“Rich Man’s War and a Poor Man’s Fight”
By January 1863 it was clear that state governors in the north could not raise enough troops for the Union Army. On the 3rd of March, the federal government passed the Enrollment Act. This was the first example of conscription or compulsory military service in United States history.
The Enrollment Act of 1863 required the enrollment of every male citizen and those immigrants who had filed for citizenship between the ages of twenty and forty-five. Federal agents established a quota of new troops due from each congressional district.
The Act included the policies of substitution and commutation, controversial practices that allowed drafted citizens to opt out of service by either furnishing a suitable substitute to take the place of the drafted, or paying $300. Both of these provisions were created with the intention of softening the effect of the draft on pacifists and the anti-draft movement. The result however was general public resentment of both policies. The decision to allow men to avoid the draft by paying $300 to hire a substitute, resulted in the accusation that this was a rich man's war and a poor man's fight.
On July 11, 1863 the first names for induction into the army were called. The next day, New York erupted into some the most violent riots in American history. The office of the provost marshal—charged with enforcing the draft—was burned, railroad lines were destroyed, and telegraph lines cut. Singled out for attacks were the rich and African Americans, together the chief targets of the mob violence. Mobs attacked those who appeared rich as "$300 men." Rioters burned the Colored Orphanage Asylum and businesses that employed blacks. Some blacks were lynched and scores were beaten. For nearly a week the city raged, overpowering local police. Ultimately five Union regiments, along with police, militia, and even cadets from West Point, subdued the rioters. Over one hundred people died in the rioting, thousands were wounded, and thousands of African Americans fled New York. These riots are dramatized at the end of the Martin Scorsese film, Gangs of New York.
It is estimated that of those who took part in the American Civil War, 75,215 were regulars, 1,933,779 were volunteers and 46,347 were drafted and 73,600 were substitutes. Officially, 201,397 men deserted, of these 76,526 were arrested and returned to their regiments.
This piece is the business card of substitute and volunteer agents Dodge, Carr & Company who operated in Concord and Portsmouth, New Hampshire. It has lightly penciled notations on the back that appear to be tallies of men.
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