Daily Archives: 8 February 2023

Confederate Deserters Widespread

From Bitterly Divided: The South’s Inner Civil War, by David Williams (New Press, 2010), Kindle pp. 109-110:

Deserters who made it home found plenty of neighbors willing to help them avoid further entanglements with the Confederacy. That was obvious even from distant Richmond. A disgusted head of the Bureau of Conscription complained that desertion had “in popular estimation, lost the stigma that justly pertains to it, and therefore the criminals are everywhere shielded by their families and by the sympathies of many communities.” A resident of Bibb County, Georgia, wrote that the area around Macon was “full of deserters and almost every man in the community will feed them and keep them from being arrested.” In Marshall County, Mississippi, a witness noted that “many deserters have been for months in this place without molestation.… Conscripts and deserters are daily seen on the streets of the town.” When deserters were arrested in Alabama’s Randolph County, an armed mob stormed the jail and set them free.

In Georgia, Augusta’s Chronicle and Sentinel warned in June 1863 that the South contained “a large number of persons who not only sympathize with the Federals, but who are doing all in their power to injure us in every possible manner.” Samuel Knight of southwest Georgia wrote to Governor Brown with a similar warning. After three months of “mingling freely with the common people,” Knight reported that “among that class generally there is a strong union feeling.”

From Russell County, Virginia, came word in March 1862 that there were “plenty of Union men here.” There were plenty in Arkansas, too. A former Confederate general declared in an 1863 address: “The loyalty to Jeff. Davis in Arkansas does not extend practically beyond the shadow of his army, while the hatred of him is as widespread as it is intense. The Union sentiment is manifesting itself on all sides and by every indication—in Union meetings—in desertions from the Confederate army—in taking the oath of allegiance [to the United States] unsolicited—in organizing for home defense, and enlisting in the federal army.”

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