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Confederacy

Conscription and States' Rights Extremists

The Confederate army early found that volunteers alone were insufficient, and the first conscription law was passed in Apr., 1862. By a later act (Feb., 1864), white men within the ages of 17 and 50 were drafted into military service. Provisions permitting the hiring of substitutes and exempting one owner or overseer for each 20 blacks were highly unpopular among the yeomanry, who grumbled about "a rich man's war and a poor man's fight." Joseph E. Brown and Zebulon B. Vance, the governors of Georgia and North Carolina, led the denunciation of conscription and further berated Davis for the assumption of state troops into the Confederate army, the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, and the Confederate tax program. Their extreme states' rights views represented a logical development of the theory that had led the Southern states to secede, but their insistence on maintaining these views at a time when unity was imperative was an added factor in the Confederate defeat. The fact that Brown, Vance, and others like them were able men and no less set on victory than was Davis only emphasizes this glaring deficiency in the nature of the Confederacy.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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