Audenreid, Pennsylvania mine owner George K. Smith was killed by his workers in early November 1863 in retaliation for providing their names to the military draft authorities. By mid-1862 Northern enlistments had dwindled and Lincoln resorted to conscription to fill the ranks.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com
Pennsylvania Miners Resist Lincoln’s Draft
“Being a mine owner made Smith a much-despised man to begin with among the destitute miners. And the Civil War brought another factor into play that further fueled their hatred – the [Northern] government’s draft. One newspaper writer said the draft had converted the coal region into “a perfect hell.”
Ordering the immigrant German and Irish miners to serve in the Federal army and fight in a war they knew or cared little about proved too much for many of them to endure. They were being paid just fifty cents for a backbreaking day of work as it was, and when a mine boss collaborated with military authorities as Smith did, it doubled their rage.
As events turned out, Smith had written his own death certificate the moment he supplied work rolls to Union draft officials. Captain E.H. Rauch, the deputy provost marshal, injudiciously said that when he was in Beaver Meadow serving draft notices, Smith had given him a detailed map showing where each of the drafted men lived.
As early as 1862, rebellious bands of miners were becoming known and feared throughout the coal regions by encouraging desertions, interfering with recruiting, interrupting mining operations, and attacking loyalists who were devoted to the Union cause.
After the National Conscription Act was passed in August 1862, individual States were forced to draft men as a means of filling their quotas when the specified number of volunteers fell short. After the list of conscripts for each district was drawn, the men selected went immediately to their county seats and from there boarded trains for Harrisburg.
Immediately after the draft commenced, anti-draft leaders swung into action . . . From this rebellious group there emerged a secret band of terrorists known as the Buckshots, later to be known as the Molly Maguires. Mine bosses who [cooperated with Lincoln] were targeted . . . would receive an ominous notice posted on his door, complete with a picture of a coffin and two crossed pistols.
[Buckshot gangs in early 1863] boldly stopped a train with new recruits in the Schuykill County town of Tremont. Protection was promised for any new draftees who wanted to leave the train cars and return to their homes. Many took the Buckshots’ offer and skedaddled.
With the industrialized North in a wartime mode, the output of coal could not be hindered. Trouble in the minefields first caused alarm bells to sound in the State capital at Harrisburg, and the concern soon spread to Washington’s War Department and ultimately to President Abraham Lincoln.
Pennsylvania [Republican] Governor Andrew Curtin kept Washington informed of developments . . . [and] urged caution, realizing that with anti-war sentiment on the rise open conflict could have a bad effect on the rest of the country.
Alexander McClure of Chambersburg, a political ally of both Curtin and Lincoln, stated that “Lincoln was desirous of a course to see that the law was executed, or at least to appear to have been executed.”
(Coalfields’ Perfect Hell, Jim Zbick, America’s Civil War, March 1992, excerpts pp. 22-25)