It was more important for a 18 year old Reading clerk living in 1861 to self preserve himself than risk his life in fighting for his country. The Civil War was known as one of the first “modern” wars because of all the new technology, but the guns were no where near what we have today. For guns, they no longer used bayonets because the new guns were more accurate and could shoot farther. The new bullets for these guns were called the Minié ball, which is oblong in shape. The bullet caused much more damage to humans than musket balls did. They would shatter bones, and doctors had no way of saving the soldier. The majority of people who were shot in extremities could not save those limbs, and had to get amputated. The amputation process was grotesque, and was simply the doctor sawing through the bone. Many died even before the amputation process, because chloroform used to anesthetize the patient either worked to well and suffocated them, or did not work enough so they felt too much pain. In the battle of Fredericksburg alone, there were 500 amputations. The technology for guns, and then treating gun wounds, was not advanced enough to protect a young man from Reading who had never experienced war or shooting a gun. He would be a sitting duck out there, and get shot easily. Worst case scenario is he would die, but the next best thing is him needing to get an amputation and never being able to be the same again.
Although both armies needed masses of people, it is still not worth it for a 18 year old clerk from Reading to join and fight in the war. At the beginning of the war (which is when he is questioning whether or not he should join the war), the tactic of having a bigger army was not known. The sides did not know that whoever had the bigger army would most likely win the battle. Also, since the clerk is living in the North, he most likely does not have as much to fight for than the South. The South is trying to save themselves and fight for freedom, while the North is simply trying to bring them back. The war being fought down South also means it is less of an obligation because he will not really be affected by the battles. Living in the North, the clerk would not be in direct line of fire because the battles are mainly in the South. It is more important for the clerk from Reading to preserve himself than fight in the war because the technology was not advanced enough, and the risk of injury was extremely high.