March 1st, 1864
FROM THE ARCHIVES: The fate of Irishmen conned into going to the US by unscrupulous recruiters for the Federal army during the American Civil War was regularly denounced by The Irish Times.In this editorial it explained how the recruiting operated. – JOE JOYCE
ON SATURDAY last six hundred able-bodied young men left the North Wall, for New York. They had been collected from this city and suburban districts, and were brought to the quays in groups of four, ten, fifteen or twenty.
Where-ever in the neighbourhood of Dublin labourers work was proceeding, there the Federal agent appeared, picked out the strongest men, talked them over, and generally succeeded in buying their lives.
The men are not told in express words that they must enlist in the Federal armies, but they know very well what they are required to do, and what they must do. They are ostensibly engaged to work on the construction of a railway for three months. The whereabouts of the railway we have been unable to discover. Their passage, clothes, and food, are paid for, and they are nominally allowed a dollar a day until the expiration of the three months. Their accounts will be settled, and the cost of their passage, clothes and keep, is to be deducted from the money due for the quarter’s service.
n arriving at New York the “emigrants” are placed by themselves either on some island or in an isolated depot. While there, they must buy food, water, boots, and clothing. They are charged ten dollars for what is worth two. Temptations are offered to them of every kind. If they have no money, so much the better. An accommodating dealer in greenbacks attends every company and cashes their notes in advance at an enormous per- centage. On the expiration of the three months, the emigrant has had some experience in digging trenches, more in drill, but he is overwhelmed with debt.
He is told he may find employment where he pleases, when he has paid his debts. In his difficulty he is offered £165 in greenbacks, a sum which will clear off his liabilities, and give him some capital to commence a new score, until that too is wasted, and then he “is sent to the front.”
There never was devised a more iniquitous scheme of deception, and unhappily never was a wicked device so successful. Misguided young men are hired and then plundered; and they are plundered to compel them to enlist. When they are once regularly enlisted they have nothing before them but death – death either in the sudden shock of battle, for they will be placed, as usual in the van or on the forlorn hope; or death after lingering suffering, when they have been abandoned wounded on the field; or death by fever, which kills them off like flies in pestilential hospitals, whose very walls are impregnated with disease. Out of every hundred men who leave their sweethearts, their families, and their work behind them, not ten will be alive at this time next year.