Tuesday, July 30, 2013

July 30, 1863 (Friday): An Epidemic of Desertion

North Carolina Soldiers (learnnc.org)

July 30, 1863.
Honorable JAMES A. SEDDON,
Secretary of War:
     SIR: I regret to send you the inclosed report of the adjutant [com-mander] of Scales' North Carolina brigade (Pender's old brigade), one which has done good service and reflected great credit upon that State. The officers attribute these desertions to the influence of the newspaper writers. I hope that something may be done to counteract these bad influences. From what I can learn, it would be well, if possible, to picket the ferries and bridges on James River and over the Staunton and Dan Rivers, near the foot of the mountains, in Halifax, Pittsylvania, Patrick, and Henry, at the most prominent points. Many of these deserters are said to pass that way, and it would be a great benefit to the army to catch them, in order to make some examples as speedily as possible.
     I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

     R. E. LEE,


AUGUST 7, 1863.
     I find it difficult to command the needed guards. Efforts will be made to do so.

     J. A. S. [SEDDON,]


July 30, 1863.
Assistant Adjutant-General:
      MAJOR: I am pained this morning to inform you that last night brought another slur on our old brigade, and consequently on our State. Out of our small number present, about 50 deserted-42 from the Twenty-second, and 5 from the Thirty-eighth [North Carolina Regiments]. If any more, they have not been reported. It is that disgraceful "pease" sentiment spoken of by the Standard. Some-thing should be done; every effort should be made to overhaul them, and every one should be shot. Let us hope to check it now, for if this should pass by unnoticed, many more will very soon follow. I ask what to do.

     WM. L. J. LOWRANCE,
     Colonel, &c.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 27, Part 3, Page 1052.

It is clear soldiers on both sides had begun to lose the taste for war by 1863.   In the north newly arrived immigrants resisted the draft and in the south desertion was becoming more and more prevalent. 

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