Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Some amazing personnel statistics from the Civil War: Mo. contributions, Pa. draft avoiders, and a large number of deserters

A few years ago I swore off reading more books about the Civil War because I decided I needed to broaden my scope and learn more about other events. But just when I think I am out, I get pulled back in. The other day I picked up the Army’s official History of Military Mobilization ...

Wikimedia
Wikimedia
Wikimedia

A few years ago I swore off reading more books about the Civil War because I decided I needed to broaden my scope and learn more about other events.

But just when I think I am out, I get pulled back in. The other day I picked up the Army's official History of Military Mobilization in the United States Army, 1775-1945, a 1955 publication. I was looking for information on the history of U.S. military drawdowns, but instead found myself fascinated by the breakout of some personnel statistics from the Civil War.

I was surprised by how small the initial calls for manpower were in April 1861. Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, Delaware, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and Arkansas each were given quotas of 780 men. The four biggest initial providers of federal manpower were New York (13,906), Pennsylvania (20,175, far greater than its quota of 12,500), Ohio (12,357), and to my surprise, Missouri. This last state had a quota of 3,123 but furnished 10,591 men. Anybody know why? (I don't.)

A few years ago I swore off reading more books about the Civil War because I decided I needed to broaden my scope and learn more about other events.

But just when I think I am out, I get pulled back in. The other day I picked up the Army’s official History of Military Mobilization in the United States Army, 1775-1945, a 1955 publication. I was looking for information on the history of U.S. military drawdowns, but instead found myself fascinated by the breakout of some personnel statistics from the Civil War.

I was surprised by how small the initial calls for manpower were in April 1861. Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, Delaware, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and Arkansas each were given quotas of 780 men. The four biggest initial providers of federal manpower were New York (13,906), Pennsylvania (20,175, far greater than its quota of 12,500), Ohio (12,357), and to my surprise, Missouri. This last state had a quota of 3,123 but furnished 10,591 men. Anybody know why? (I don’t.)

New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio held their positions during the war as the three largest suppliers of soldiers. But Pennsylvania stands out as the largest source of "paid commutations." Some 28,171 of its people hired a substitute or paid $300 to get out of being drafted. That’s about 10,000 more than New York, the second largest commutator. I wonder if this reflects the fact that there were a lot of wealthy Quakers in Philadelphia? (I know the Amish also are pacifists, but I doubt that farmers could afford to pay $300 in 1860s dollars, unless somehow the community collectively raised the money.)

The overall desertion rate also surprised me: Of a total of 2.7 million men raised for the force, there were nearly 200,000 desertions.

Black troops overwhelmingly came from the south. The largest provider of any state was Louisiana, with 24,052, followed by Kentucky (23,703), and Tennessee (20,133). The surprise to me here was Texas, which is listed as providing 47, fewer than any other state, even including Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. My wife, the 19th century historian, says this is because Louisiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee were occupied, while Texas was "the least occupied state." At any rate, the black contributions were significant — Louisiana and Kentucky provided more black troops than total troops sent to the war by Rhode Island or Delaware.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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