Year
1863

Congress passes Civil War conscription act

During the Civil War, the U.S. Congress passes a conscription act that produces the first wartime draft of U.S. citizens in American history. The act called for registration of all males between the ages of 20 and 45, including aliens with the intention of becoming citizens, by April 1. Exemptions from the draft could be bought for $300 or by finding a substitute draftee. This clause led to bloody draft riots in New York City, where protesters were outraged that exemptions were effectively granted only to the wealthiest U.S. citizens.

Although the Civil War saw the first compulsory conscription of U.S. citizens for wartime service, a 1792 act by Congress required that all able-bodied male citizens purchase a gun and join their local state militia. There was no penalty for noncompliance with this act. Congress also passed a conscription act during the War of 1812, but the war ended before it was enacted. During the Civil War, the government of the Confederate States of America also enacted a compulsory military draft. The U.S. enacted a military draft again during World War I, in 1940 to make the U.S. ready for its involvement in World War II, and during the Korean War. The last U.S. military draft occurred during the Vietnam War.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Police brutality caught on video

At 12:45 a.m. on March 3, 1991, robbery parolee Rodney G. King stops his car after leading police on a nearly 8-mile pursuit through the streets of Los Angeles, California. The chase began after King, who was intoxicated, was caught speeding on a freeway by a California Highway ...read more

George Bizet’s Carmen premieres in Paris

Today, it is one of the most popular operas in the standard repertoire, but Georges Bizet’s Carmen faced many obstacles in even reaching the stage, let alone becoming a success. With a libretto based on a story that many considered too salacious for public performance, Carmen was ...read more

Russia makes a separate peace

Bolshevik Russia signs the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with the Central Powers, abandoning the Allied war effort and granting independence to its Polish and Baltic territories, the Ukraine, and Finland.Russia’s disastrous involvement in World War I was a primary factor that led to ...read more

Helen Keller meets her miracle worker

On this day in 1887, Anne Sullivan begins teaching six-year-old Helen Keller, who lost her sight and hearing after a severe illness at the age of 19 months. Under Sullivan’s tutelage, including her pioneering “touch teaching” techniques, the previously uncontrollable Keller ...read more

Finland declares war on Germany

On this day, Finland, under increasing pressure from both the United States and the Soviet Union, finally declares war on its former partner, Germany.After the German invasion of Poland, the USSR, wanting to protect Leningrad more than ever from encroachment by the West—even its ...read more

Ho Chi Minh Trail

The Ho Chi Minh Trail was a military supply route running from North Vietnam through Laos and Cambodia to South Vietnam. The route sent weapons, manpower, ammunition and other supplies from communist-led North Vietnam to their supporters in South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. ...read more

U.S. 5th Special Forces Group withdraws

The U.S. Army’s 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) departs South Vietnam. The Special Forces were formed to organize and train guerrilla bands behind enemy lines. President John F. Kennedy, a strong believer in the potential of the Special Forces in counterinsurgency operations, ...read more

First indoor game of ice hockey

On March 3, 1875, indoor ice hockey makes its public debut in Montreal, Quebec. After weeks of training at the Victoria Skating Rink with his friends, Montreal resident James Creighton advertised in the March 3 edition of the Montreal Gazette that “A game of hockey will be played ...read more

United States Geological Survey created

Congress establishes the United States Geological Survey, an organization that played a pivotal role in the exploration and development of the West.Although the rough geographical outlines of much of the American West were known by 1879, the government still had astonishingly ...read more

James Merrill is born

Pulitzer Prize-winning poet James Merrill is born in New York . Merrill was the son of financier Charles Merrill, who founded the brokerage Merrill-Lynch. Merrill served as an Army infantryman during World War II and graduated from Amherst College in 1947. He became one of the ...read more

Birth of a Nation opens in New York

Director D.W. Griffith’s controversial Civil War epic The Birth of a Nation opens in New York City on March 3, 1915, a few weeks after its West Coast premiere in Los Angeles. A 40-piece orchestra accompanied the silent film. The movie, at 2 hours and 40 minutes, was unusually ...read more

Faulty door dooms plane

A DC-10 jet crashes into a forest outside of Paris, France, killing all 346 people on board, on this day in 1974. The poor design of the plane, as well as negligent maintenance, contributed to the disaster. Nearly two years earlier, on June 6, 1972, an American Airlines DC-10 ...read more