A vast pool of eager workers!

Posted on August 26, 2010 by


Slightly off the WWI path, but connected to yesterday’s post when comparing thoughts on the Confederate draft and that imposed during the First World War…

The Civil War-era furnace operations were extensive in Page County, with three furnaces and at least two forges in operation. Men were required to cut down trees, make charcoal, mine iron ore, run the furnace, and sustain a hefty agricultural operation to provide for both the men and the animals. Ironmaster Henry Forrer had done all he could to maintain the operation with white labor, and at least seventy-seven slaves before the war. Since a number of whites had enlisted or had been drafted* into the army in 1861, and hired slaves had been returned to their owners east of the Blue Ridge, there was a sudden and great void in the workforce. Not surprisingly, enforcement of the first conscription act by the spring of 1862 created a vast pool of eager workers. Men, “who had rarely ever performed a day of manual labor sought details to leep out of the army. Some were willing to work for nothing and board themselves. So the labor question was solved.”

Source for the quote: “Historical Sketch of Milnes” (Milnes is now the town of Shenandoah in Page County, Va.), published in the Page Courier on June 28, 1885.

*Remember… the local militia was not composed of “volunteers” but was activated by the Commonwealth. I’ve seen accounts where several militiamen felt that they were conscripts, even though the Confederacy had yet to pass the first conscription act