Historian says Carnegie was a draft-dodger

ANDREW Carnegie was a draft-dodger in the American Civil War, a new biography of the Scottish-born billionaire philanthropist claims.

The rail and steel magnate paid an Irish immigrant to fight for the Unionists in his place, according to Professor David Nasaw, an American historian.

He said Carnegie paid $850 - the equivalent of 150,000 today - to avoid being drafted into president Abraham Lincoln's Union army in 1864.

A Conscription Act had been passed by the US Congress the previous year to address a manpower shortage, but it allowed exemption on payment of a "commutation" fee. This led to the New York Draft Riots of 1863 - portrayed in the 2002 Martin Scorsese film, Gangs of New York, from the viewpoint of Irish immigrants.

Prof Nasaw, a history professor at City University of New York, whose book, Andrew Carnegie, is published in the US this week, said Carnegie had already amassed considerable wealth by the time he was conscripted at the age of 28, having earned nearly $50,000 the previous year, or 4.7 million today.

Carnegie, who emigrated from Dunfermline in 1848, had already proudly described himself as one of the first "casualties" of the war, after scarring his cheek while helping to disrupt opposition Yankee communications in 1861 - he was cut when he pulled a buried telegraph wire out of the ground during a visit to the front line with Thomas Scott, his boss at the Pennsylvania Railroad Company.

Carnegie, who had joined the firm as a telegraph operator eight years before, had already become rich from developing its move into sleeping cars. After Mr Scott was made assistant secretary of war in charge of military transportation, he appointed Carnegie as a superintendent of military railways and the Union government's telegraph lines.

Owen Dudley Edwards, a historian at Edinburgh University, said such "draft dodging" was very common among the rich.

However, he said the railroad company may have paid the commutation fee to retain Carnegie's skills - or even that his fearsome mother may have ordered him not to fight.

Mr Edwards said of Prof Nasaw's claim: "A great deal of this was happening at the time. The draft did not have any respect for whether you were an American citizen or not.

"But Carnegie was very bright, so the Pennsylvania Railroad might have paid for someone else to be drafted so they could keep hold of him. It is even possible that his mother Margaret, who he was still living with, might not have let him fight."

The bloody battle to end slavery

THE American Civil War (1861-65) was fought between the Union - the federal government - and 11 southern states which formed the breakaway Confederate States of America.

The Unionists, led by the Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, opposed the expansion of slavery, while the Confederates, under president Jefferson Davis, feared that abolishing slavery would see newly-freed slaves taking jobs.

The war featured a series of protracted, bloody battles, including at Antietam in Maryland and Gettysburg in Pennsylvania.

A total of 970,000 people - 3 per cent of the population - died in the war. They included 620,000 soldiers, two-thirds of whom died from disease.

The war ended after the Confederacy collapsed following General Robert Edward Lee's surrender at the Battle of Appomattox Court House in Virginia.

It led to the restoration of the Union and the end of slavery in the United States.