A Complicated Question with an Eventually Simple Answer

As I have been researching Montgomery Ward’s life, a question occurred to me which I had not seen discussed before.  Why didn’t he serve in the Civil War?  His future business partner, George R. Thorne, did.

As a young man Ward had tried two trades, brick and barrel making, and concluded that he was not “physically or mentally equipped” for them.  Thus one can understand his not wanting to volunteer for the grueling life of a soldier.  He did, however, appear on the Civil War Draft Registration Records drawn up in 1863.  So what happened?  I could find no record of his serving.  Had he somehow shirked his duty?

This led me to lengthy research about the draft based on official records for the State of Michigan, where Ward resided in Ward 1 in the city of Niles.  (He is listed as Aaron Ward.  His middle name was Montgomery.) Did the Draft Registration Records get his age wrong?  He is listed as 20 years old, the minimum age for drafting, but his birthdate the census record for 1860, on which the Draft Registration Records were based, only listed his age at that time, no birthdate.  He was actually born in 1844 so was too young in 1863 to be drafted. That would have been the case in 1863, but not in succeeding years.  Could he have paid someone to take his place?  I doubted that as he and his family were not well off and making such a payment would have been a great expense for them.  In fact, at the time of the compilation of the Draft Registration Records, Ward was actually in St. Joseph, Michigan working as a clerk in a dry goods store to help support his family.

I then went through the entire State of Michigan Draft Registration Records to find other men from Ward 1 on the list and to check on their service.  Each state was assigned a certain number of soldiers to raise and if the number was not met, the state would then turn to the draft.  Had enough soldiers volunteered from Niles that no draft was necessary?

Here indeed lay the simple answer.  There was no draft conducted in Niles.  The draft was highly unpopular and the Governor of Michigan at the time did everything in his power to drum up volunteers, including bounties [money for signing up] which increased as the war progressed.


So Ward did not avoid the draft.  He simply was not called up and did not want to volunteer.  Ward was intent on helping his family and making a way for himself in the world, which he of course did.

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