As one of Lincoln’s cabinet members, Gen. Henry Halleck advised him in mid-1862 that enlistments had ceased and few new volunteers were to be had. A new system was devised to attract “patriots” and the large enlistment bounties paid by New York State alone accumulated a bounty-debt of $26 million, and the overall Northern debt from bounties was nearly $3.5 billion. In addition, Ireland, England and Europe were scoured for Lincoln’s patriots.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org
Searching for Irish Cannon-Fodder
“The Federal government encouraged [the Irish immigration] movement not only to relieve labor shortages but to replenish the ranks of the Union army, which by 1863 had been seriously depleted by casualties and desertions (It is important to note that General Halleck had admitted in 1862 that enlistments had ceased, and few new volunteers were to be had) . . . There is no doubt that the North relied heavily on immigrant soldiers. The best evidence of this lies in a study of the correspondence between [Secretary of State William] Seward and Federal representatives abroad. In May 1861, Henry S. Sanford, American Minister to Belgium, suggested to Seward that as the Lincoln administration apparently intended to rely primarily on volunteers for the army, it was not too early to look abroad for recruits . . . and the Confederates quickly took note of it [as] Dudley Mann, Southern Commissioner to Belgium, informed his government that Federal agents were busy in Ireland and Central Europe.
On August 22, 1862, Thomas A. Dudley, US Consul at Liverpool, informed Sanford that an agent, E. Bell, would guarantee fifty thousand Irish recruits — for a consideration — and urged Sanford to come to Liverpool to close the deal.
John Bigelow, American consul general at Paris advised Seward late in August 1862 to send all Federal consuls in Europe full particulars about bounties paid to volunteers . . . Mercenary soldiers were uppermost in Seward’s mind, for on September 19, 1862 he wrote Bigelow that “to some extent this civil war must be a trial between the two parties to exhaust each other. The immigration of a large mass from Europe would of itself decide it.” While it was an easy matter to entice Irishmen to the United States, it was equally easy to enlist them on arrival. Simply informing the penniless immigrants of the large bounties was often sufficient. Even more attractive were the large sums offered by speculators who secured substitutes for Northerners who wished to avoid the draft.
[Often] the immigration authorities simply detained unwilling prospective recruits for specious reasons until they were either destitute or desperately in debt to unscrupulous loan sharks. At this point the enlistment bounties became indispensable to the immigrant. Confederate counteractivity was intensified in July 1863 when Secretary of State Judah Benjamin dispatched Lt. J.L. Capston as a special agent to Ireland. A native of Ireland . . . Capston was to inform the Irish masses by every means he could “of the true purposes of those who seek to induce them to emigrate.”
(The Unequal Duel: Union Recruiting in Ireland, 1863-1864, Charles P. Cullop, Civil War History, June 1967, Volume 13, Number 2; pp. 101-107)