On March 3, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln signed the nation’s first comprehensive conscription law. The Confederacy had enacted a draft almost a year earlier.
As the war dragged on, it became harder and harder to fill the military’s manpower needs with just volunteers. Both laws were greeted with resistance, sometimes violent.
In New York, the government resorted to sending army combat troops to the city to restore peace, while in Holmes County, a small band holed up in a makeshift fort.
Both laws had flaws that didn’t help.
In the South, the owner or overseer of a plantation with 20 slaves could be exempted; both sides allowed conscripts to hire substitutes and, until mid-1864, drafted men in the North could get out by paying $300.
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