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 Posted: Mon Jan 28th, 2008 01:54 pm
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Michael C. Hardy
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Anyone know which regiment, North or South, had the most deserters?

Thanks,

Michael

http://www.michaelchardy.com



 Posted: Mon Jan 28th, 2008 05:29 pm
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ole
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Quite possibly a North Carolina regiment simply because NC made it easy. But that's a guess. There could easily have been many others.

Just noticed, you're Tar Heel. My understanding is that the Legislature and citizens of North Carolina fell just short of encouraging the boys to come home and head for the hills. Not at first, of course, and nothing unpatriotic about it, but if the state hadn't been between Virginia and South Carolina, it would have just as soon stayed out of war.

This is my understanding. I'd welcome hearing information that would add to or change it.

ole



 Posted: Mon Jan 28th, 2008 10:37 pm
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Michael C. Hardy
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Ole:

Thanks for the note. I could easily argue that the judicial system made desertion easier for North Carolina soldiers. State Supreme Court chief justice Richmond Pearson ruled against the legality of the Conscription Act, leading many conscripts to believe that once they reached North Carolina, the legal authorities would protect them from the Confederate government. Pearson routinely issued writs of habeas corpus that secured the release of both deserters and conscripts. Pearson argued that the responsibly of the arrest of deserters fell upon the Confederate government, and forbade the governor from using the state militia. The governor gained permission from the legislature in 1863 to use the militia to arrest Confederate deserters. The militia was disbanded soon thereafter, and a “Guard for Home Defense” was created and used by the governor for the same purpose.

Did North Carolina regiments have problems with deserters? Sure. The western part of the state was plagued with Unionists from East Tennessee throughout the war. Portions of the eastern part of the state were under Federal occupation from February/March 1862 until the end of the war. Men were concerned for their families.

The number of deserters from North Carolina was between 14,000 and 23,000. The number of actual soldiers from the state ranges from 126,000 to 171,000. That gives you a 8 to 18 percent desertion rate.

The whole conscription/desertion problem in North Carolina can be quite tedious at times, especially if you look at the letters between Governor Vance and President Davis regarding Pearson’s ruling.



 Posted: Tue Jan 29th, 2008 04:36 am
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ole
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Johan mentioned on another board that one entire regiment (35th Tennessee) vanished after the Hatchie River engagement (presumably the one also called Davis Bridge). It would be hard to come up with a greater total per regiment than all.

And 8 to 18 percent doesn't sound like that much when you consider that the pre-war regulars got up to 32 percent at one time or another.

I had understood that North Carolina made it easier, but I didn't have those details. Thanks.

ole



 Posted: Tue Jan 29th, 2008 04:41 am
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kj3553
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I did a quick look online to see if any kind of list like this was posted. There may be, but I didn't find it. Of course, I didn't spend hours searching, either. Anyway...I did find this interesting tid-bit regarding desertions in an article on Wikipedia:

"Of all the ethnic groups in the Union Army, the Irish had the highest number of desertions per capita by far; by some accounts they deserted at a rate 30 times higher than Native-born Americans." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Union_Army)



 Posted: Tue Jan 29th, 2008 08:15 pm
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ole
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It may be, kj, that many of the Irish volunteers did so for a paycheck. When the job turned out to be not worth the money, many went back to their families.

Pure speculation.

ole



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