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  • Enlistment times in the Union Army

    Not sure if this should be here or in the what if section. please feel free to move it if it is in the wrong place.

    I have just started reading "High Tide at Gettysburg" by Glenn Tucker.

    Theres a sort of one line throw away comment that if Lee had delayed his advance North a lot of the army of the Potomac's enlistments were up? and that something like 25,000 men would be leaving the Union Army in the 20 or so days to come.

    Not come across this before but surely enlistments were for the duration?

    If it is correct, and I'm not saying it isnt, its just odd as far as I can see.

    What sort of effect would this have had on the Gettysburg Camapaign, and why if this was public knowledge didnt Lee wait for the enlistments to expire before attacking?
    "Sometimes its better to light a flamethrower than to curse the darkness" T Pratchett

  • #2
    Originally posted by DARKPLACE View Post
    Theres a sort of one line throw away comment that if Lee had delayed his advance North a lot of the army of the Potomac's enlistments were up? and that something like 25,000 men would be leaving the Union Army in the 20 or so days to come.

    Not come across this before but surely enlistments were for the duration?
    No, Volunteers enlisted for (mostly) 3 years, with a few 2 year enlistments. Militia enlisted for 3-9 months (3 months in 1861, expanded to 9 months in the 1862 Militia Act). At Gettysburg the majority of the 9-month militia enlisted/ conscripted during the emergency of Septemer 1862 were up (ISTR some regiments reached their expiry date and disbanded on campaign), and the 2 year men enlisted in 1861 were also up.
    "[T]he worst that could be said of the Peninsula campaign was that thus far it had not been successful. To make it a failure was reserved for the agency of General Halleck." -Emory Upton

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    • #3
      You got to remember that one of the justifications for going north at the time was to give Virginia farmers a break over the summer so they could do their farming in peace. If you waited till the fall then you lose that line of reasoning. Besides the Union was always getting new recruits and I think a significant number of the those enlistments up would re up anyways. Granted you had cases like the 1st Maine that mutinied over extended stays in the line after enlistments had expired.
      Eagles may fly; but weasels aren't sucked into jet engines!

      "I'm not expendable; I'm not stupid and I'm not going." - Kerr Avon, Blake's 7

      What didn't kill us; didn't make us smarter.

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      • #4
        One of the issues after Gettysburg were the amount veterans who were getting replaced by new raw enlistments along with the short termers being replaced routinely.
        Fewer men were being properly trained before being sent to the front as had been the procedure early on.

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        • #5
          Ok, First of al thanks to everyone for the explanations.

          Lets just check I've got it right.

          Theres a whole range of enlistment periods it just happens that some, well a lot if the numbers are right are coming up arround the time of Gettysburg?

          Lee's hands are tied over the timing. If he wants to give Southern farmers a break, then he has to come when he did, and even if he does delay all thats going to happen is he's fighting the same sort of size Union army just that they, the Union are going to have a higher percentage of inexperienced troops.

          Did the recruitment/ enlistment date issue effect any other battles?
          "Sometimes its better to light a flamethrower than to curse the darkness" T Pratchett

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          • #6
            Originally posted by DARKPLACE View Post
            Ok, First of al thanks to everyone for the explanations.

            Lets just check I've got it right.

            Theres a whole range of enlistment periods it just happens that some, well a lot if the numbers are right are coming up arround the time of Gettysburg?

            Did the recruitment/ enlistment date issue effect any other battles?
            Yes, the expiry dates effected several battles. 1st Bull Run was fought before the enlistments expired, and was lost before the Union army in the Shenandoah had reached their expiry dates and had all gone home, allowing both Confederate armies to concentrate.

            91,816 enlisted from 3 months under the 15th April 1861 militia order.

            Under the May-July 61 calls for volunteers (which ended early April 1862):

            2,715 for 6 months
            9,147 for 1 year
            30,950 for 2 years
            657,898 for 3 years

            and another 15,007 3 month militia

            On the 4th August 1862 the situation was so desperate that the 1862 Militia Act was invoked and the militia were called out for 9 months, with conscription used fill up regiments, yielding 87,588 men. On 15th June 1863, during that emergency the Militia act was again invoked to try and get 100,000 militia, only 16,361 could be enlisted and less than 10,000 actually served under the colors.

            So yes, the Union Army (as a whole) stood to lose a paper strength of 120,000 men around then (minus casualties, deserters etc.).
            "[T]he worst that could be said of the Peninsula campaign was that thus far it had not been successful. To make it a failure was reserved for the agency of General Halleck." -Emory Upton

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            • #7
              Please correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't this a two way street, at least in the early days of the war? I thought the initial confederate enlistments were fairly short term as well, with many troops signing on for 90 days. This would be especially true of the militia.

              Regards,
              Dennis
              If stupid was a criminal offense Sea Lion believers would be doing life.

              Shouting out to Half Pint for bringing back the big mugs!

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              • #8
                Originally posted by D1J1 View Post
                Please correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't this a two way street, at least in the early days of the war? I thought the initial confederate enlistments were fairly short term as well, with many troops signing on for 90 days. This would be especially true of the militia.

                Regards,
                Dennis
                Initially they enlisted 1 year volunteers, and quickly waived militia restrictions. In April 1862 they passed a conscription act that incorporated the militia into the volunteers and extended all enlistments for the duration. Despite their lower manpower base they maintained a fairly equal effective force for most of the war.
                "[T]he worst that could be said of the Peninsula campaign was that thus far it had not been successful. To make it a failure was reserved for the agency of General Halleck." -Emory Upton

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by 67th Tigers View Post
                  Initially they enlisted 1 year volunteers, and quickly waived militia restrictions. In April 1862 they passed a conscription act that incorporated the militia into the volunteers and extended all enlistments for the duration. Despite their lower manpower base they maintained a fairly equal effective force for most of the war.
                  Thanks, I knew they were first with conscription. Don't know where the idea of enlistment terms shorter than one year came from.

                  Regards,
                  Dennis
                  If stupid was a criminal offense Sea Lion believers would be doing life.

                  Shouting out to Half Pint for bringing back the big mugs!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by D1J1 View Post
                    Thanks, I knew they were first with conscription. Don't know where the idea of enlistment terms shorter than one year came from.

                    Regards,
                    Dennis
                    Simple, Dennis. At first, nobody thought that the war would even last a year. After Bull Run, that began to change.

                    Eric
                    "If you want to have some fun, jine the cavalry"

                    Maj. Gen. James Ewell Brown Stuart

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Eric Wittenberg View Post
                      Simple, Dennis. At first, nobody thought that the war would even last a year. After Bull Run, that began to change.

                      Eric
                      Eric,

                      I expressed myself badly. I meant I don't know how I got the idea stuck in my mind when I should have known better.

                      Regards,
                      Dennis
                      If stupid was a criminal offense Sea Lion believers would be doing life.

                      Shouting out to Half Pint for bringing back the big mugs!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by D1J1 View Post
                        Eric,

                        I expressed myself badly. I meant I don't know how I got the idea stuck in my mind when I should have known better.

                        Regards,
                        Dennis
                        No worries, Dennis. It's all good.

                        Eric
                        "If you want to have some fun, jine the cavalry"

                        Maj. Gen. James Ewell Brown Stuart

                        Comment

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