Stonewall Jackson and the Confederate Draft

March 30, 1862 (Sunday)

Governor John Letcher

The defeated army of Stonewall Jackson had retreated all the way back to their original camp, near Mount Jackson following their loss at the Battle of Kernstown. The victorious Union forces followed, but only half-heartedly, refusing to give Jackson battle on ground of his own choosing. Now, without the fear of Union attack, Jackson began to sort things out.

First, he wanted to relieve General Richard Garnett of command. Jackson believed that Garnett had retreated during the battle without orders to do so. He had already written to his superior, General Joe Johnston, for a replacement.1

Jackson was also dealing with the influx of new conscripts. Though the nationwide Confederate draft was being debated in Richmond, Virginia’s Governor Letcher had just ordered that all Virginia militiamen be automatically drafted into the Confederate army. Jackson had begun to receive militia units prior to the battle of Kernstown, but with Letcher’s decree, he was about to receive even more.2

Since the start of the war, the Confederates faced a manpower problem. Though the general idea of the Southern government was to be a bit looser and smaller than the Federal government had been, even before the war started, it was clear that some centralized power was needed, at least as far as the military was concerned.

Jefferson Davis

At the end of February 1861, Richmond gave President Jefferson Davis the power to “assume control of all military operations in every State.” In May of the same year, he did away with short term enlistments, requiring recruits to remain in the army until the war was over. With the surge of one-year enlistments immediately after the fall of Fort Sumter, by the end of 1861, the Confederate Army was soon to be reduced to a mere fraction of its number if something was not soon done to entice the men to reenlist. A fifty dollar bounty and two-month furlough worked some magic.

It did not, however, solve anything permanently. By the middle of winter, 1862, volunteers to the Rebel cause were slow to enlist. The pomp and gusto surrounding Fort Sumter was gone. In another attempt to save their army, the Confederate Congress realized they needed to gain new recruits (not just reenlistments), and that a centralized control must be held over the army.3

The act being debated would give authorities in Richmond the power to call upon every able-bodied male between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five to serve their new nation. On March 28, Davis gave an impassioned (and uncharacteristically short) speech before Congress, urging them to pass the conscription act. Davis reasoned that “all persons of intermediate ages not legally exempt for good cause, should pay their debt of military service to the country, that the burdens should not fall exclusively on the most ardent and patriotic.”4

Posters, such as this from 1861, didn't really work so well anymore.

The next day, Virginia’s Governor Letcher, figuring that the national Congress would pass the bill, disbanded the militia, transferring them into the Confederate Army. In doing this, he did not create new regiments for the new recruits, but instead, placed them within already established regiments in order to bring them to full strength.5

This policy would remain in the South throughout the war. It had some positive effects. For one, green troops would be placed alongside veteran troops, allowing the more experienced soldiers to bring the less experienced up to speed. It also maintained regimental identity. As the war progressed, new conscripts would have some idea what their unit had been through prior to their arrival. In the North, things were done in the opposite manner, new conscripts funneled into new regiments, the advantages of the Southern method completely lost.


Both Sides Retreat After Both Claim Victory in New Mexico

Following what they believed to be their victory at the Battle of Glorieta Pass, New Mexico, Col. William Scurry knew that he and his 1,100 men were in trouble. After they had pushed the Yankees from the field, a Union detachment outflanked them and burned their supply wagons.

Albuquerque's Old Town Plaza

After burying the dead, he ordered his army back to Santa Fe on the night of the 29th. By the morning of this date, they began to filter into the city as the residents made their way to church.

Sixty miles southwest in Albuquerque, General Henry Sibley, overall Confederate commander of the Army of New Mexico, stood in the plaza to read Col. Scurry’s report of the victory to the 500 or so soldiers still in town.6 Sibley proclaimed with Scurry’s words that “another victory was added to the long list of Confederate triumphs.”7

If the South had actually been defeated, nobody seemed to have informed the Union troops under Col. John Slough. Believing that the Rebel position could not be taken, he decided to move his army back to Bernal Springs, the site of his first encampment after leaving Fort Union.8

Col. Slough also took the time on this date to compose his report of the battle. Though he had been able to be in full communication with Col. Edward Canby, Union commander of New Mexico, he decided to submit it directly to Washington, as Canby was “beyond the line of the enemy.” Slough must have known that he was in violation of Canby’s orders not to engage in a battle with the Rebels until his (Canby’s) force from Fort Craig could join them.

Of course, Slough makes no mention of such an order. On the contrary, the purpose of his leaving Fort Union was for “annoying and harassing the enemy,” not to give battle. All of this was, according to Slough, sanctioned “under orders from Colonel Canby, commanding department.”9

Meanwhile, though Slough was somehow unable to communicate with Canby, a messenger sent by him on the 26th was about to arrive at Fort Craig. He would deliver Slough’s report from the fight on the 26th at Apache Canyon and his desire to move against the Rebels with his entire force. Canby was bound to be less than enthusiastic.10

  1. Stonewall Jackson by James I. Robertson, MacMillan Press, 1997. []
  2. Shenandoah 1862 by Peter Cozzens, University of North Carolina Press, 2008. []
  3. Conscription and Conflict in the Confederacy by Albert Burton Moore, University of South Carolina Press, 1924. []
  4. Speech before Congress, March 28, 1862. As printed in The American Annual Cyclopedia and Register of Important Events of the Year, Volume 2, 1862. []
  5. Shenandoah 1862 by Peter Cozzens, University of North Carolina Press, 2008. []
  6. Blood & Treasure by Donald S. Frazier, Texas A&M University Press, 1995. []
  7. Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 9, p541. []
  8. Sibley’s New Mexico Campaign by Martin Hardwick Hall, University of New Mexico Press, 2000. []
  9. Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 9, p534-535. []
  10. Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 9, p658. []
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5 thoughts on “Stonewall Jackson and the Confederate Draft

      1. Let’s team up & deflate those Jackson fans–after Picacho Peak, of course . . .

        I was always sort of a Garnett fan, if a Union lady can be a fan of a Confederate general.

        1. Oh I’ve got a lot of respect for the guy. I mean, he just wasn’t a people person. Maybe he would be considered somewhat autistic today. Who knows.

          I just came across a quote from Krick in Stonewall Jackson at Cedar Mountain that fits the bill: “Jackson was not much fun on the best of days. He was routinely dour, not infrequently sour, and always inflexible to a foolish degree. Jackson was narrow-minded and of painfully limited vision in many regards. He was also a military genius.”

          Honestly, I don’t know what to do with the man.

  1. Hmmm–I have an idea–let’s poke him! Seriously–collect all the weird stuff, send it to me, or send me links or titles or whatever, and I will start messing with it. Then we can scheme to upset all the neo-Jacksonians out there, and sit back to watch the fun!

    No, I don’t have a Death Wish.

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