Enlistment Rate of Union Soldiers by State 1861–65

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Map Code: Ax00791

As the war progressed, and casualties mounted, resistance to enlistment emerged in the North. Draft riots in New York in 1863 claimed over a thousand lives: the slogan ‘a rich man’s war, and a poor man’s fight’, expressed a common popular sentiment. Its veracity is reflected in state rates of enlistment: the poorest eastern state, Maine had the highest rate of enlistment. Rates of enlistment tended to increase westward, as incomes reduced, until lowering in the wilder frontier states. Wealth and connections were instrumental in avoiding service: over 50 per cent of those drafted obtained exemption, and a $300 payment could commute service. The introduction of bounty payments to encourage recruitment also attracted poorer volunteers, while the federal funding system for the draft tended to encourage local politicians to sprout new regiments to maximize their return. In the west, only Wisconsin played by the rules, hence its lower rate of enlistment.

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