By 1862, it was obvious that the Confederate Congress had made a mistake. Because no one in the South believed that the war would be a long war, the original term of enlistment for Confederate soldiers was one year. Of course, soon it was April 1862, and the end of the war was nowhere in sight.
Something had to be done to keep the men on the field, men who felt that they had given their promised year to the “Cause,” men who just wanted to go home.
The Confederate Congress had to act quickly, and on April 16, 1862, the Confederate Conscription Act was passed. Probably the mistake made by the South was not in the act itself; no, the problem was that a volunteer army had been used initially. More than likely the men would not have balked at the Conscription Act from the outset; however, after having been allowed to volunteer the first year, the idea of being conscripted into service was odious to southern men.
In fact, for many, the “glory” had gone out of the war.
“A law was made by the Confederate States Congress about this time allowing every person who owned twenty negroes [sic] to go home. It gave us the blues; we wanted twenty [N]egroes. Negro property suddenly became very valuable, and there was raised the howl of ‘rich man’s war, poor man’s fight.’ The glory of the war, the glory of the South, the glory and pride of our volunteers had no charms for the conscript.” -Privates To The Front
The men in McCulloch’s regiment certainly would have agreed with the sentiment voiced by Private Watkins had they known him. They had enlisted as the 1st Texas Mounted Rifles in April of 1861 and were to muster out of service in April of 1862. The plan was for them to report to Fort Mason in April in order to be discharged. However, upon their arrival the men learned that the first conscription law of the country had been passed earlier in the month and that they were to be required to continue serving their country.
Any man from the ages of 18-35 who was already serving had to serve three more years from the date of their enlistment. Some went back to the frontier as the 1st Texas Cavalry; however, many of these men were extremely weary of the frontier, and they enlisted in the 8th Texas Cavalry Battalion that eventually merged into the 1st Texas Cavalry Regiment.
Once again, it was the women and children who suffered most. To have believed that the load was finally going to be lifted, only to discover that they were on their own for three more long years must have seemed like the end of the world to those poor frontier wives and daughters, who had absolutely no say as to their lot in life.
Once again, the men made the rules, and the women paid the price.