Date of Completion

Fall 12-15-2015

Thesis Advisor(s)

Christopher Clark

Honors Major



Military History | United States History


One of the most challenging tasks of a nation at war is turning its average citizens into soldiers. While volunteers flooded to the war front in thousands in the beginning of the Civil War, recruitment slowly dwindled as the war dragged on. Eventually, the North was forced to pass the Enrollment Act of 1863, the first national draft in United States history. Every able bodied man between the ages of twenty and forty-five was subject to the draft. For an already unstable nation, the national draft did little to help the divides that split the country. The policies of substitution and commutation led to great resentment, eventually sparking the New York City Draft Riots of 1863. While the public was outraged, little has ever been studied about the reactions and sentiments of the already enlisted Union soldiers who were out on the battlefront. To many Union soldiers, drafted men and those who enlisted for a bounty were “unscrupulous men” who lied, deserted, and shirked their duty to their country. Others however, while they themselves had volunteered, urged their loved ones to escape the draft and to support the war effort from home. This work examines and analyzes the thoughts and attitudes of these Union soldiers, recorded in their diaries and letters, giving us great insight into the average soldier’s opinion on recruitment and the draft, a view that has often been overshadowed by the public’s.