I’ve Been Reading: Jeffrey Rogers Hummel, “The American Militia and the Origin of Conscription: A Reassessment”
Jeffrey Rogers Hummel, Journal of Libertarian Studies 15, no. 4 (Fall 2001): 29-77.
According to established mythology, American citizens were not conscripted until the Civil War. First the Confederacy and then the Union resorted to the draft to fill their depleting armies. Prior to that, this mythology holds, no draft existed in the United States. The U.S. government fought the American Revolution, the War of 1812, and the Mexican War solely with volunteers. Toward the end of the War of 1812, the Madison administration did call for conscription, but this request failed due to Daniel Websterâ€™s stirring and frequently reprinted denunciation of the draft on the floor of Congress.
Unfortunately, this halcyon portrait is false in nearly every respect. The only U.S. war fought without conscripts before the Civil War was the Mexican War. American governments, state or national, drafted men not only to fight the Revolution and the War of 1812, but also to wage Indian wars and to suppress the Whiskey Rebellion. Because they employed decentralized militia drafts, however, this fact has often escaped notice.