Sunday, June 28, 2015

Commutation and the Civil War

On 2 June 1864, Frank Ziegler, Columbia N. Ward, received the following notification from the Provost Marshall’s Office, 9th District, State of Pennsylvania.

You are hereby notified that you were, on the 2nd of June, 1864,
legally drafted into the service of United States for the period of Three Years, in
accordance with the provisions of the act of Congress, “for enrolling and calling out
the national forces, and for other purposes,” approved March 3, 1863. You will
accordingly report, on or before the   20th day of June 1864   , at the place of
rendezvous, in   Lancaster Pa  , or be deemed a deserter, and be subject
to the penalty prescribed therefor by the Rules and Articles of War.

Francis X. Ziegler (1821-1884), my 2nd great grandfather, did not report but rather paid a fee of $300 on 17 June 1864 and was discharged from further liability under the draft.[1] Commutation “allowed a man whose name was chosen in the draft to pay a fee to avoid military service. It was designed to allow needed skilled laborers and religious pacifists to avoid military service, but it quickly became a legal way in which the wealthy could avoid the draft.”[2]

Although it is unclear why Francis Ziegler chose this option, there are several circumstances that could have prompted this decision. He was an engineer[3] on the railroad and perhaps was more valuable in that role. His younger half-brother, Charles Carroll Ziegler, had died of wounds sustained at the Battle of Gettysburg less than a year prior to Francis’ draft notice. Additionally, his age of 43 could have been a determining factor.

Though the reasons for not enlisting may never be known, it does not appear that this decision was a source of embarrassment to the family. The originals of these documents exist to this day.

[1] Original Form 39 and receipt for $300 in possession of the author.
[2] Terry L. Jones, Historical Dictionary of the Civil War, Volume 1 (Scarecrow Press, 2011), p. 322; digital images, Google Books ( : 26 June 2015).
[3] 1860 U.S. census, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Columbia, p. 124, dwelling 643, family 657, household of Francis Zigler; digital images online, ( : 28 June 2015), citing NARA publication M653, roll 1120.


  1. Kate,

    I want to let you know that your blog is listed in today's Fab Finds post at

    Have a wonderful weekend!