Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Southern Draft Resistance during World War I

While pro-war southerners evoked the spirits of the valiant Civil War dead in speeches and letters supporting the draft, southern antimilitarists drew upon memories of the Civil War to justify their aversion to war and especially to conscription. As an aged Confederate veteran wrote to Kitchin, "I know what it takes to face and charge a line of battle, or retreat, for I was in the Civil War. Entered in 61 came out in 65 a cripple for life... I don't want to see my sons and the sons of our country men to see such slaughter as I and those who fought the late war." Wilson administration supporters cited the Confederate draft to prove that conscription was not unsouthern, while antidraft congressmen used the Confederate draft to-show that conscription would not work.

Jeanette Keith "The Politics of Southern Draft Resistance, 1917-1918: Class, Race, and Conscription in the Rural South" The Journal of American History, Vol. 87, No. 4. (Mar., 2001), pp. 1335-1361.


Dick Stanley said...

I can see why some Southern men would not be in a hurry to rush off to France to fight for a government that had helped keep their part of the country down for so long.

Justin said...

Hi Mr. Stanley,

Your comment certainly generated some discussion over the Cenantua's blog :) Thank you for reading, your comments are welcome here any time.

You bring up an interesting fact: regardless of their reasons for resisting the WWI draft, a unique Southern identity was so strong that both pro and ant-war interests felt it necessary to appeal to this Southern sentiment in their arguments for or against the war!

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Somewhat related . . . “New recruits are also disproportionately likely to come from the South, which is in line with the history of South­ern military tradition.”

See commentary here: http://www.blackmilitaryworld.com/blackmilitaryworldtest/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=229:the-joomla-community&catid=38:platforms

My own grandfather, whose grandfather was wounded twice serving the Confederacy, volunteered for service in WWI and received a letter of commendation from President Wilson. Sadly, that letter has been lost.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Justin - I tried to participate at Cenantua and raise some related points and statistics. But I got the distinct impression those comments weren't welcome. Not quite sure why.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Follow up: Robert clarified his comment and I apologize for the "accusatory" tone of my post here.

Dick Stanley said...

Well, on the other hand, my Mississippi maternal great aunt worked in the Wilson administration. Although I'm not sure what she thought of the war.

Yes the Cenantua's got bent over my remark. They demanded I prove whatever. But, as I told them, my remark was anecdotal, a family thing. My Mississippi paternal grandfather was young enough to go, but balked. His brother-in-law enlisted and drove an ammunition truck in France. Wore his Smokey Bear hat for much of the rest of his life as a storekeeper in Alligator, Mississippi. So I'm sure, as with them, participation varied.

cenantua said...


You qualified your comment and I appreciate that. This said, however, there are a fair number out there who say such things with nothing from their ancestors (oral history or documented... albeit oral history has its problems as well) sustain such a notion. So, I should probably make it clear that while your initial comment got me started, it wasn't the motivation that kept me going over the string of posts. The subject is a sidebar to my efforts in writing about some Virginians who went to France as Doughboys.



Dick Stanley said...


Your blog is your own and you can dismiss (or delete) my comments at any time. As can Justin, or any other blogger. I've done it myself to people I considered trolls and will again I'm sure.

I got myself kicked out of the Austin (TX) chapter of the SCV many years ago for persisting in remarks that contradicted their political catechism, so I'm not a doctrinaire Lost Causer, though I do share some of their convictions.

But since I gather that you, Kevin and Andy are all Southerners, I am surprised at y'all's zeal for digging up the old bones and scattering them to the beasts, as they used to say. In other words, what set y'all off?

And especially for verbally whipping anybody who shows the slightest belief in the idea that some slaves were loyal Confederates and might even have taken a shot at a Bluebellie now and then. Where else did the term "Uncle Tom" come from?

Anyhow, I like a good argument, and I hope y'all will consider bringing your movable feast to my 13th Miss. blog or Knoxville1863 blog some time.

And I'll try to remember my "proof," anecdotal or otherwise next time.

Best regards,