Friday, May 23, 2014

Englishmen Exempted from Civil War?

NARA-KC, RG 110 Provost Marshal General's Bureau (Civil War)
Consul, Please Verify I’m Not an American!
U S. citizen, single men between the ages of 20 and 45 and married men up to the age of 35 were registered for the draft. This included the immigrants who had quickly become American citizens and living in the northern states. All were subject to the 3 March 1863 Civil War Military Draft Act or Enrollment Act. Over 23%, about 516 thousand of the Union soldiers were immigrants: 170 thousand from Ireland, about 50 thousand from England, Scotland and Wales, but only about 10 thousand Englishmen served in the Civil War.

Englishmen in the Civil War
NARA-KC, RG 110 Provost Marshal General's Bureau (Civil War)
Military researchers and family genealogists are often seeking answers to why their perfectly aged, healthy ancestor did not serve in the  Civil War. It can be baffling.  But, was your ancestor able to prove his loyalty to his home country as did Robert M. Booth of Jefferson City, Mo?

Most Englishmen did not classify themselves as immigrants, but as temporary workers in the U.S. on behalf of British companies. Many Englishmen did not become American Citizens during war time, and they expected to be exempt from the draft.

Consulate Correspondence
Robert M. Booth was a person claiming to be a British Subject, and the British Consulate of Chicago confirmed his citizenship by writing to the Provost Marshal General of Missouri. In Missouri, the British Consulate had quickly strengthened their St. Louis office to protect their subjects and their property. Booth was “exempt from military duty in the United States” and was issued a Certificate of British Nationality.

But, Certificates Not Always Enough to Exempt
NARA-KC, RG 110 Provost Marshal General's Bureau (Civil War)
It was common for men of foreign birth to avoid conscription by not completing the citizenship process or by claiming their alienage. But, across the nation, from Georgia and Kentucky to New York, certificates of nationality were ignored or trashed by enrollment officers, sometimes resulting in arrests. Twenty-six hundred protection papers were issued from the British Consul of Philadelphia  before the Enrollment Act. Yet, many draft enrollment officers ignored these certificates since long-term residents (citizens or not) had “enjoyed the benefits of living in the U.S. [and] should not be exempt.”  Whereas in Philadelphia most protection certificates were ignored, in Missouri they were often honored.

For More Information
Visit Regional National Archives, RG 110, Records of the Provost Marshal General's Bureau (Civil War)
Civil War Conscription Laws, Library of Congress

Kathleen Brandt
Accurate, accessible answers

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