both the North and the South. Conscripts were permitted to hire substitutes to serve in their place, and certain categories of draftees, like the planter class, were exempted entirely. On both sides, enrolling officers and local judges often practiced favoritism or were susceptible to bribery. Attempts in the South to deal with the issue were frustrated by conflict between state and local governments on the one hand, and the government of the Confederacy on the other.

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