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Guide to the John A. Coke Papers
(Records of the Confederate army enrolling office for the Third Congressional District of Virginia)
1861-1865
 MS670.6

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
Phone: (212) 873-3400


© 2011 New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Susan Kriete. Machine readable finding aid created by Susan Kriete.

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on April 16, 2014
Description is in English

Descriptive Summary

 
Creator: Coke, John Archer, 1842-1920
Title: John A. Coke Papers
(Records of the Confederate army enrolling office for the Third Congressional District of Virginia)
Dates: 1861-1865
Abstract: This collection contains correspondence and official documents relating to John A. Coke's work as the enrolling officer for the Confederate army in the Third Congressional District of Virginia, headquartered in Richmond, Virginia. It includes papers relating to enrollment, conscription, exemptions, substitutes, detail assignments, and other documents concerning the availability of men for service in the Confederate army. The materials in this collection have been digitized and are available online to on-site researchers and to users affiliated with subscribing institutions via EBSCOhost.
Quantity: 1.6 Linear feet (4 boxes)
Location note: Manuscript cage
Call Phrase: MS670.6

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Biographical/Historical note

John Archer Coke was born in Williamsburg, Virginia, on July 14, 1842. In the years preceding the Civil War, he attended William and Mary College, graduating in 1860. In March, 1861, he enlisted in the Lee Artillery, an organization formed at Williamsburg, under Captain W.R. Garrett. Initially elected second lieutenant of the unit, Coke was subsequently promoted to captain. In 1862, Captain Coke was re-assigned to duty as enrolling officer for the Third Congressional District of Virginia, with headquarters at Richmond, under command of Col. John C. Shields, commander of the Conscript Department of Virginia (later replaced by General J.L. Kemper).

As enrolling officer, Coke was charged with enforcing the conscription law passed by the Confederate Congress on April 16, 1862. The first conscription law in American history (preceding the Union draft by nearly a year), the Confederate act drafted all white males between 18 and 35 for a three-year term of service. In September 1862, as southern casualties mounted, the conscription age was raised to 45, and by February 1864, the limits were 17 and 50.

Exemptions were provided for certain occupations considered to be vital to the war effort, such as railroad workers, miners, telegraph operators, and druggists. More controversially, the "Twenty-Negro law" allowed the owner or overseer of a plantation with 20 or more slaves to avoid army service. Wealthy southerners were also permitted to hire substitutes to take their place in the army. These exemptions were widely resented as belonging to "a rich man's war and a poor man's fight," and were both eventually abolished in the face of increasing manpower shortages.

Coke remained at his position until Richmond was evacuated, at which point he accompanied General Kemper, with a party of other officers, to Halifax County. Hearing of Lee's surrender, the party attempted to join General Johnston's army. When Johnston also surrendered, Coke returned to Danville, Virginia, and gave his parole to the Federal authorities.

Returning home to Williamsburg, Coke studied law and in September, 1865, opened a law practice in Richmond. In 1867, he married Emma Overbey, with whom he had several children. He died January 27, 1920.

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Scope and Contents

This collection consists of correspondence and official papers relating to Captain John Archer Coke's work as enrolling officer for the Confederate army in the Third Congressional District of Virginia. The papers concern enrollment, exemptions, substitutes, work details, partially disabled soldiers on limited service, senior reserves, deserters and other absentees from active units, conscription policies, and the availability of men for the Confederate army from Richmond, Hanover, Charles City, Henrico, Charles City, James City, York, and New Kent Counties.

Documents include individual applications for exemptions, correspondence, general and special orders issued and received, circulars and regulations, conscription reports and lists from each county, and papers relating to substitutes, deserters, manpower for essential industry, senior reserves, and details for men on limited service. Of particular interest are conscription reports and detail assignments for "free negroes." There are also documents relating to the Mounted Guards (employed by the conscription office to execute the conscription law) and to the internal operations of the conscription office.

The collection has been arranged into series by county. Series I, Richmond County/District-wide Records, includes enrollment records from Richmond County (headquarters for the Third Congressional District), as well as documents relating to District-wide enrollment policies and procedures. Enrollment records from the other counties of the Third Congressional District (Hanover, Charles City, Henrico, Charles City, James City, York, and New Kent) are found in Series II and III. Within each series, documents have been organized by type.

The materials in this collection have been digitized and are available online to on-site researchers and to users affiliated with subscribing institutions via EBSCOhost.

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Access Points

Subject Topics

  • Confederate States of America. Army.

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Administrative Information

Conditions governing access

Open to qualified researchers.

Portions of the collection that have been microfilmed will be brought to the researcher in that format and can be made available by Interlibrary loan. Researchers on site may print out unlimited copies from microfilm reader-printer machines at per-exposure rates. See guidelines in Reading Room for details.

Photocopying undertaken by staff only. Limited to twenty exposures of stable, unbound material per day. (Researchers may not accrue unused copy amounts from previous days.)

Items that include presidential signatures will be presented to researchers in duplicate form.

Use Restrictions

Permission to quote from this collection in a publication must be requested and granted in writing. Send permission requests, citing the name of the collection from which you wish to quote, to

Manuscripts Curator
The New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024

The copyright law of the United States governs the making of photocopies and protects unpublished materials as well as published materials. Unpublished materials created before January 1, 1978 cannot be quoted in publication without permission of the copyright holder.

Preferred Citation

This collection should be cited as the John A. Coke Papers, MS 670.6, The New-York Historical Society.

Sources

Evans, Clement A. (1899). Confederate Military History; a library of Confederate states history. Atlanta, Ga: Confederate Pub. Co.

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Container List

Series I: Richmond County/District-wide Records

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 1 Inspection Office Reports
1863 March, 1863 December, undated
Box: 1 Folder : 2 Correspondence and receipts
1862 October - 1864 December, undated
Box: OS Small Folder : Coke, John A. Endorsement book
1864 August - 1865 April
Box: 1 Folder : 3 Military orders
1862 March - 1865 July
Box: 1 Folder : 4 Special orders of Enrolling Office
1864 April 12 - 1864 October 28
Box: 1 Folder : 5 Regulations and circulars
1861 October 20, 1863 March - 1864 September
Box: OS Small Folder : Coke, John A. Book recording circulars
Box: 1 Folder : 6 Lists and accounts of Mounted Conscription Guards and others serving in the conscription office
1863 August - 1864 December, undated
Box: 1 Folder : 7 Muster rolls of Mounted Conscription Guard and other enrollment office personnel
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 8 Monthly reports -- Nominal (lists of conscripts, deserters, etc.)
1863 March - 1864 October, undated
Box: 2 Folder : 1 Statistical reports
1863 November - 1865 January, undated
Box: 2 Folder : 2 Daily enrollment lists
1862 December - 1864 October
Box: 2 Folder : 3 Enrollment and descriptive lists of reservists
1864 April
Box: 2 Folder : 4 Lists of men in the 19th and 179th Regiments, Virginia Militia
Undated
Box: 2 Folder : 5 Lists of details and exemptions
1861 - 1863 October, undated
Box: OS Small Folder : Coke, John A. List of details and exemptions December, 1862
1862 December
Box: 2 Folder : 6 Detail orders and conscription reports of free African Americans
1864 April - 1864 October, undated
Box: 2 Folder : 7 Reports of deserters
1862 October - 1863 September
Box: 3 Folder : 1 Register of all men not serving with the Army
1864 September
Box: 3 Folder : 2 Book recording detail assignments and exemptions
1862 December - 1863 November
Box: 3 Folder : 3 Book recording reports of absentees and deserters
1864 May - 1864 October
Box: 3 Folder : 4 Requests for exemption and other documents relating to individual conscription status
1861 September - 1865 March, undated
Box: 3 Folder : 5 Exemption certificates
1862 December - 1864 August
Box: 3 Folder : 5 Printed forms (blank)

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Series II: Hanover County Records

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 4 Folder : 1 Nominal and statistical reports
1863 May - 1865 January, undated
Box: 4 Folder : 2 Requests for exemption and other documents related to individual conscription status
1862 August - 1864 September, undated
Box: 4 Folder : 3 Lists and accounts of Mounted Conscription Guards
1864 May, 1865 February, undated

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Series III: Records of other counties within the Third Congressional District

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 4 Folder : 4 Charles City County Records
1863 September - 1865 January, undated
Box: 4 Folder : 5 Henrico County Records
1863 March - 1865 February, undated
Box: 4 Folder : 6 James City and York County Records
1860 December - 1863 July
Box: 4 Folder : 7 New Kent County Records
1863 January - 1865 January, undated

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