On March 3, 1863, the Enrollment Act of Conscription was passed. This act made every congressional district an enrollment district.
A provost-marshal with the rank of captain was in charge. Helping him was a deputy provost-marshal who supervised the enrollment and draft of men into the army.
If a state did not meet the enrollment requirement, a draft was necessary to fill the ranks of the army. Ohio had exceeded its enrollment of men at the beginning of the war, but with many citizens, like Ohio lawyer Clement Vallandigham, advocating peace and the end of the war, enrollment declined.
History books have pointed out that the North had more resources, industry and men, and these were important points in why the North eventually won, but President Abraham Lincoln constantly had challenges in maneuvering political rivals, trying to find a general who would fight, and replacing men.
This draft was necessary in sustaining an army.
Warren's Gen. Jacob Cox had his headquarters in Marietta. Cox was witness to important events of the Civil War, and he wrote about them very eloquently.
Gen. George McClellan, whom Cox had worked with, had been relieved of command and Gen. Ambrose Burnside, who had been repulsed at Fredericksburg, Va., was ordered to command the military district in Ohio. Cox had worked under Burnside at Antietam, was familiar with him and was glad that Burnside and Gov. Tod had made his command a military district with the name Department of the Ohio. Cox was ordered to make his headquarters in Cincinnati.
Cox did not take part in administration of the Conscription Act and he thought it was a delicate and difficult task, but administered fairly.
The basic parts of the law were that all men between the ages of 20 and 45, being citizens and capable of military duty, were to be called up. Unmarried men were the first to be drafted before men who had families dependent upon them. Physical defects were reviewed by the local provost-marshal and medical men.
Substitutes were accepted in the place of the drafted man or a payment of $300 would be taken in place of personal service. Public opinion of this law was low and many men went to great lengths to escape it, but the section that provided extra bounties for volunteering which were paid by towns and counties for the most part provided filling of the ranks without resorting to the draft.
However, many men took advantage of this bounty payment and would join a regiment only to desert, change their name and join another regiment, which was called "bounty-jumping."
These men would seldom be caught. The provost-marshal-general said that one man in the Albany, N.Y., penitentiary confessed that he jumped the bounty 32 times.
Cox mentions another weakness in the law, which sent the most patriotic men to volunteer, leaving men who were not so supportive of the president at home. Soon, these patriotic men serving were allowed to vote wherever their regiment was, otherwise they didn't have to go home to vote. This law only provided Cox with four small post garrisons, who guarded prison camps and supply depots.
Later in 1863, there were protests in the form of draft-riots in many parts of the country. Resistance to the draft occurred in Noble and Holmes counties. Tod issued a proclamation warning the rioters of their consequences.
On June 17 in Holmes County, between 900 and 1,000 men made a makeshift fort to protect themselves from federal officials who were sent to enforce the Conscription Act. These mostly farmers had attacked, on June 5th a Federal enrolling officer, Elias Robinson.
Some 420 soldiers of the 15th Ohio Vol. Infantry from Camp Chase were sent to put down the rebellion. The farmers fled and only the land owner where the fort now called "Fort Fizzle" stood was arrested. The most violent riots occurred in New York City at Five Points. These riots caused much property damage and death, from July 11 to 13. Soldiers from the Army of the Potomac were sent to quell these riots, and U.S. warships from the harbor fired their big guns into the city.
These riots undoubtedly added to Lincoln's burden in unifying the country.
Sources: Cox: Recollections of the Civil War Vol. 1, Ohio Historical Documents
Compiled by members of the CW150 Committee of Warren's Sutliff Museum.