The Mississippi in the Civil War Message Board

Conscription in Mississippi

Apparently the conscription system in the State of Mississippi was a complete failure and very few were conscripted.

O.R. Series 4- Vol. 3, page 976

"OXFORD, Miss., December 29, 1864. Hon. J. W. C. WATSON: My DEAR SIR: I redeem a promise made you some time since. In the discharge of my duties in the Inspector-Generals Department I have been brought immediately in contact with most of the abuses and grievances herein mentioned, and I therefore speak with some knowledge and confidence. I regard the conscript department in Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi as almost worthless. I believe if the officers and men engaged in it were sent to the field more strength would be added to the Army than will probably be afforded by the conscripts who will be sent forward. In this State, for the past five months, only 235 men between eighteen and forty-five years have been started to the field, and if the desertions from this number were in proportion to those from the officers and camps of instruction, not a company is in the Army. It is true that 537 were conscripted of this class, but 302 of them deserted before starting from the State. A want of efficiency and energy is everywhere perceptible. I fear that medical boards have in many instances done disservice to the cause. The Board at Brookhaven, Miss., from April to October last, examined 1,125 men, and of these discharged 807 (over 70 per cent.) as unfit for any duty. The details made by the department are very numerous and are very inaccurately reported. In repeated instances I find that district enrolling officers, and in some instances county officers, have made details which have not been reported to the commandant of conscripts. As a matter of course, the reports made to Richmond are very inaccurate. These defects exist also in Georgia and Alabama. One defect exists in this State which is not found in them. I allude to the number of State exempts reported in this State. That number is only 205. We know that each county in this State is entitled to five members of the board of police, ten magistrates, ten constables, one sheriff, deputy sheriff, probate judge, probate clerk, circuit clerk, coroner, tax assessor, tax collector, treasurer; and each county is allowed some five poor commissioners. These aggregate over 2,300 exempts; they are county officers only. The State officers would swell the number to at least 4,000, and yet but 205 were reported. This abuse is greater in Georgia, but that State shows in the conscript reports; the truth, however discreditable. Mississippi enjoys the benefit but avoids the stigma. The Conscript Department claims the credit of having sent over 1,000 deserters to their commands in the past five months. Many of these voluntarily surrendered themselves, still more were mere stragglers overstaying their furloughs, and others were arrested when on their way to the army. Many others were arrested by the State officers or the militia. The department is therefore entitled to but little credit on this score. I have but barely alluded to some few of the many abuses of this department. I believe, too, that the system of conscription is failing from want of material on which to operate. I believe that the conscript has been conscribed generally. The department might be abolished without material injury to the service. You will ask me, if such be the fact, how are the ranks of our Army to be filled. This leads me to mention other abuses that are frightful in character. First. The number of deserters is alarmingly large. From a careful examination on this subject I am prepared to say that the number in this State is not less than 7,000....H. W. Walter."

Confederate conscription in the State of Mississippi was contested by its governors. Governor Clark attempted to keep as many men possible within his control by creating the 3, 6 and 12 month enlistments into the State forces. These were considered volunteers. However, reserve forces of cavalry, were apparently formed out of conscripts.

David Upton