LINCOLN, Abraham. Partly printed document signed ("Abraham Lincoln") as President, a circular letter setting a quota for the draft in the 3rd District of Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C., 10 July 1863. 1 page, 4to. Fine. [With:] LINCOLN. BRADY, Matthew B. Profile portrait of Abraham Lincoln, taken 9 February 1864, printed by Meserve from the original glass negatives, n.d. 10 x 8 in. C. Hamilton & L. Ostendorf, Lincoln in Photographs, O-88.
LINCOLN'S DRAFT: FILLING THE RANKS OF THE UNION ARMY
A document signed a few days after the battle of Gettysburg, the fall of Vicksburg and only days before the eruption of draft riots in New York City. By the second year of the war, enlistments had ebbed to a trickle. Volunteers, plentiful at the outset of the war, were increasingly difficult to find by 1863: "The men likely to enlist for patriotic reasons or adventure...were already in the army. War weariness and the grim realities of army life discouraged further volunteering" (McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom, p. 600). The Enrollment Act of March 1863 was intended to fill the army's depleted muster rolls: "Both Lincoln and his Secretary of War hoped that enforcing the draft would win back the loyalty of the soldiers already in the field--would demonstrate that the government intended to haul in reinforcements and stand behind its armies regardless of how unpopular the war became back home" (Oates, With Malice Toward None, p. 371).
The draft requisition reads: "I, Abraham Lincoln...do hereby assign [3,015] as the first proportional part of the quota of troops to be furnished by the 3rd district of the state...under this, the first call made by me on the State of Pennsylvania, under the act approved March 3, 1863, entitled 'An Act for Enrolling and Calling out the National Forces, and for other purposes.'"
The draft created an immediate backlash in the North. Draftees could avoid service by hiring a substitute to take their place or by paying a commutation fee of three hundred dollars. Since these options were beyond the financial means of a substantial portion of the population, the war was cynically labeled a "rich man's war and a poor man's fight." Violence erupted in some places when draft officers arrived, quotas in hand. The worst civil disorder took place in the City of New York. On July 13, two days after the draft began, mobs rioted in the streets, destroying federal property, stoning the homes of Republican politicians, and beating or killing many innocent black citizens. When the four-day riot was ended (by troops rushed from the fields of Gettysburg), 105 were dead. The riots "sickened Lincoln to read about" (Oates, p. 387).
The draft, and the enlistments it stimulated, were intrumental in filling the ranks of the Union Army and made possible the overwhelming strength deployed by Grant and Sherman in the 1864-1865 campaigns which ultimately decimated the Confederacy (whose own conscription system had proven ineffectual).