Tuesday, August 14, 2007

I had a great time this past weekend at the Franklin reunion in Linville Falls. I had a chance to talk to many people who had ancestors who served in various North Carolina regiments, and it was great to meet all of them.

I’ll be speaking tonight at the Col. John B. Palmer Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans in Burnsville. Next Monday, I’ll be speaking at the SCV Camp in Haywood County - they meet at the fire department in Clyde. On Tuesday, I’ll be at a book festival in Rutherfordton, at the historic church there - St. John’s I believe.

Still researching more than I am writing. The researching should come to an end very soon, even though I’ll still be on the hunt until the day I turn in the manuscript.

For the past few days, I’ve been trying to tackle the whole conscription event. Conscription is largely the reason for why we have a 58th North Carolina.

I’ve searched through a lot of books trying to gain a better understanding, including:
Weitz - More Damning than Slaughter

Trotter - Bushwhackers
Inscoe and McKinney - The Heart of Confederate Appalachia
Hilderman - They Went into the Fight Cheering
Wert - "Confederate Conscription Woes" CWTI
Johnston - Zebulon Vance Papers
Yearns and Barrett - North Carolina Civil War Documentary
Thomas - The Confederate Nation
Yearns - The Confederate Congress
Rable - The Confederate Republic
Moore - Confederate Conscription
McPherson - The Battle Cry of Freedom

I am no fan of McPherson. However, it is in the latter that I found this:

The main purpose of conscription was to stimulate volunteering by the threat of coercion rather than by its actual use.

That is just what happened with the 58th NCT. One company, the Mitchell Rangers, already existed. Another, the one from Caldwell County that was recruited for Vance’s Legion, was a by-product of conscription. Eight other companies (there were twelve in the 58th NCT) were recruited prior to the cutoff date for volunteering. The last two, L and M, were made up of conscripts, forced into service.

I wonder if any of the other regiments mustered into service after April 1862, follow this same steps? All I need is yet another project.


Walt said...

Howdy, Mike! On the conscription topic: I feel that all Confederate volunteers in North Carolina in February and March, 1862, were pushed into the army, to a grater or lesser degree, by the threat of conscription. Reports of the law's impending passage were common in all Southern newspapers. After the law was passed in April '62, there was no question: military service was inevitable and they knew it. 54,000 North Carolinians "volunteered" between Feb '62 and April '65. Add to that the 21,000 formal conscripts, plus 9,000 Junior and Senior Reserves who were also conscripts, plus 5,000 militia and Home Guardsmen who enforced conscription and served as required by state law and you have 89,000 men who were in the military service either directly or indirectly by conscription. This means that 89,000 out of 134,000 North Carolinians in Confederate military service were not eager volunteers and sat-out most of the first year of the war. Even if we are generous and say that an additional 10,000 were purely volunteers, that still leaves 79,000 men or 59% of the 134,000 total. The Magnolias and Mint Julep crowd is still in denial about conscription. They've missed the main point. North Carolinians were the backbone of Lee's army. They stayed-on until the bitter end and fought like crazy the whole time. They were good and brave soldiers. Regards, Walt Hilderman

Anonymous said...

Hi Mike. I enjoy your posts on the 58th N.C. and I'm especially interested in your work regarding your findings on conscription in the regiment. Have you gone through the roster to create a timeline comparing dates of enlistments with the dates that conscription was enforced? I noticed that you looked at Weitz's book - a really good source of information and I like his analysis. The enlistment/conscription matter and what made men hesitate to enlist/what kept men in the ranks (other than the fear of what might happen if they left - and I don't just mean the conscript hunters, but also the reactions of friends and, sometimes, family members) is all a very complex matter to wrap one's head around and I wish more people made the effort than assume the "Moonlight and Magnolias" poise. I look forward to future posts.