War of the Rebellion: Serial 126 Page 0632 CORRESPONDENCE, ETC.

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go before the Board of Enrollment and prove that "he is not liable to do military duty;" but if, on hearing his claim to exemption, he is held to be liable, he cannot escape personal service. He is also, under such circumstances, subject to be proceeded against as a deserter.



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The right to furnish a substitute or pay the commutation is derive wholly from the enrollment act. That act gives the right only on or before the day fixed for the party's appearance. It does not exist afterward, simply because the law does not give it.

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On the 18th of July, 1863, the following circular was issued permitting men to pay commutation or provide substitutes after they had been examined and found liable to duty, with the result that, instead of doing either, many availed themselves of the opportunity to abscond.*

The substitution of colored for white men under the draft of July, 1863.

This draft was made in order to fill up the ranks of the depleted regiments in the field, especially those in the Army of the Potomac. During its progress every variety of artifice was put in practice, especially by those opposed to the war, not only to escape service, but to do so at the least possible cost, without regard to the interests of the Government. One method was to take advantage of the ignorance and necessities of negroes and buy them up at a cheap rate as substitutes for drafted white men. So far as this practice was permitted to prevail the purpose of this draft, filling up the ranks of the old regiments (which were composed of white troops), was defeated The traffic was carried on among those negroes already freed, and did not benefit those held in bondage, nor was it designed to do so by the persons engaged in it. In view of these facts, and of the further fact that the Government could not at that time put negroes to good use as soldiers, the laws in reference to the status of negroes were examined to see whether they required that a negro should be taken as a substitute for a white man under the draft then in progress.

The legislation affecting the status and rights of this class of persons had been gradual and was incomplete. The result of it was before the Bureau in the following opinion of the Solicitor of the War Department:

In regard to the employment of persons of African descent in the military service, their pay, and emoluments.

By the eleventh section of the act of July 17, 1862, entitled "An act to define the pay and emoluments," &c., the President was authorized to employ as many persons of African descent proper for the suppression of this rebellion, and to organize and use them in such manner as he judged for public welfare. No provision was specially made for their compensation in that act.

By the fifteenth section of the act of July 17, entitled "An act to amend the act calling forth the militia," &c., it is provided that each person enrolled under that act (authorizing the raising of 100,000 volunteers for nine months), who should enlist in the infantry under the provisions of section 3 of that act, should be entitled to receive his first month's party and $25 bounty upon the mustering of his company or regiment into the service of the United States. (See section 3.)


*See Circular Numbers 51, Provost-Marshal-General's Office, July 18, 1863. Vol. III, this series, p. 535.