Civil War Book Review: Patriotism Limited, 1862-1865: The Civil War Draft and the Bounty System

Patriotism Limited, 1862-1865: The Civil War Draft and the Bounty System
by Eugene Converse Murdock

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 270 pages
  • Publisher: Kent State University Press; 1st edition (1967)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0006BS8YS

Building the military for a major war is an expensive time consuming process.  The purchase, checking and distribution of thousands of items are a major task.  Peace and war require a different skill set, many officers will fail.  Tactical doctrine may or may not work and always requires adjustments.  Training is expensive and time consuming requiring a special skill set of officers and NCOs.  The answer to most of this is money and identification of personnel with the needed skills.  Even time can be compressed, although the cost of this can be very high.  The one item that cannot be manufactured is people to fill the ranks.  Without them, all the money and all the time have no value.  In the 20th Century, America used the draft through the 70s to fill the ranks.  The majority of the wars were popular and people willingly accepted military service.

This book looks at what happens when manpower requirements exceed enlistments in an unpopular war.  The Civil War was America’s first experience raising huge armies to fight an extended bloody war.  Enlistments soon fell short and each side resorted to conscription.  However, Americans felt their community should meet a quota with “volunteers” not by conscripts.  After the flood of volunteers was exhausted, communities resorted to payments to induce volunteers.  Only when that failed, did they resort to drafting.

This book is several histories.

First, it is a history of how the North built an army of over 600,000 men.  A series of voluntary enlistments, interlocking bounty payments, paid substitutes and conscripts made up the armies.

Second, it is a history of America’s first draft law and the public’s reaction.  The logic behind the law and the public perception of the law are very different.  The result is draft resistance and revision to the law.

Last, is a history of draft resistance, evasion and outright fraud the depth of which is surprising.

This is a very well written history with a lively, readable style.  The author has a good command of the subject, understands what happened and communicates it well.  This makes for an informative enjoyable read.


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