"There is hope for you": The 166th Pennsylvania Drafted Militia and the 1862 Draft
With patriotic fervor dissipating in both northern and southern states in 1862, more men were needed if either side was going to win the war.
Drafts were instituted to meet the quotas set forth by the respective governments. The U.S. Government would eventually pass an archaic draft structure conducted by the states using the militia system on August 4, 1862.
Pennsylvania’s draft was set for October 16, 1862 after being delayed a few times and took place in every county except Philadelphia. “The prompt and patriotic response which the freemen of Pennsylvania made to the call of the Governor to defend the State against invasion.”
With the Maryland Campaign raging in the month of September, emergency units were raised to defend Pennsylvania in case of invasion. The next day, Pennsylvania saw a deadly conscription riot that resulted in the death of 5 men in Luzerne County. Later in the month, Schuylkill will also see resistance to the draft. You can read more about these coal region riots in Jake Wynn’s personal blog Wynning History
York County, Pennsylvania was one of the counties targeted heavily for the draft. York sits along the Mason-Dixon line between Gettysburg, in Adams County, to the west and Lancaster County directly to the east. During the 1860 Presidential election, York was one of twelve counties in the state that did not vote for Abraham Lincoln by a majority (those twelve counties voted for John Breckinridge).
Many of these counties that voted against Lincoln and by and large were not in favor of a war, will end up having a bulk of their men drafted in the fall of 1862. York was quiet in response to the draft compared to the northeastern coal region. Articles from other newspapers such as Harrisburg’s Patriot and Union urged men that no matter what happens during the draft process, respect the outcome and follow the law. In the following weeks after October 16th, the names of the men who were drawn were posted in the local newspaper organized by Township or Borough.
In the weeks following, preparations were made by locals to keep their communities running after a good majority of their men were drafted or were already serving as volunteers during the current conflict. In the November 4th edition of The York Gazette, prominent members of Manchester Township held a meeting at the Old Liverpool Church. The meeting was to create a committee to redistrict the Township and within each district a sub-committee would provide aid to destitute families, if any, during the drafted men’s terms. The families that would receive aid would be ones that were impacted directly by the draft.
After the draft and the names were pulled, the 166th Pennsylvania was formed under Colonel Andrew J. Fulton who was formerly Captain in Company C of the 87th Pennsylvania Volunteers, another regiment formed with a majority of York County men in 1861. Fulton, a Hopewell Township native, was a teacher and administrator of a school for young women in Stewartstown. He answered the call early in the war to protect the railroad with the 87th. In September of 1862, he volunteered to lead the 166th Pennsylvania. The regiment was officially formed on November 29th in York and on December 8th, the regiment was sent to Washington, then moved to Newport News by transport, and then to Suffolk by January 17th with fellow draftees from neighboring Adams County, the 165th Pennsylvania.  In the January 27th edition of The York Gazette, it mentioned that the 166th was in Suffolk and that “the health and general condition of the regiment, is said to be excellent.”
As time went by, as with every regiment, men leave from desertion, come down with sickness, and some succumb to their wounds. The newspapers reported on the men wounded or died in combat during their service:
Spirits were up in Co. B around the time of Easter:
The men of Co. B sent home $2,574 to their families right after the Easter holiday to help their families during trying times.
After Easter, the 166th was involved in the Siege of Suffolk, VA for over a month. Along with the 165th, this was the most intense fighting that any of the drafted militia men would see during their nine months. As the siege came to a close, the Union defenders held the city, but at a cost:
On July 21st, the regiment made their way through the borough of York from Washington D.C. to Harrisburg to be mustered out after their nine months service. The regiment entered service with 705 men and returned with 630 after men leaving the unit to illness, death, wounds, or ones who deserted.
The draft in Pennsylvania had high points and low points, but the stereotype of the drafted man does not apply to all men drafted in York County. Men that were conscripted into 166th Pennsylvania will go on to enlist, possibly under bounties, during the 1864 call for more volunteers. The drafted man that served in the 166th did not choose to fight and after the deserters cleared the ranks, the remaining men faced combat, harsh conditions, and long marches to preserve the Union after their nation called upon them to do their part.
 “Draft Postponed,” The York Gazette (York, Pennsylvania), September 30, 1862, 2.
 “Obedience to the Law,” The York Gazette (York, Pennsylvania), October 7, 1862, 2.
 “The Draft,” The York Gazette (York, Pennsylvania), October 28, 1862, 2.
 “Meeting in Manchester,” The York Gazette (York, Pennsylvania), November 4, 1862, 2.
 Scott Mingus, Civil War Voices from York County, PA. Remembering the Rebellion and the Gettysburg Campaign (Ortanna: Colecraft Industries, 2011), 123.
 Samuel Bates, History of the Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-1865, Harrisburg, 1868-1871.
 The York Gazette, (York, Pennsylvania), January 27, 1863, 2.