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 Posted: Tue Sep 13th, 2005 10:35 pm
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amhistoryguy
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In 1928, Ella Lonn did one of the most often cited studies of desertion during the Civil War, "Desertion During the Civil War.
Her figures for total desertions, adjusted for those absent for other reasons, were;

Union Army - 197,247
Confederate Army - 103,400 enlisted men, 1,028 officers.

North Carolina had 23,694 Confederate desertions, 20 % of all North Carolina men who had enlisted, later deserted.

South Carolina had only 3,597 Confederate desertions.

Virginia had 12,071 enlisted and 84 officers desert the Confederate ranks.

New York had 44,913 men desert the Union ranks while Pennsylvania had 24,050 men depart on their own.

Keep in mind that a number of men may have been in the "business" of enlisting for bounty repeatedly, accounting for more than one desertion. Some men were deserters from units in both armies.

Also important to note, is that often men who were reported as deserters, were in reality, lost in paperwork, in hospitals, dead, missing, or prisoners. Several sources suggest that about 25 % of the total number of men reported as deserters may have been absent for another legitimate reason.

There were 33,000 Union soldiers who deserted while in Union hospitals.

Of the first 42,000 Union men who were court martialed during the Civil War, 14,146 were for desertion.

At the end of the war, Provost Marshal General James Fry estimated that Union desertions were at 268,530. He stated that this figure also included those absent for other causes such as sickness or overstaying furloughs. He reported that the actual number of Union men who deserted to avoid service was 201,397.
From monthly must reports, commanders reported a total of 278,644 men as deserters. Reports indicate that between April 1863 and April 1865, there were 154,833 desertions reported from Union ranks. Lonn's study showed that about 25 % of these men were NOT deserters, but absent for another reason. This is in agreement with Frys's estimates as well. With this adjustment it appears that during the last two years of the war 116,125 men deserted the Union Army.

In the 16 month period of April 1863 to July 1864, 61,465 desertions took place. An average of 2,842 men per month during this time period. After the third Federal draft call in July of 1864, over the next nine months, 54,660 men deliberately left their units without intending to return. This is an average of 6,073 men per month for that period. During the last nine months of the war, Union desertion rates increased over 63 %.

Union records indicate 147 executions for desertion, but this number is quite probably incomplete. Robert Alotta's "Civil War Justice" provides as complete a record of executions as is possible.
Thomas Lowery's "Don't Shoot That Boy," provides a very thorough examination of desertion cases. A number of desertion cases were reviewed by Abraham Lincoln and the sentence of death was upheld. Others had their sentence reduced, and still others were pardoned. Lowry shows Lincoln to have been very hard on deserters early in the war, and more apt to pardon them later in the war. In cases where family members petitioned Lincoln, he almost always intervened.

Lowery's study shows a marked increase in desertion during times in garrison, especially during the winter, and a decrease during months of campaigning. Very few men actually deserted during battle, "in the face of the enemy." This seems to have held true in the Confederate ranks as well.

As you might expect, statistics for the Confederate soldier are very sketchy. The Confederate War Department reported that by June, 1863, there were 136,000 men absent without leave. Davis Stated in September of 1864, that two thirds of the Confederate army was absent without leave. Early in 1865, Gen. John S. Preston, the superintendent of the Confederate Bureau of Conscription, said, "so common is the crime, it has in popular estimation lost the stigma which justly pertains to it, and deserters everywhere are shielded by their families and by the sympathies of many communities."

Kenneth Radley's book, "Rebel Watchdog, The Confederate States Army Provost Guard," provides some interesting insights. "Well meaning but misguided leniency to deserters further exacerbated the problem and proved no more effective than the many appeals to deserters to rejoin the colors."
Radley relates that for April, 1863, 360,000 Confederates were present for duty out of an estimated 498,000. Radley writes, "...these figures are the apogee of Confederate military strength. After that, the numbers of men present fell rapidly and the rate of desertion rose steeply." Also mentioned, is the increasing problem of bands of these deserters resisting any effort to return them to the army. "By Christmas of 1863, the problem was no longer single deserters but squads, and even whole companies of men who broke away from the army."
By April, 1865, of an enrollment of 359,000 men, only 120,000 were actually present for duty with the Confederate army.

Men, both North and South, were just plain tired of killing each other. It had little to do with courage or loyalty, and often was a response to long neglected family needs. "One half of the desertions from the Southern Army is caused by the letters they recieve," reported one soldier's letter home.

Edward Cooper, Private, ANV, started for home shortly after getting this letter from home. He was picked up by the Confederate Provost.

"My Dear Edward, I have always been proud of you, and since your connection with the Confederate Army, I have been prouder of you than ever before. I would not have you do anything wrong for the world, but, before God, Edward, unless you come home, we must die. Last night I was aroused by little Eddie's crying, I called and said 'What is the matter Eddie?' And he said, 'Oh momma, I am so hungry.' And Lucy, Edward, your darling Lucy, she never complains, but she is growing thinner and thinner every day. And, before God, Edward, unless you come home, we must die. - Your Mary"

Edward Cooper was sentenced to death for his desertion, only the personal intervention of Robert E. Lee saved him.

IMO, it is certainly possible to sympathize with men in the situation of an Edward Cooper, and to agree with Lee's move to save him. But, I think it is also important to make note of what this says about the men, on both sides, who stayed with their units under these hardships.

Regards, Dave Gorski



 Posted: Wed Sep 14th, 2005 08:20 pm
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MAubrecht
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Excellent study! And I agree with your closing statement.

Thanks for sharing some much welcomed information on such a rarely discussed aspect of the War Between the States.



 Posted: Thu Sep 15th, 2005 07:25 pm
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Boots
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thank you for posting this ~ gives me a lot to think about. some really interesting (and some apocryphal) stories about deserters and pardons abound!

: )



 Posted: Wed Dec 2nd, 2009 12:44 pm
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DanWalker
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What on earth do you think it says about the men who stayed fighting for the CSA?

 

It says the Nazi like tactic of killing stragglers worked to keep SOME soldiers fighting.

Davis himself said 2/3 of the CSA soldiers were gone without leave.  That's what Davis said.

Desertions were the reason the CSA lost -- eventually there simply was no effective troops.  The ones that were there, would not fight.

Even those that remained, wouldnt fight, said Johnston and Beauregard, to Davis

Desertions by the CSA was the biggest single aspect of the war.  You can't admit a single basic truth about this war - and you sure aren't going to start by admitting massive desertions from 1863 on.



 Posted: Wed Dec 2nd, 2009 03:36 pm
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Old Blu
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DanWalker wrote: What on earth do you think it says about the men who stayed fighting for the CSA?

 

It says the Nazi like tactic of killing stragglers worked to keep SOME soldiers fighting.

Davis himself said 2/3 of the CSA soldiers were gone without leave.  That's what Davis said.

Desertions were the reason the CSA lost -- eventually there simply was no effective troops.  The ones that were there, would not fight.

Even those that remained, wouldnt fight, said Johnston and Beauregard, to Davis

Desertions by the CSA was the biggest single aspect of the war.  You can't admit a single basic truth about this war - and you sure aren't going to start by admitting massive desertions from 1863 on.
I wonder if you could share where you got your information?

Thanks,

Old Blu.

Last edited on Wed Dec 2nd, 2009 03:38 pm by Old Blu



 Posted: Wed Dec 2nd, 2009 04:23 pm
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19bama46
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Yea,

I'd be real interested to find this out as well..

oh, and some of us take offense when the CSA and their armies are compared with Nazis.... might want to keep that in mind

 

Ed

 



 Posted: Wed Dec 2nd, 2009 10:57 pm
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Johan Steele
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Ditto that bama.



 Posted: Wed Dec 2nd, 2009 11:26 pm
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ole
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Before we stand him against the stake, let's look at that post again. Be charitable this time around.

Ole



 Posted: Wed Dec 2nd, 2009 11:53 pm
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Old Blu
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I would like to know where he got all that info from.



 Posted: Fri Dec 4th, 2009 12:44 am
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Podad
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Very interesting reading......... thanks for posting )(90



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 Posted: Tue Dec 8th, 2009 09:23 am
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Unionblue
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DanWalker wrote:
It says the Nazi like tactic of killing stragglers worked to keep SOME soldiers fighting.



DanWalker,

Please provide any information where Confederate soldiers, Provost Marshals, or any other Confederate unit was assigned the task of killing Confederate army stragglers.

Until you can do so, your comment above means pretty much nothing to me.

Sincerely,

Unionblue



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 Posted: Fri Dec 11th, 2009 01:22 pm
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HankC
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My own take is that desertion was not more of a problem in the south than the north until the south's cause was beyond hope...


HankC



 Posted: Tue Dec 15th, 2009 08:10 pm
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Podad
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HankC wrote: My own take is that desertion was not more of a problem in the south than the north until the south's cause was beyond hope...


HankC

Personal and family pride were probably the main reason many more didnt give up and go home.
 Since they were fighting alongside the men they grew up with and others who knew them personally family pride was a big factor IMO.



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 Posted: Wed Dec 16th, 2009 09:59 am
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Unionblue
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Podad,

I think family had a lot to do with Confederate desertions near the end of the war, as concern and pleas from those families certainly contributed to the comment by Lee and others in the Confederate government that 2/3rds of the ANV was absent without leave.

Sincerely,

Unionblue



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 Posted: Wed Dec 16th, 2009 10:30 am
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Old Blu
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Here is a website that gives some information.

http://www.civilwarhome.com/desertion2.htm



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