When Johnny didn’t go for a soldier
In genealogy, as in law, it’s awfully hard to prove a negative. It’s even harder when you’re trying to figure out why someone didn’t do something you think perhaps he should have done. But that’s the situation confronting reader Bob Fleitz, whose second great grandfather was of the right age at the right time to have served in the Union forces in the Civil War — but didn’t.
“I wonder how one could find out why an ancestor did NOT serve,” Bob writes. His second great grandfather Ignatius or Ignatz Fleitz had been born in Baden, Germany, around 1834, emigrated in 1848, and so was in his 20s, living in Jerusalem Township, Lucas County, Ohio, when the war began. “He was a farmer, already had a wife and three children, maybe didn’t speak English yet. Perhaps Ohio had its quota of soldiers, perhaps he was exempt for some reason, maybe he just laid low, … Any idea how one would research that?”
Here’s a shock for you (said with tongue planted firmly in The Legal Genealogist‘s cheek): start with the law.
And the law we have to start with when researching this question in the northern states is called the Enrollment Act or, more formally, “An Act for enrolling and calling out the national Forces, and for other Purposes.” It was enacted 3 March 1863, and it was the very first effort by the Union at conscription — otherwise known as the draft.1
The South had already gone the conscription route, nearly a year earlier, with its first draft law enacted 16 April 1862.2 The North thought it could raise enough men through the militias of the states and had given the President the authority to call up the state militias as early as July of 1861.3
By the beginning of 1863, it was clear that more men would be needed, and the Congress adopted the Enrollment Act. And for Bob’s purposes, the key provisions are the ages of the men subject to conscription — all men between the ages of 20 and 45,4 bringing Ignatz squarely within the terms of the law — and the exemptions and exceptions created by the law.
One entire section set out those who would not be called:
SEC 2. And be it further enacted, That the following persons be, and they are hereby, excepted and exempt from the provisions of this act, and shall not be liable to military duty under the same, to wit: Such as are rejected as physically or mentally unfit for the service; also, First the Vice-President of the United States, the judges of the various courts of the United States, the heads of the various executive departments of the government, and the governors of the several States. Second, the only son liable to military duty of a widow dependent upon his labor for support. Third, the only son of aged or infirm parent or parents dependent upon his labor for support. Fourth, where there are two or more sons of aged or infirm parents subject to draft, the father, or, if he be dead, the mother, may elect which son shall be exempt. Fifth, the only brother of children not twelve years old, having neither father nor mother dependent upon his labor for support. Sixth, the father of motherless children under twelve years of age dependent upon his labor for support. Seventh, where there are a father and sons in the same family and household, and two of them are in the military service of the United States as non- commissioned officers, musicians, or privates, the residue of such family and household, not exceeding two, shall be exempt. And no persons but such as are herein excepted shall be exempt: Provided, however, That no person who has been convicted of any felony shall be enrolled or permitted to serve in said forces.5
And another let men who were called buy their way out, by furnishing a substitute or making a cash payment that was intended to allow the Secretary of War to find a substitute:
SEC. 13. And be it further enacted, That any person drafted and notified to appear as aforesaid, may, on or before the day fixed for his appearance, furnish an acceptable substitute to take his place in the draft; or he may pay to such person as the Secretary of War may authorize to receive it, such sum, not exceeding three hundred dollars, as the Secretary may determine, for the procuration of such substitute; which sum shall be fixed at a uniform rate by a general order made at the time of ordering a draft for any state or territory; and thereupon such person so furnishing the substitute, or paying the money, shall be discharged from further liability under that draft.6
So the first step in Bob’s research would be to compare Ignatz’s situation to the exemptions provided by the law to see if there is an obvious reason why he wouldn’t be called. In his case, there doesn’t seem to be one.
The next step would be to find the records of the draft system where Ignatz may have been recorded to see if they shed light on the situation. The draft was conducted within each individual Congressional district, and Ignatz Fleitz lived in Ohio’s 10th Congressional District at the time. And the very first thing Bob discovered was that the consolidated draft register for surnames from A-K for Ohio’s 10th Congressional District is missing from the “U.S., Civil War Draft Registrations Records, 1863-1865” database at Ancestry.com. It isn’t clear whether that means that volume no longer exists, or wasn’t digitized, or just isn’t available online.
Fortunately, this database isn’t the real thing, so to speak. It’s a consolidated register created from the underlying records themselves. Even Ancestry says so in a note on the database description page: “The actual draft registration records are available in NARA regional archives and sometimes contain more information than the consolidated lists.”7 More importantly, “The consolidated lists … give no clue as to why (persons enrolled) did not serve. Answers to such questions should reside with the records of the various districts.”8
So what exactly might exist at the National Archives regional repository, which — for Ohio records — happens to be in Chicago? In Record Group 110: Records of the Provost Marshal General’s Bureau (Civil War), 1861 – 1907, for Ohio’s 10th Congressional District, here’s just a sampling:9
• Descriptive Book of Drafted Men, 09/1864 – 11/1864
• Journals of Recruits and Substitutes Enlisted into Service, 12/1863 – 04/1865
• List of Men Credited to the Subdistricts, 1863? – 1866?
• List of Men Exempted from Service Because of Physical Disability, 04/1864 – 01/1865
• Lists of Men Reported as Deserters Whose Descriptive Rolls Were Received, 1863 – 1865
• Lists of Recruits Delivered to the Rendezvous at Toledo, Ohio, 1864 – 1864
• Medical Register of Examinations of Drafted Men, 11/1864 – 05/1865
• Medical Register of Examinations of Enrolled Men, 01/1864 – 04/1865
• Medical Register of Examinations of Recruits and Substitutes, 10/1864 – 04/1865
• Memoranda of Medical Examinations of Recruits, 04/1864 – 10/1864
• Muster and Descriptive Book of Recruits and Substitutes, 06/1864 – 04/1865
• Muster and Descriptive Books of Recruits and Substitutes, 11/1863 – 04/1865
• Name Indexes to Muster and Descriptive Book of Recruits and Substitutes, 1864? – 1865?
• Proceedings of the Board of Enrollment, 05/1863 – 05/1865
• Register of Enrolled Men Exempted Because of Physical Disability, 07/1864 – 07/1864
Now that sounds like a road trip to me. But before Bob gets ready to go, one word of caution: it’s very likely that the answer is going to be purely and simply that Ignatz just was never called up. Although Ohio, like all states, had to set up and run its draft boards under the Enrollment Act, conscription was only required when a state didn’t produce enough volunteers, and because the draft was so unpopular, states worked hard to fill the ranks with volunteers, usually by paying bounties.10
And in Ohio, generally, there were enough volunteers: “The federal government required each state to supply a set number of soldiers determined by the state’s population. Ohio exceeded the government’s call for men by 4,332 soldiers. This number does not reflect the 6,479 men who paid a monetary fine to the government to escape military duty.”11
That doesn’t mean there won’t be records of Ignatz, and it doesn’t mean those records might not provide information you won’t find anywhere else (can you imagine finding a medical examination of a man who lived in the 1860s???). It may simply be that Ignatz registered and went home waiting to be called … and never was.
But won’t it be fun to find out for sure? Let us know, Bob, what you find!
- “An Act for enrolling and calling out the national Forces, and for other Purposes,” 12 Stat. 731 (3 Mar 1863)); digital images, “A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774-1875,” Library of Congress, American Memory (http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/index.html : accessed 9 Jan 2013). ↩
- See Judy G. Russell, “Anniversary of two very different laws,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 16 Apr 2012 (https://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog : accessed 9 Jan 2013). ↩
- Ibid., “An act to provide for the suppression of rebellion against and resistance to the laws of the United States,” 12 Stat. 281 (29 July 1861). ↩
- Enrollment Act, 12 Stat. 731, § 1. ↩
- Ibid., § 2. ↩
- Ibid., § 13. ↩
- “U.S., Civil War Draft Registrations Records, 1863-1865,” database, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 9 Jan 2013). ↩
- Michael T. Meier, “Civil War Draft Records: Exemptions and Enrollments,” Prologue (Winter 1994, Vol. 26, No. 4), National Archives ( : accessed 9 Jan 2013). ↩
- A full list of possibly relevant holdings can be found by conducting a search for (“record group 110”) AND Ohio 10th at the National Archives Archival Research Catalog. ↩
- See Daniel W. Hamilton, “Enrollment Act (1863) (The Conscription Act),” Enotes.com (http://www.enotes.com : accessed 9 Jan 2013). ↩
- “Conscription Act,” Ohio History Central, Ohio Historical Society (http://www.ohiohistorycentral.org : accessed 9 Jan 2013). See also Mike Mangus, “Conscription Act and Enrollment Act (1863),” Ohio Civil War Central (http://www.ohiocivilwarcentral.com : accessed 9 Jan 2013). ↩