John Steele Gordon replies: I believe you are right that Morgan hired a substitute rather than serve in the Army during the Civil War. This was perfectly legal and, from Morgan’s short-term viewpoint, the eminently sensible thing to do. There was just too much money to be made on Wall Street for him to seriously consider doing anything else.
I would agree with you that the Civil War, like most others, was a poor man’s fight. But I do not think it was a rich man’s war. The Union—“the last, best hope of earth”—was preserved and the abomination of slavery was expunged from the land. All of us, rich and poor, who have lived in this country since are the beneficiaries of those two singular achievements of the men who fought in the Union Army.
As for those rich who paid to stay home and make money, I wonder if they did not, like the “gentlemen in England now abed” on the day Agincourt was fought, afterward hold their man-hoods a little cheap. Along with the money, I suspect Morgan and thousands of others paid a quiet, inward, lifelong price.