Grafted into the Army

Words & Music by Henry Clay Work

“I thought they would spare a lone widder’s heir, but they grafted him into the army!”

Noah Brooks

The Confederacy resorted to a compulsory military draft in 1862, but Lincoln—always in a perilous political situation in the North—held off until 1863. By then, the war had dragged on for two years and volunteers had become a lot more scarce. The draft was intended to encourage enlistments, rather than to drag men into the army who didn’t want to be there.

But if it happened during the Civil War, someone in the North was sure to find a way to make money off it, and the draft was no exception. If an able-bodied draftee didn’t wish to serve and could afford the money, he could avoid serving by paying $300 so that a substitute could be hired to take his place. This policy led to a lively new business in northern cities, brokers to match men who wanted out of the draft with those who found the bounty they could receive too enticing to resist.

In New York City–anti-Lincoln and even more anti-draft–popular music hall performers like Tony Pastor skewered the administration in parodies like “We Are Coming, Father Abra’m, Three Hundred Dollars More.”

In “Grafted Into the Army,” humor cloaks the anger felt by the Northern poor, who took up the cry, “The rich man’s war, the poor man’s fight!” as they saw wealthier men buy their way out of the draft. The dam of resentment burst with the New York Draft Riots, the deadliest in U.S. history.

Lyrics

Our Jimmy has gone for to live in a tent–
They have grafted him into the army!
He finally puckered up courage and went,
When they grafted him into the army.
I told them the child was too young, alas!
At the captain’s forequarters, they said he would pass!
They’d train him up well in the infantry class–
So they grafted him into the army.

Oh, Jimmy, farewell! Your brothers fell
Way down in Alabarmy;
I thought they would spare a lone widder’s heir,
But they grafted him into the army!

Now in my provisions I see him revealed–
They have grafted him into the army;
A picket beside the contented field,
They have grafted him into the army.
He looks kinder sickish, begins to cry–
A big volunteer standing right in his eye!
Oh! what if the ducky should up and die
Now they’ve grafted him into the army!

Oh, Jimmy, farewell! Your brothers fell
Way down in Alabarmy;
I thought they would spare a lone widder’s heir,
But they grafted him into the army!

Song Excerpt

Listen to “Grafted into the Army” performed by Gary Marachek, Keith Lee Grant and Don Burroughs of the original New York cast.

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