Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Substitute Soldier

When the U.S. Civil War began in April of 1861 able bodied men came out in droves to volunteer for both the Union and Confederate forces. By late 1862 though the patriotic fervor which fueled the volunteerism began to grind to a halt as the battles began to claim more and more lives and the end seemed nowhere in sight. 

Drafts were instituted by both the North and South. Shortly there after the hiring of substitutes to serve in one's stead became a common and acceptable practice; first in the South and then in the North. 

The Enrollment Act, which you can read all about on Wikipedia and through their referenced resources, was enacted on March 3, 1863 and it allowed for 2 methods of avoiding service once drafted; commutation or substitution. 

Commutation was a $300 fee a draftee could pay to the government to get out of service for that draft. Those fees helped to fund the war effort but it didn't raise troops. However, if another draft was run that man could be called up again despite payment of the fee in the first round draft. Hiring a substitute to go in your place could was not necessarily cheaper than paying the commutation but by finding a substitute one was exempted from service throughout the duration of the war. Hiring a substitute gave the government a soldier and the soldier a cash incentive. Basically, men chosen for service via the draft lotteries could pay their way out of serving. If you had money you could get out of duty. That reality lead to the Civil War being called a rich man's war and a poor man's fight. 

Don't kid yourself into believing that your Civil War soldier was strictly out there sacrificing himself for cause. Often there was the incentive of money to serve. 

 Why do I know about this aspect of the war? Well this history lesson was sponsored in part by E.D. Childs of Catskill, New York who paid my 3rd great-grandfather, Lawrence Fay of Saugerties, New York to serve in his place. 

This here is a snippet taken from the New York, Town Clerks' Registers of Men Who Served in the Civil War, 1861-1865 for the County of Greene, New York.

I know this is my Lawrence Fay not only because of his hometown of Saugerties and place of birth as Ireland but also because of his occupation as a blacksmith. You can see under his name the name E. D. Childs Catskills. That would be the man for whom Lawrence served as a substitute.

1 comment:

  1. I Love the Orignal Documentation. I' hoping to find some of this (I could never do this without your help)