Copyright by Brenda Joyce Jerome, CG
Both the Confederate and Federal governments relied on a military draft to obtain men to serve during the Civil War. The Confederate Conscription Act was the first to enact an American military draft on 16 April 1862. It called for healthy white men between the ages of 18 and 35 to serve for a term of three years. The upper age limit was raised to age 45 in February 1864. A bit later the age limits were expanded to men between the ages of 17 and 50.
The Federal government had a similar draft law, but it didn't take effect until 3 March 1863. The Federal draft covered men between the ages of 18 and 45.
Exemptions occurred on both sides for men in certain occupations. These included river and railroad workers, miners, teachers, telegraph operators and civil officials. In addition, men of draft age for the Union army were exempt if they had physical or mental disabilities. They were also excused from service if they were the only son of a widow, the son of infirm parents or a widower with dependent children. Men of draft age living in the South were excused from service if they owned 20 or more slaves.
The Enrollment Act of 1863 allowed Union soldiers to obtain an exemption from service by paying $300 or by finding a substitute.
The military draft was not popular and the law was often abused in the North as well as in the South.