The American Civil War: Texas Conscription

The Draft Hits Home

The Battle of Shiloh was fought in southwestern Tennessee on April 6-7, 1862. It was the first battle of the Civil War which saw truly massive casualties. Over 10,000 Confederates were killed, wounded, or taken prisoner. The Confederate commander, legendary Texas soldier Albert Sidney Johnston, was among the dead. The Federals suffered over 13,000 casualties.   

Engraved drawing that depicts The Battle of Pittsburg Landing (Shiloh).

“The Battle of Pittsburg Landing” (Shiloh). Prints & Photographs #2012/001-51-1 Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper,  May 17, 1862.

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The lesson of Shiloh was that the war was going to be long and costly. Within days, the Confederate Congress passed a conscription act, drafting men between the ages of 18 and 35 into service. Eventually it encompassed men from ages 17 to 50.

Conscription met with immediate loathing in Texas. Slaveholders with more than 20 slaves were exempt, meaning that some of the richest counties in Texas contributed the fewest men to the fighting. The burden fell heaviest on small farmers, whose families were often left indigent when the men departed.  On the frontier, the draft meant that settlements were left defenseless against Indian attack. Texas created the Frontier Organization to shelter at least 25% of able-bodied men from frontier counties from the draft.

The Draft Hits Home

The Confederate draft exempted government officials, railroad workers, clergymen, and schoolteachers from service. Governor Francis Lubbock was flooded with petitions from communities seeking exemptions from the draft for other men who provided critical services such as blacksmiths, doctors, and shoemakers.

This petition to exempt the town miller is significant in that it features the signatures of women. As the majority of men were drafted into military service, women took on their husbands’ responsibilities, managing farms and plantations and taking over jobs from teaching to cotton freighting. Women also took the lead in operating hospitals for returning veterans and in providing for the indigent families of soldiers.

Petition on behalf of L.B. Harrison, January 5, 1863. Records of Governor Francis R. Lubbock. Petition on behalf of L.B. Harrison, January 5, 1863. Records of Governor Francis R. Lubbock.

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Page last modified: May 20, 2016