Old Abe and the Draft

Writing to his sister Ann in early April, Harrison expresses some unhappiness that he has not heard from her and suggesting that she has forgotten him. Dewater asks her to confirm that his father has received the money he has sent home and how much interest it is earning.

In October 1863, to meet Kalamazoo's quota of men for the Army, a draft was held at the courthouse. In this box were the names of 631 local men. Forty-one names were drawn in front of an audience of anxious spectators. Of the men selected, only seven actually served. The rest arranged for substitutes or were exempted by age, health, or other conditions.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the letter is when he expresses his support for the draft and his disapproval of the provision that a wealthy man could pay $300 to avoid service. In 1863, an unskilled worker would have averaged about $125 a year, so taking someone’s place in the draft for $300 was an attractive offer to many.  Harrison basically says that it might be legal but no one can convince him that it is right.

He concludes by noting that he is currently on guard duty but  on other days the men put in 8 hours building defensive breastworks.  Finally, he reports that their Uncle Joseph, who was wounded at the Battle of Stones River, is still in the hospital but recovering well.


April 2nd 1863
Murfreesboro  Tennessee

Dear sister  not hearing from you in some time i thought i would see what the reason was i did not no but what you had forgotton me   wal i am well & hope when these few lines reaches you they may find you all the same   in the next place has Father got that money that i sent him if so  pleas write & let me no about it & what intress he gets   tell him not to let it for less than 10 per cent & let me no he has it & [knows] all about it & when you write write all of the news all about the War & what they are doing       ar[e] th[e]y Drafting eny more or not    i hope they will fetch every man & boy in the field that is able to carry a Gun   that is what i think about the War & do it rite of then they could think something about ending this war    i think that old Abe has don just what he ought to have don lone go [i.e., long ago] with the exceptions of letting a man that has got $300 hundred Dollars slip out   that is rong in my opinion but it may be rite but they cant make me think so   you must excuse me for scribling for i am on guard & i am not in very good humor & have not got a pen worth one dam   we are here working on the Brest works we haf to work 8 hours a day but i had druther do that then to march    if thare is eny one thats is comming in this War to come in the 13th mich if i no them    the last i heard from Unkle joseph he was in Hospital No 14 Ward 6 he was gitting along pretty well so i cant think of any more to write
So Good By
                mose respectfully
                your Brother
                Harrison Dewater

hear is some verses that was compose of one of our Soldiers that shoes [i.e., shows] you what we don on the march from Nashville to Murfreesboro

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