Saturday, January 5, 2013

January 6, 1863 (Tuesday): Wither the University of Virginia

Professor Socrates Maupin (

January 3, 1863.
Secretary of War:
    SIR: We are advised by the notice of the enrolling officer of the Seventh Congressional District that the enrollment for military service of all persons between the ages of eighteen and forty will be enforced for the county of Albemarle between the 8th and 13th of the present month. We are also advised that students over eighteen years of age are subjects of conscription.
    The faculty of the university, impressed with the conviction that the withdrawal of students from the institution as conscripts would seriously affect its interests, and perhaps jeopardizewithout adding appreciably to the military strength of the Confederacy, have requested me to address you on the subject and ask your favorable interposition in such manner as may appear to you expedient and consistent with your sense of duty.
    I am too sensible of the value of your time to the public service to trouble you with a recital of the considerations which, in the opinion of the Board of Victors as well as the faculty, render it of the last importance to the future prospects of the institution that its operations should be continued without interruption during the war. Among these considerations I may merely cite the danger of the permanent loss of the annuity if operations are once suspended. The authorities are committed with, I believe, entire unanimity to the policy of continuance, notwithstanding the discouraging fact that the number of students has been reduced from upward of 600 in 1861 to less than 40 in 1863. The conscription falling upon the small number now attending the lectures will almost certainly inflict a blow which will prostrate the institution and close its doors during the war. I have to-day examined the matriculation book, and find the whole number of students now subjects to conscription, excluding three Marylanders, amounts to eighteen. Some of these have come of military age since they entered the university in October, and a majority have been in military service at some time during the war, but have been discharged for various causes. If the conscription is enforced in regard to students, I do not think that more than ten conscripts, if so many, can be added to he Army from the university, but the process of enrollment and subsequent proceedings will so interrupt the routine of duties at the university as to render the remainder of the session of little profit to those who may not be withdrawn, if it should not lead to an absolute suspension of the operations of the institution. I trust, therefore, you may deem it expedient, under the discretionary power vested in the President by the act of the 16th April, 1862, to exempt 'such other persons as he shall be satisfied, on account of justice, equity, or necessity, ought to be exempted," which power, it is presumed, is practically exercised through the Secretary of War, to instruct the enrolling officer, Colonel Alex. Taliaferro, for the Seventh Congressional District, not to include the students of the university in the enrollment for his district; or, if the enrollment is indispensable, perhaps you might deem it expedient to grant all the students taken as conscripts furloughs until the close of the present session- 4th of July-when they might be required to report for duty. May I ask you the favor to make known to me at an early day any measure of relief you may be pleased to grant, that the uneasiness and uncertainly in prospect of the conscription may be removed.
    With the highest, respect,

   Chairman of the Faculty.

Series IV., Vol. 2, Part 1, Pages 297-298.

The University of Virginia started the war as the second largest university in America (behind Harvard) with 645 students.  The war took a severe toll on the student body, with many students entering the 19th Virginia Regiment from Charlottesville.  Throughout the war the student body would consist mainly of a small group of veterans and others who were unfit for service.

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