The Civil War Connections Blog

Then & Now: Cost of Recruiting Soldiers

The cost of recruiting soldiers in five different states during the Civil War was printed in an article in Scientific American in 1862. The Results were as follows:

The cost of raising soldiers under different State authorities varies very much.  In Wisconsin, 1,000 men cost nearly $100,000;  in Illinois, 1,000 men cost $42,000;  in New York, 1,000 men cost $27,385;  in Iowa, 1,000 men cost $22,000;  in Michigan, 1,000 men cost $21,000.


In the five states reported on in Scientific American the average cost to recruit soldiers for the Union Army was $42.48.  Using the GDP Deflator (courtesy of the average cost of recruiting these soldiers would be the equivalent to $649 in 2003 and $733 in 2007. Wisconsin had the highest cost per recruit totaling $100 which would be equal to $1530 in 2003 and $1720 in 2007.


To contrast that to more modern day recruiting costs in 2003 the Department of Defense had an annual budget of nearly $4 billion for recruiting purposes alone, and a budget of around $600 million for advertising.  The General Office of Accounting reported to Congress that the DOD spending about $1,900 per recruit in terms of advertising (GAO-03-1005).


The Christian Science Monitor reported in 2007:

In fiscal year 2006, the Army paid $18,327 in costs per accession, or enlistee. Although this year it expects to pay $16,834 per accession, it projects to have to pay $18,842 per recruit during fiscal 2008, which begins in October.


Using the $100 average price of recruit in Wisconsin alone (a modern rate of $1720) and comparing it to the recruitment cost in 2007 it would cost $15,114 more to recruit a soldier in the modern world.


Many factors, more than just inflation, impact the costs of recruits over time.  Certainly in the Civil War there was less competition from other occupations, and a higher percentage of young men willing to die for their country.  That being said there was also no risk of recruits being sent to other countries during the Civil War. While there may not have been many conscientious objectors in the Civil War there was certainly deserters so recruitment was definitely necessary as it is today.  Undoubtedly there are countless reasons why recruiting to today’s recruitment of soldiers is more expensive.  Comment below and get the discussion started on why you think the price is so much higher today.