Confederate soldiers listed as absent without leave from their units during the Civil War have typically been described as traitors, motivated by Unionist sympathies and cowardice. However, this view of the Confederate deserter may be more of a myth perpetuated by the need for the appearance of Confederate solidarity than an accurate description of the Confederate deserter. Although no doubt there were individual cases of cowardice and Union sympathy, the bulk of Confederate deserters may have been motivated by other forces, including homesickness, and, most importantly, a conviction that they were needed back in their individual communities and homes to protect and provide for their families. Ironically, this motivation for desertion is strikingly akin to the motivation for the Confederacy's own desertion from the Union.
[...] The idea that there were Unionists in Jones County was such a problem for its citizens that in 1865, after the war ended, they petitioned to have the name of the county and county seat changed from Jones and Ellisville respectively to Davis County and Leesburg to distance them from the shame. In addition to the Confederate papers billing deserters as traitors to the cause, one significant piece of legislation entitled “Vance's Proclamation” reinforced the idea of the treachery of the deserter. [...]
[...] The Blue and the Gray: The Story of the Civil War as Told by Participants. New York: The Bobbs- Merrill Company, Inc Hotchkiss, Jedediah. Jedediah Hotchkiss to Sara A. Hotchkiss, March (Letter) Jedediah Hotchkiss Collection, Reel Manuscripts Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. http://etext.virginia.edy/etcbin/ot2www- valley?specifile=/web/data/civilwar/valley.html (Accessed March 17th 2004) Longstreet, James. Manassas to Appomattox: Memoirs of the Civil War in America. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Company Randall, James Garfield and David Donald, The Civil War and Reconstruction. Little Brown & Company http://www.civilwarhome.com/desertion.htm (Accessed April 7th, 2004) Vance, Z.B. [...]
[...] Marrs, Desertion and Loyalty in the South Carolina Infantry, 1861-1865, 57-58 James Garfield Randall and David Donald, The Civil War and Reconstruction, (Little Brown & Company, 1973) http://www.civilwarhome.com/desertion.htm, (April 7th, 2004) Yearns and Barrett, Ed., North Carolina Civil War Documentary as quoted in Faust, Drew Gilpin, “Alters of Sacrifice: The Narratives of (Journal of American History, Vol No.4, 1990) 1224 Drew Gilpin Faust, “Alters of Sacrifice: Confederate Women and the Narratives of 1224 J. W. Moore, “Mary Cooper, Dear Edward” History of North Carolina (Raleigh: Alfred Williams and Co,1890) [...]
[...] Out of the 103,400 enlisted men and 1,028 officers that were listed as deserting from the Confederate army over the course of the war returned to duty. Although this number includes deserters who were caught and forcibly returned, many also returned of their own accord. A good example of this is in the 20th South Carolina regiment. In the late spring of of the 538 deserters returned to the army. There is also the possibility that men returning to the army after being absent without leave may have returned to a different unit than the one they left, thus never losing their deserter status. [...]
[...] She wrote, hope, when you get exchanged, you will think, the time past has sufficed for public service, and they your own family require yr (sic) protection and help Many men in the field received heart-wrenching correspondence like the one above from their families at home. However, one of the most poignant requests from home is the famous “Dear Edward” letter: My Dear Edward have been always 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. [...]
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