Conscription Act (March 3, 1863)

Also Known As: Enrollment Act

Updated: January 29, 2017

On March 3, 1863 the United States President Abraham Lincoln signed the Conscription Act (aka the Enrollment Act), which required states to implement conscription (a draft) if they were unable to provide a proscribed number of volunteers for the Union forces during the Civil War.

By late 1862, as initial fervor for the Civil War waned in the North, Congress began considering implementing a draft to bolster lagging recruitment efforts.  In February 1863 the legislature enacted Senate Bill 511, formally entitled "An act for enrolling and calling out the national forces, and for other purposes." President Abraham Lincoln signed the bill into law on March 3, 1863. Commonly known as the Conscription Act, or the Enrollment Act, the legislation required states to implement conscription (a draft) if they were unable to provide a proscribed number of volunteers for the Union forces during the Civil War. The legislation also allowed drafted men to find someone else to serve in their place or to pay a fine of three hundred dollars to avoid military service.

The pertinent sections of the Conscription Act read as follows:

Whereas there now exist in the United States an insurrection and rebellion against the authority thereof, and it is, under the Constitution of the United States, the duty of the government to suppress insurrection and rebellion, to guarantee to each State a republican form of government, and to preserve the public tranquility; and whereas, for these high purposes, a military force is indispensable, to raise and support which all persons ought willingly to contribute; and whereas no service can be more praiseworthy and honorable than that which is rendered for the maintenance of the Constitution and Union, and the consequent preservation of free government: Therefore—

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That all able-bodies male citizens of the United States, and persons of foreign birth who shall have declared on oath their intention to become citizens under and in pursuance of the laws thereof, between the ages of twenty and forty- five years, except as hereinafter excepted, are hereby declared to constitute the national forces, and shall be liable to perform military duty in the service of the United States when called out by the President for that purpose.

SEC 2. And be it further enacted, That the following persons be, and they are hereby, excepted and exempt from the provisions of this act, and shall not be liable to military duty under the same, to wit: Such as are rejected as physically or mentally unfit for the service; also, First the Vice-President of the United States, the judges of the various courts of the United States, the heads of the various executive departments of the government, and the governors of the several States. Second, the only son liable to military duty of a widow dependent upon his labor for support. Third, the only son of aged or infirm parent or parents dependent upon his labor for support. Fourth, where there are two or more sons of aged or infirm parents subject to draft, the father, or, if he be dead, the mother, may elect which son shall be exempt. Fifth, the only brother of children not twelve years old, having neither father nor mother dependent upon his labor for support. Sixth, the father of motherless children under twelve years of age dependent upon his labor for support. Seventh, where there are a father and sons in the same family and household, and two of them are in the military service of the United States as non- commissioned officers, musicians, or privates, the residue of such family and household, not exceeding two, shall be exempt. And no persons but such as are herein excepted shall be exempt: Provided, however, That no person who has been convicted of any felony shall be enrolled or permitted to serve in said forces.

SEC. 3. And be it further enacted, That the national forces of the United States not now in the military service, enrolled under this act, shall be divided into two classes: the first of which shall comprise all persons subject to do military duty between the ages of twenty and thirty-five years, and all unmarried persons subject to do military duty above the age of thirty-five and under the age of forty-five; the second class shall comprise all other persons subject to do military duty, and they shall not, in any district, be called into the service of the United States until those of the first class hall have been called.

SEC. 4. And be it further enacted, That, for greater convenience in enrolling, calling out, and organizing the national forces, and for the arrest of deserters and spies of the enemy, the United States shall constitute one or more, as the President shall direct, and each congressional district of the respective states, as fixed by a law of the state next preceding the enrolment, shall constitute one: Provided, That in states which have not by their laws been divided into two or more congressional districts, the President of the United States shall divide the same into so many enrolment districts as he may deem fit and convenient.

SEC 8. And be it further enacted, That in each of said districts there shall be a board of enrolment, to be composed of the provost-marshal, as president, and two other persons, to be appointed by the President of the United States, one of whom shall be a licensed and practising physician and surgeon.

SEC. 10. And be it further enacted, That the enrolment of each class shall be made separately, and shall only embrace those whose ages shall be on the first day of July thereafter between twenty and forty-five years.

SEC. 11. And be it further enacted, That all persons thus enrolled shall be subject, for two years after the first day of July succeeding the enrolment, to be called into the military service of the United States, and to continue in service during the present rebellion, not, however, exceeding the term of three years; and when called into service shall be placed on the same footing, in all respects, as volunteers for three years, or during the war, including advance pay and bounty as now provided by law.

SEC. 12. And be it further enacted, That whenever it may be necessary to call out the national forces for military service, the President is hereby authorized to assign to each district the number of men to be furnished by said district; and thereupon the enrolling board shall, under the direction of the President, make a draft of the required number, and fifty per cent, in addition, and shall make an exact and complete roll of the names of the person so drawn, and of the order in which they drawn, so that the first drawn may stand first upon the said roll and the second second may stand second, and so on; and the persons so drawn shall be notified of the same within ten days thereafter, by a written or printed notice, to be served personally or by leaving a copy at the last place of residence, requiring them to appear at a designated rendezvous to report for duty. In assigning to the districts the number of men to be furnished there from, the President shall take into consideration the number of volunteers and militia furnished by and from the several states in which said districts are situated, and the period of their service since the commencement of the present rebellion, and shall so make said assignment as to equalize the numbers among the districts of the several states, considering and allowing for the numbers already furnished as aforesaid and the time of their service.

SEC. 13. And be it further enacted, That any person drafted and notified to appear as aforesaid, may, on or before the day fixed for his appearance, furnish an acceptable substitute to take his place in the draft; or he may pay to such person as the Secretary of War may authorize to receive it, such sum, not exceeding three hundred dollars, as the Secretary may determine, for the procuration of such substitute; which sum shall be fixed at a uniform rate by a general order made at the time of ordering a draft for any state or territory; and thereupon such person so furnishing the substitute, or paying the money, shall be discharged from further liability under that draft. And any person failing to report after due service of notice, as herein prescribed, without furnishing a substitute, or paying the required sum therefor, shall be deemed a deserter, and shall be arrested by the provost-marshal and sent to the nearest military post for trial by court-martial, unless, upon proper showing that he is not liable to do military duty, the board of enrolment shall relive him from the draft.

SEC. 16. And be it further enacted, That as soon as the required number of able-bodied men liable to do military duty shall be obtained from the list of those drafted, the remainder shall be discharged; and all drafted persons reporting at the place of rendezvous shall be allowed travelling pay from their places of residence; and all persons discharged at the place of rendezvous shall be allowed travelling pay to their places of residence; and all expenses connected with the enrolment and draft, including subsistence while at the rendezvous, shall be paid form the appropriation for enrolling and drafting, under such regulations as the President of the United States shall prescribe; and all expenses connected with the arrest and return of deserters to their regiments, or such other duties as the provost-marshal shall be called upon to perform, shall be paid from the appropriation for arresting deserters, under such regulations as the President of the United States shall prescribe: Provided, The provost-marshals shall in no case receive commutation for transportation or for fuel and quarters, but only for forage, when not furnished by the government, together with actual expenses of postage, stationery, and clerk hire authorized by the provost-marshal-general.

SEC. 17. And be it further enacted, That any person enrolled and drafted according to the provisions of this act who shall furnish an acceptable substitute, shall thereupon receive from the board of enrolment a certificate of discharge from such draft, which shall exempt him from military duty during the time for which he was drafted; and such substitute shall be entitled to the same pay and allowances provided by law as if he had been originally drafted into the service of the United States.

SEC. 18. And be it further enacted, That such of the volunteers and militia now in the service of the United States as may reenlist to serve one year, unless sooner discharged, after the expiration of their present term of service, shall be entitled to a bounty of fifty dollars, one half of which to be paid upon such reenlistment, and the balance at the expiration of the term of reenlistment; and such as may reenlist to serve for two years, unless sooner discharged, after the expiration of their present term of enlistment, shall receive, upon such reenlistment, twenty-five dollars of the one hundred dollars bounty for enlistment provided by the fifth section of the act approved twenty-second of July, eighteen hundred and sixty-one, entitled "An act to authorize the employment of volunteers to aid in enforcing the laws and protecting public property."

SEC. 25. And be it further enacted, That if any person shall resist any draft of men enrolled under this act into the service of the United States, or shall counsel or aid any person to resist any such draft; or shall counsel or aid any person to resist any such draft; or shall assault or obstruct any officer in making such draft, or in the performance of any service in relation thereto; or shall counsel any person to assault or obstruct any such officer, or shall counsel any drafted men not to appear at the place of rendezvous, or willfully dissuade them from the performance of military duty as required by law, such person shall be subject to summary arrest by the provost-marshal, and shall be forthwith delivered to the civil authorities, and upon conviction thereof, be punished by a fine not exceeding five hundred dollars, or by imprisonment not exceeding two years, or by both of said punishments.

SEC. 33. And be it further enacted, That the President of the United States is hereby authorized and empowered, during the present rebellion, to call forth the national forces, by draft, in the manner provided for in this act.

During the war’s course, the federal government requested that the State of Ohio provide the Union military with 306,322 men to reunite the country. Ohio exceeded that number by 4,332 men, providing 310,654 men officially. In reality, Ohio provided even more men, as numerous men served in military units from other states, especially ones in West Virginia and Kentucky. In addition to these men, 5,092 Ohio African Americans enlisted in the United States Colored Troops or in units from other states, most notably in Massachusetts, where Ohio blacks principally joined the 54th and 55th Massachusetts Infantry Regiments. An additional 6,479 men paid a fine to be excluded from military service, making Ohio’s contribution to the Union war effort closer to 330,000 men.

Despite Ohio exceeding its federal government quota, the state still had to implement a draft. Not all Ohioans supported the draft. Most of the opponents were Peace Democrats, who encouraged men to resist the draft or to desert once drafted. The most notable anti-draft event to occur in Ohio was the Battle of Fort Fizzle. On June 5, 1863, a group of Holmes County residents attacked Elias Robinson, a draft official traveling through the area to enforce the Conscription Act. A detachment of men, under the command of Captain James Drake, from the Provost Marshal's Office, arrested four of the attackers, but local residents quickly freed the arrested men. Officials in Columbus, the state capital, dispatched Colonel William Wallace and 420 soldiers from the 15th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry to restore order and to enforce the draft.

On June 17, 1863, the soldiers arrived in Holmes County. They discovered approximately 900 men fortified in Fort Fizzle. Fort Fizzle was a makeshift fort that was located on the farm of Lorenzo Blanchard on French Ridge in Richland Township. The men were armed with guns, and some sources claim that they also had four artillery pieces, but this is unlikely. The soldiers advanced upon the fort. The defenders fired one volley at the attackers and then dispersed. The soldiers wounded two of the rioters, and the soldiers pursued the resisters.

On June 18, local Peace Democrats, led by Daniel P. Leadbetter, negotiated a resolution to the situation. The soldiers agreed to return to Columbus if the four men who attacked Elias Robinson turned themselves in to government authorities. The men did surrender. Government officials also eventually indicted approximately forty men that they believed participated in the Battle of Fort Fizzle. Only one of these men, Lorenzo Blanchard, was found guilty.

 

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"Conscription Act," Ohio Civil War Central, 2017, Ohio Civil War Central. 23 Aug 2017 <http://www.ohiocivilwarcentral.com/entry.php?rec=231>

APA Style

"Conscription Act." (2017) In Ohio Civil War Central, Retrieved August 23, 2017, from Ohio Civil War Central: http://www.ohiocivilwarcentral.com/entry.php?rec=231

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