When the War first began, short-term enlistments were presumed adequate for the successful prosecution of what each side believed would be a short conflict. It wasn't long before both Confederate and Union officials realized they had miscalculated. When voluntary reenlistments failed to fill the ranks depleted by death, woundings, and reluctance to reengage the enemy, drafts were instituted on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line.
Suffering from a greater shortage of manpower, the Confederate government moved first. On April 16, 1862, it ordered all white males between the ages of 18 and 35 (later upped to 45) to report for three years of service. Almost a year later, on March 3, 1863, the Federal government passed the Enrollment Act, which mandated the enlistment of men between 20 and 45.
Both laws contained provisions allowing a draftee to either send a substitute to serve on his behalf or pay a $300 exemption fee. Because men of modest means were usually unable to come up with either a stand-in or a sufficient amount of cash, the War quickly came to be seen as "a rich man's war and a poor man's fight."
Both acts were wildly unpopular with the affected segments of the population. Incited by New York Governor Horatio Seymour, mobs of Irishmen rioted in New York City following the first draft lottery. For four days, they burned, wrecked, or pillaged a black church and orphanage, the home of the provost marshall, the offices of the New York Tribune, and other buildings in the city. Over $150,000 worth of property damage was done before troops from the Army of the Potomac moved in and restored order.
This song gives voice to a mother's sentiments upon learning that her youngest (and only surviving) son has been conscripted. Work's use of the word "grafted" is a clever play on words with regard to the suspect practice of allowing money to be substituted for service.
"Grafted Into the Army"