More of Hindman’s suggestions to fix the Confederacy: Pay, conscription, and martial law

Back a few days I pulled a section from General Thomas Hindman’s official report from the Prairie Grove campaign. Well the general must have considered this report the vessel by which to air all his ideas about the war effort….

In the next paragraph in his report, he addressed a problem with pay, or more precisely regularity of pay:

Next in importance is the subject of the pay of the troops. Poor men almost invariably make up our armies. Their wives and children, left without protection, are exposed to absolute suffering unless the men are regularly and adequately paid. No troops that I have known during the war have been paid with anything like promptness. Immense arrearages are now due the men of this corps. Their families are in great suffering. The consequence is that very many desertions have occurred. If arrearages could be at once discharged, the evil would be checked. If the pay of the soldier was not only promptly given him, but made sufficient in amount to support his family as it should be, desertions would be unknown. This subject involves the fate of the Confederacy. Notions of false economy ought to be discarded in considering it.

Without pausing, Hindman rolled into the next recommendation:

The conscript act ought to be revised. Every man between sixteen and sixty, who is able to serve the Confederacy in the army, whether in the ranks or as an artisan or mechanic, laborer, teamster, cook, hospital attendant, or in any other capacity, ought to be put in service without regard to avocation or other plea. There ought to be no exemption whatever, except in the case of absolute and permanent physical disability. If by this means more soldiers are raised than necessary, it would be a very just and humane policy to grant furloughs to the old soldiers and put the young conscripts in their places. If the men out of the army are “the people” these ideas may fail of popular approval. That, however, in no way affects their merits.

There you have it. Draft everyone. No exemptions.

Under the same supposition, the last suggestion I have to make will be still more decidedly unpopular. It will be odious in the eyes of speculators, extortioners, refusers of Confederate money, evaders of conscription, deserters, harborers of deserters, spies, marauders, federalists, and that less respectable class who regard these others as the people, and pander to them for their votes. The obnoxious suggestion is, a vigorous and determined system of martial law, covering all classes of evil-doers mentioned above, and compelling them, by stern and swift punishment, either to leave the Confederacy or to bear their due part of the burdens of the war. Without martial law, loyal citizens and the fighting soldiers of the country, their wives and children, are literally the prey of the basest of the population. The civil laws, State organizations, rights on paper, and penalties on statute-books, are inert and powerless to help them. A living, active, fearless assertion and enforcement of martial law alone can do it. If much longer delayed, that remedy itself will come too late.

So how does this proposal square with the principle of states’ rights?

(Once again WordPress’s mobile app failed to update this post before publication.  Here’s the intended ending…)

Consider the context of Hindman’s proposals.  Four or more written pages within an official report of a failed campaign.  Almost like he felt this was his only chance to vent on these issues.  But at that stage of the war, sending recommendations to Richmond was like taking coals to Newcastle.  Perhaps we can characterize Hindman’s proposals as extreme attempts to deal with a sinking reality.  I’m reminded of an even more radical proposal by Patrick Cleburne, one of Hindman’s close friends, two years later.  Must have been something in the water around Helena, Arkansas.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 22, Part I, Serial 32, pages 145-6.)

Published by Craig Swain

"Historical marker hunter" and Civil War enthusiast.

One thought on “More of Hindman’s suggestions to fix the Confederacy: Pay, conscription, and martial law

  1. That, or he just knew what he thought it would take to win. It wasn’t hard to see, for those trained in war, that it was a tremendous long shot for the CSA to beat the USA.

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