For jobs that seem undesirable, a plethora of incentives are used to get people to obtain and keep the job such as bonuses, promotions and luring pay. Yet, during the Civil War, a war that killed the most Americans out of any war, soldiers had low probability of receiving pay on time, living if promoted, dying if arrested, and getting caught if deserted, only 10% of the near two million soldiers who served in the Union Army deserted. In the situation were the normal mitigating factors of leaving the job are gone, Dora L. Costa, Matthew E. Kahn look for what did keep men in the fighting. Looking at individual characteristics, company characteristics, ideology and moral, the authors find that the homogenous companies were more successful in retaining soldiers. The authors posit that loyalty, created more so in groups of similar men, is the substitution for other types of incentives.
Costa and Kahn utilize military service records, the 1860 Census and voting results from the 1860 election to identify the data needed. From the military record come facts on 31,854 white men, enlisted in 303 Union Army companies. These men represent 1.3% of all whites in the Union Army and 8% of regiments. The authors look at desertions, AWOLs, arrests and promotions to a higher rank as a proxy for how much loyalty a soldier might have. The four man determinants of loyalty investigated are:
The authors conjecture that characteristics that increased the community feel of the company would increase loyalty. With such close quarters and a strong bond, men didnít want to be ostracized or feel guilty for not performing. If the men were going to make each other accountable for his actions, the feeling of guilt would increase with the community feel. Homogeneous companies lead to more social interaction and communication where pressure from fellow soldiers to do the right thing is felt more easily.
An individualís personal characteristics have a significant effect on loyalty or cowardice. The biggest indicator in desertion was age, with the young more likely to desert. In additions, farmers, those not from big cities, those with high property wealth in 1960, the literate, native-born and single men (not married) were less likely to desert. Married men were more likely to go AWOL. Birthplace had the biggest effect on arrests, though the Irish and British were two times more likely to be arrested than the native-borns. Social status, height and birthplace were indictors for a promotion with professionals, proprietors and artisans, the tall and native born receiving more promotions.
Company characteristics also had an important influence on loyalty. As mentioned before, homogeneous characteristics can help foster a stronger sense of community and thus accountability to oneís fellow soldiers. The largest gauges of desertion were occupational, age and birthplace diversity. Occupational diversity was also the biggest cause of arrests, with birthplace diversity leading to arrests as well. AWOLs increased with birthplace diversity. When looking specifically at family members in the same company, having family member decreased AWOLs. In addition, ethnicity has a large effect on loyalty. For example, Irish were less likely to be arrested there was a high percent of Irish in the company.
Although ideology and morale donít have as influential of an impact as individual and company characteristics, ideology and morale have some indicating properties. Beliefs of the soldiers predicted desertion, arrests and AWOL, but not promotions. Men who were from counties with high percentage of votes for Lincoln in 1860 and those who volunteered were less likely to desert or to be AWOL. Men assembled in 1861 were less likely to desert or be arrested. Those rallied in 1862 and 1863 were less likely to go AWOL than those in 1861.
Lastly, morale of the troops played a role in loyalty. The biggest desertions occurred with big defeats of the Unions Army. Usually defeats meant more dead bodies. High mortality rate in the company significantly reduced the time before a soldier would go AWOL. The percent of wins by the Union Army was the biggest indicator of arrests (when low percentage) and promotions (winning leads to shorter waiting time for promotion which incentivized solider to work harder).
When looking at cowardice as one measure, including desert, arrest and AWOL, certain patterns are repeated from individual measures. Birth place, occupational fragmentation, age diversity, enlisting in large city, enlisting at a late date, small pro-Lincoln vote, high mortality rate for group, low fraction of Union victories, being a non-farmer, Irish, British over native, younger, poorer, illiterate all led to higher rates of any form of cowardice (desertion, arrests, AWOLs).
ďIf everyone is jumping off a bridge, would you jump too?Ē Many of us have heard this hypothetical question from parents, teachers, anyone wanting to save young people from drugs and other pressures placed on us by some other party. We answer no, understanding that we should be our own persons and no follow others just to do what everyone else is doing. As we grow older, we understand peer pressure more, but realize it goes beyond smoking pot in some kidís basement or buying clothes that the ďcool kidsĒ wear. Peer pressure continues on, but under different names. No one calls the pressure to be liberal and politically correct at Brown peer pressure. No one warns professionals that they donít need to join the country club to survive in the business world. No one labels Union Army soldiers staying in the war because they donít want their buddies to shun them peer pressure. Yet, this article tells us that more homogeneous companies, and thus an assume thicker bond between soldiers resulting in more peer pressure keeps soldiers in the war.
Have our parents failed us? Are we subject to peer pressure for the rest of our lives? The answer is yes. We are social beings and do not want to be forced into exile for not going along with some of the norms. For these soldiers, desertion could result in shame, the loss of friends, the throwing of rotten vegetables, the downfall of oneís business or the move to another state all because people hate you. No one wants to be hated. Not even 30-year-old men with thick beards who drink beer by the pint-full while plowing their farm land with unruly oxen. On a simple level, this article confirms our basic needs to be accepted by those we admire or are in our community.
As I love history, this article was interesting in its insight into the mind of a Civil War soldier. The authors focused only on Union Army soldiers, but I would love to see similar tests for the Confederate Army. I would think the results would be similar in that homogeneous companies have fewer acts of cowardice, but one never knows. Perhaps Confederate soldiers hated the North so much they were willing to fight to the bitter end.
Going further into what differences might arise between Confederate and Union soldiers, I would like to see how black soldiers affected cowardice. I believe the Union army had all black companies; I am unsure about the Confederate Army. Although Union Army was for the abolishment of slavery, individual soldiers might only support the idea of equality and not actually fighting next to blacks. An encounter between soldiers of different races could have affected cowardice rates. The authors only include a small (1.3% of Union white soldiers) sample of white solders. Perhaps they should look into including more soldiers, distinguish race and see race changes anything. The Civil War was partially about race, so there could be some interesting results.