Digital Collections -> Pathfinders -> Many Roads to Freedom -> Sending Our Troops


At the outbreak of war in April, 1861, Rochester Mayor John Nash quickly called an assembly in City Hall to discuss the issue. Those present officially resolved to support the war effort. The names of 39 men, the first volunteers for the war effort, were read at this meeting. Many others enthusiastically pledged themselves to fighting units throughout the first months of the war.

Campgrounds for the volunteers were set up at three locations in Rochester: Camp Hillhouse, Camp Fitz-John Porter and Camp Genesee. You can read more about these campgrounds in the following article:

"Campgrounds of the Civil War" by George Levy and Paul Tynan, Rochester History, Summer 2004 [pdf, 801 KB]

As early as May, the 13th Regiment was sent off via Elmira and Baltimore to Washington, D.C. Rochesterians participated in (and died in) the Battle of Bull Run in July, 1861.

Beginning in the summer of 1861, there were already calls for a draft to meet the war effort's needs. In the summer of 1862, the need for more men to fill the ranks of the armed services caused local governments (states, counties and wards) to increase the bounties paid to recruits. The 108th and 140th Regiments were formed at that time, and the region was fortunate to be able to meet its recruitment goals. However, on October 14, 1862 the Adjutant General's Office in Albany issued an order for the draft. You can read the order as it was published in the Monroe Democrat:

Monroe Democrat October 22, 1862
[pdf, 6.0 MB]

The ability of the region to meet its state quota without the draft, and the public's support for the volunteers meant that Rochester did not experience the violent anti-draft riots that occurred in some Union cities. In March, 1863 the federal government passed the Enrollment Act, in which all males between the ages of 20 and 45 would be eligible for the draft. The first official national draft was held in Rochester on August 5, 1863.

During the latter part of the war, a complex system of volunteering, substituting (paying another man to take's one's place in the war), recruiting incentives in the form of ever higher bonuses, the payment of commutation (avoiding the draft by paying a $300 fee) and aggressive recruiting by individuals called "scalpers" existed. The length of the war, the numbers of casualties and the financial toll of paying bonuses had repercussions in the political and financial spheres. However, the bonds formed by soldiers who served in battle were strengthened and continued to have positive effects long after the war. O'Rorke Post No. 1 (the second of the Grand Army of the Republic's posts in the entire nation) was formed here in Rochester.

For more information about the draft in Rochester, read:

"The Civil War Draft in Rochester Part 1", by Donald M. Fisher, Rochester History, Winter, 1991 [pdf, 5.0 MB]

"The Civil War Draft in Rochester Part 2", by Donald M. Fisher, Rochester History, Spring, 1991 [pdf, 3.0 MB]

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