The Civil War Draft Wheel

The Civil War Draft Wheel

The United States Congress passed the Enrollment Act of 1863 to draft me to serve in the American Civil War, the deadliest conflict in the nation’s history. More than 620,000 men lost their lives during combat on the battlefield or infectious diseases such as typhus, typhoid, and dysentery. Many of them joined the war effort via conscription and participated involuntarily. Drawings were held in Smyrna and on the steps of Old Town Hall in Wilmington. Names of men between the ages of 18 and 45 were written on slips of paper and placed in this glass wheel. In August 1863, 2,454 names were drawn: 1,105 from Newcastle County, 606 from Kent, and 743 from Sussex. The person whose name was drawn required the person to join the army and fight for three years. Learn more about the draft wheel and other collections items from the Civil War era by exploring our collections, visiting the museum, or watching other videos!

“The Civil War Draft Wheel” is part of Speaking of Delaware…, a series of short videos presented by the Delaware Historical Society and produced by Short Order Production House. Videos premiere the first Thursday of every month on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and our website. This series is funded in part by the Longwood Foundation, Delmarva Power, an Exelon Company, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and by a grant from Delaware Humanities, a state program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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Primary Sources

Additional Resources


Playlist: Speaking of Delaware…

Speaking of Delaware: Regimental Flags of the Civil War

To Be Free, A Citizen And A Voter: African American Agency in the Civil War Webinar


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