James G. Blaine
July 14, 1863
By 1863, Congress and the President realized that the Civil War would not soon end and that relying upon an all-volunteer military would not be enough for the Union to prevail.
On March 3, Congress passed the Conscription Act, granting the government the authority to draft into military service able-bodied men between the ages of 20 to 45.
The new law was considered necessary but was also unpopular. Many people considered it unfair because it offered such exemptions as including allowing draftees to pay up to $300 to hire substitutes, and freeing men who owned property from being forced to serve.
Nevertheless, all men who fit the law’s basic requirements had their names placed on a list in each congressional district, where enrollment boards would draw names from the list.
The first draft was scheduled for July. Maine’s Third Congressional District, which included Augusta, was ordered to draft 2,409 men.
Aware that the law had prompted riots in several cities, notably New York, the Enrollment Board requested additional security to maintain order on the day of the draft.
Using one of Augusta’s local meeting halls, the Board began drawing names shortly after 9 o’clock, beginning with men from the town of Albion. Shortly the calls came for men from Augusta. Of the 711 men whose names were on the list, more than 130 were expected to be drafted into the army.
Rather than the violence and rowdy behavior in New York, the crowd gathered for the draft was reportedly in high spirits as familiar names were announced.
One of the biggest responses occurred when the Board’s Provost Marshall, Captain A. P. Davis, read aloud, "James G. Blaine."
Blaine, 33, was the most recent Speaker of the Maine House of Representatives, and was now the newest member of the U.S. Congress. He was in the hall when his name was read and accepted the applause from the crowd.
Although his name was called, Blaine, as a member of Congress, was exempt from the draft law.
The District and the city were able to fulfill their draft quota in 1863.
Nationally, however, the draft raised more discontent than soldiers.
In the northern states that conducted drafts in July 1863, and March, July, and December of 1864, almost 250,000 men had their names drawn, but fewer than 35,000 ended up serving in the military.