Imagine you are President Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davis in the year 1864. You are about to start a major war, and you have no plan to recruit soldiers to fight for you. What on earth are you going to do?
The Regular Army of the United States at the time was made up of only about 16,000 men. Most of these men fought for the North. Both the North and the South tried to raise their armies by asking for volunteers. The system worked at first. Individual States rather than the Union or Confederate sides asked for volunteers and provided them with equipment for the war. Late in the war, many volunteers fighting for the North often received a payment for signing up to join the military, called a bounty. This system encouraged many people to bounty jump. These people were called ‘bounty jumpers.’ These people would sign-up to fight and then disappear after being paid. Many of the bounty jumpers signed up a number of times, each time using a different name.
As the war went on, interest faded, and less people volunteered. Both sides then tried to force men to become soldiers.
This was called drafting. In the South, the first draft law was passed in April 1862, and making all fit white males between the ages of 18 and 35 serve for three years. By February 1864, the age limits had changed to 17 through 50 years old. The North’s drafting program began in March 1863 and drafted men ages 20 through 45 to serve for three years. Both the North and the South allowed some men to miss the draft if they could find someone else to take their place! Also, a draftee in the North could pay the government $300.00 to avoid military service. This seemed unfair to a lot of people who complained that this was a "rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight." On the whole, though, both armies had soldiers from many different backgrounds, both rich and poor.
The draft did not work very well, and was very unpopular in the many areas of the North and South. In July 1863, large groups of people protested against the draft in New York City. The people lit buildings on fire and took over parts of the city until police and the Army stopped the protesters. However, the Northern and Southern draft was in the end successful as more people decided to volunteer rather than wait to be drafted.
No one knows exactly how many men served in the Civil War. The total on both sides included many short-term soldiers, as well as men who served more than once. It has been estimated that about 2,100,000 men served for the Union Army and about 800,000 men served for the Confederate Army. This is probably one of the reasons that the Union won the war. Almost four-fifths of eligible men served for the South. In the South, black slaves did most of the work on farms and plantations making a greater amount of white men eligible for the war. About 24% of the Union Army was made up of immigrants, and about 10% of the Confederate Army was made up of immigrants.
The Confederate Army was at its strongest point in 1863, and then it began to get weaker and weaker. While this was happening, the Union Army began getting stronger.
In the last year of the war, the North had over a million soldiers. The South had probably no more than 200,000 soldiers. That is a huge difference, and was probably another reason why the North won the war. About 10% of soldiers on both sides deserted.
This became most common for the Confederate Army in the last months of the war. When the Southern Army’s enthusiasm began to fade, defeat seemed certain.
As Commander In Chief of the United States Armed Forces, Abraham Lincoln had to choose the best military officers he could find. Jefferson Davis had the same task for the Confederate Army. Luckily, Jefferson Davis had one of the greatest generals known to the United States, in Robert E. Lee. Robert E. Lee’s able officers were Generals Stonewell Jackson and James Longstreet. Confederate Commanders in the West were Generals Albert Sidney Johnston, Pierre G.T. Beauregard, Braxton Bragg and Joseph E. Johnston were less successful than most other Generals. But as the war went on Abraham Lincoln found four outstanding generals that would lead him to victory. They were Ulysses S. Grant, William T. Sherman, Philip H. Sheridan, and George H. Thomas. These Generals would soon lead the North to victory!
" Civil War." World Book Encyclopedia, 2001.