Jefferson Davis sent a letter to the Confederate Congress urging them to establish a draft. All “persons residing within the Confederate States, between the ages of 18 and 35 years, and rightfully subject to military duty” would be conscripted. Those “persons”, presumably, would be white and male, though Davis doesn’t specify.
It would cause some consternation in the south, testing whether a nation theoretically founded on the principle of “states’ rights” would be able to provide for its own defense.
From the Journals of the Confederate Congress:
The following message was received from the President of the Confederate States, by Mr. B. N. Harrison, his Secretary:
Executive Department, March 28, 1862.
To the Senate and House of Representatives of the Confederate States:
The operation of the various laws now in force for raising armies has exhibited the necessity for reform. The frequent changes and amendments which have been made have rendered the system so complicated as to make it often quite difficult to determine what the law really is, and to what extent prior enactments are modified by more recent legislation.
There is also embarrassment from conflict between State and Confederate legislation. I am happy to assure you of the entire harmony of purpose and cordiality of feeling which have continued to exist between myself and the executives of the several States; and it is to this cause that our success in keeping adequate forces in the field is to be attributed.
These reasons would suffice for inviting your earnest attention to the necessity of some simple and general system for exercising the power of raising armies which is vested in the Congress by the Constitution. But there is another and more important consideration. The vast preparations made by the enemy for a combined assault at numerous points on our frontier and seacoast have produced the result that might have been expected. They have animated the people with a spirit of resistance so general, so resolute, and so self-sacrificing that it requires rather to be regulated than to be stimulated.
The right of the State to demand, and the duty of each citizen to render military service, need only to be stated to be admitted. It is not, however, wise or judicious policy to place in active service that portion of the force of a people which experience has shown to be necessary as a reserve. Youths under the age of 18 years require further instruction–men of matured experience are needed for maintaining order and good government at home, and in supervising preparations for rendering efficient the armies in the field. These two classes constitute the proper reserve for home defense, ready to be called out in case of emergency, and to e kept in the field only while the emergency exists. But in order to maintain this reserve intact, it is necessary that in a great war like that in which we are now engaged, all persons of intermediate age not legally exempt for good cause should pay their debt of military service to the country, that the burthens should not fall exclusively on the most ardent and patriotic.
I therefore recommend the passage of a law declaring that all persons residing within the Confederate States, between the ages of 18 and 35 years, and rightfully subject to military duty, shall be held to be in the military service of the Confederate States, and that some plain and simple method be adopted for their prompt enrollment and organization, repealing all of the legislation heretofore enacted which would conflict with the system proposed.