A Last Look at the Recruiting Gallery

by Lori Eggleston. 0 Comments

The Recruiting Gallery at my museum is scheduled to be updated shortly.  As its name implies, the displays in this gallery cover recruiting issues in the Civil War.  The updated gallery will still deal with recruiting issues, but will allow the visitors a closer look at the physical exams for recruits, the women who served in the Civil War, and the medical conditions which would have disqualified recruits.  It will also include some hands-on displays.  I’m sure I’ll cover the details of the gallery changes in a future post!  For now, I thought I’d let everyone get a last look at the displays currently in this gallery.

     An ambrotype of an unidentified Union recruit.        Groups of men from the same town or local area were generally enlisted into the same company, which consisted of 100 men.  Rallies would often be held to glamorize the idea of serving, and to encourage the men to enlist.       This rare carte de visite (CDV) depicts a soldier attempting to kiss a woman in front of a recruiting office.  The caption at the bottom reads "Beauties of the Draft, No substitute wanted."          Though the CDV in the photo above is not on display, its image is included on one of the informational panels in the Recruiting gallery.  This is partly so that it could be enlarged and viewed more easily, but also because this artifact is quite faded and needs to be protected from the light.  The photo you see here had to be enhanced to make the image clearer.  Still, it shows how recruits were encouraged to enlist.  It seems that using sex in advertising is not a new concept!      As a quick aside, did this CDV remind anyone else of another famous photo?  For me, it brought to mind this iconic image:   1945 photo of a sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square on V-J Day.          Money was also used as a motivator, and bounties could be paid to encourage men to enlist.    This is a Union recruiting poster dated September 2, 1862 which lists the bounties available to enlisted men.   Here is the recruiting display at my museum, which depicts a man being recruited, and an underage boy nervously waiting in line to attempt to enlist.        Many boys were able to enlist and serve in the Civil War.  No proof of age was required, so they could simply lie about their age.  Some boys got a little more creative though.  One of our docents likes to tell a story to illustrate this.  Apparently, one way to avoid lying was to write the number “18” on a slip of paper and put it inside their shoe.  When the recruiter asked if they were over 18, they could honestly reply, “Yes sir!”       Leaflets such as this were often distributed to the new recruits.  They offered advice on hygiene and comfort, and provided tips on how to avoid sickness.          The leaflet pictured above is titled, “To the Volunteers - An Old Soldier's Advice.”  The author’s first warning is to “Remember that in a campaign more men die from sickness than by the bullet.”  He was quite correct.  In the Civil War, two-thirds of the casualties occurred from illness or disease.      Some of his other advice is: “Buy a small India rubber blanket...to lay on the ground, or to throw over your shoulders...during a rain storm. The best military hat in use is the light colored soft felt; the crown being sufficiently high to allow space for air over the brain. Avoid the use of ardent spirits, which are more injurious in a hot than cold climate. Let your beard grow, so as to protect the throat and lungs. Keep your entire person clean; this prevents fevers and bowel complaints in warm climates.  Wash your body each day if possible.  Avoid strong coffee and oily meat.” Put this in your pocket and read it daily.”    Of course, doctors were recruited as well.  Each regiment usually had one Surgeon and one Assistant Surgeon.  This image is of an unidentified Confederate surgeon.  The pose with the hand inside the jacket was common at the time.        Installation of the new gallery should start within the next few weeks, and the museum’s visitors will be able to learn much more about Civil War recruits.    Photos courtesy of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine.

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