Exhibit Preview - Raising Armies

In early 1861 the U.S. Army consisted of only about 14,000 men. The U.S. Navy was even smaller and scattered around the world's oceans. The new Confederate States of America had to create an army and navy from scratch.

Just four years later, millions of men had fought on both sides.

  • How did the North and South build such huge armed forces so quickly?

  • What motivated men to enlist?

  • What happened to those who resisted?

The documents in this area provide evidence that both North and South took far-reaching measures to raise and retain their fighting forces.

Petition to the Confederate Secretary of War

Why not let women fight?

By late 1864 the Confederacy was finding it increasingly difficult to find men for its army. A group of women from Harrisonburg, Virginia, wrote to Confederate Secretary of War James Seddon suggesting he allow women to serve. The Confederate War Department replied that it was "not quite ready to call the Ladies to our help in the Field. The Men of the Country it is hoped will suffice."

National Archives, War Department Collection of Confederate Records

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