On 15th April, 1861, Abraham Lincoln called on the governors of the Northern states to provide 75,000 militia to serve for three months to put down the insurrection. Virginia, North Carolina, Arkansas and Tennessee, all refused to send troops and joined the Confederacy. Kentucky and Missouri were also unwilling to supply men but decided not to take sides in the conflict.
Some states responded well to Lincoln's call for volunteers. The governor of Pennsylvania offered 25 regiments, whereas Ohio provided 22. Most men were encouraged to enlist by bounties offered by state governments. This money attracted the poor and the unemployed. Many black Americans also attempted to join the army. However, the War Department quickly announced that it had "no intention to call into service of the Government any coloured soldiers." Instead, black volunteers were given jobs as camp attendants, waiters and cooks.
On 22nd July, 1861, Congress authorized a volunteer army of 500,000 men. Individual states were still responsible for equipping and outfitting the soldiers. However, by the late summer numbers willing to volunteer dropped dramatically. The Union Army also began to suffer from an increasing number of desertions.
In January 1863 it was clear that state governors in the north could not raise enough troops for the Union Army. On 3rd March, the federal government passed the Enrollment Act. This was the first example of conscription or compulsory military service in United States history. The decision to allow men to avoid the draft by paying $300 to hire a substitute, resulted in the accusation that this was a rich man's war and a poor man's fight.
Abraham Lincoln was also now ready to give his approval to the formation of black regiments. He had objected in May, 1862, when General David Hunter began enlisting black soldiers into the 1st South Carolina (African Descent) regiment. However, nothing was said when Hunter created two more black regiments in 1863.
John Andrew, the governor of Massachusetts, and a passionate opponent of slavery, began recruiting black soldiers and established the 5th Massachusetts (Colored) Cavalry Regiment and the 54th Massachusetts (Colored) and the 55th Massachusetts (Colored) Infantry Regiments.
The Enrollment Act resulted in Draft Riots in several American cities. There was heavy loss of life in Detroit but the worst rioting took place in New York City in July. The mob set fire to an African American church and orphanage, and attacked the office of the New York Tribune. Started by Irish immigrants, the main victims were African Americans and activists in the anti-slavery movement. The Union Army were sent in and had to open fire on the rioters in order to gain control of the city. By the time the riot was over, nearly a 1,000 people had been killed or wounded.
It is estimated that of those who took part in the American Civil War, 75,215 were regulars, 1,933,779 were volunteers and 46,347 were drafted and 73,600 were substitutes. Over 250,000 men were honorably discharged for physical disability arising from wounds, accidents or disease in the service. Officially, 201,397 men deserted, of which 76,526 were arrested and returned to their regiments.
Of the 2,128,948 men who served in the Union Army a total of 359,528 were known to have died. This included 67,058 men who were killed in action, 43,012 who died of their wounds and 224,586 were the victims of disease. Another 24,872 were killed in accidents or died from other causes.