When the U.S. Government drafted non-citizens into the army

In 1862, the U.S. government drafted non-citizens into the army and didn’t bother passing a law about it until the next year.

Using records of the U.S. State Department, I have created a database of 1040 cases of soldier complaints about impressment, that is:  illegal forced conscription of non-citizens in the U.S. Army.

Not only is this number larger than the standard Civil War historiography relates, my co-authors and I have discovered that it reflects only a portion of the cases the Department of State dealt with during the war.

The Enrollment Act of March, 1863, stated that non-citizens who had declared their intent to become citizens were eligible for the draft. We have discovered, however, that this policy of denying exemptions to non-citizens who had declared intent was in effect months before the act was passed.

The following diagram, based on our compiled data, demonstrates that most of these cases were handled before the Enrollment Act, which is generally considered the origin of federal draft law for non-citizens.enrollmentacttimeline

Our article on this topic is now nearly completed and will be sent in for peer-review.

Our compiled database with 1040 names has variables for place drafted, claimed nationality, result of investigation, and date when resolved. This means it is easy to make all kinds of graphs and chart. It’s the patented “counting method.” If you can count it, count it.

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