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Enlistment and Draft

Remembering World War I

Conscription was first used in the United States during the American Civil War. While nearly all Civil War recruits were volunteers, two percent of Union forces were draftees. World War I forced the U.S. to reinstate its practice of conscription. However, contrary to prior conscription practices, the Selective Service Act of 1917 prevented draftees from paying “substitutes” to take their place. Instead, all of those selected were mandated to perform military service. Locally, crowds surrounded draft houses during drafts. Names of draftees were posted outside, and the chosen men were then expected to report for service. Over eighty percent of all registrants under the Selective Service Act did not serve in WWI due to exemptions or deferrals.

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