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[116] occasion to many desertions. In a word, desertions took place upon every conceivable pretext.

Frequent arrests were made, but in many instances the offenders were at first pardoned and returned to duty on promises of better conduct in future. Forgiveness was extended for different considerations. Many were extremely ignorant and had probably been misled. Others had wives and children suffering for food. Lastly, the regimental organizations made by me were not authorized by law, and under the circumstances I shrank from inflicting the death penalty. This leniency brought forth evil fruits; mercy was mistaken for timidity, and desertions increased. My command seemed likely to dwindle to nothing. The raising of additional troops was paralyzed. At length, Col. A. Nelson discovered and reported to me a widespread conspiracy to disband and go home. He ascertained that there was a regular organization for that purpose, and that a badge was adopted by the members for distinguishing each other. Within a few hours after this discovery a signal gun was fired in the camp of an Arkansas regiment, and sixty men, headed by two lieutenants, deliberately marched away, with their arms and accouterments. Orders to arrest them were not executed.

For the salvation of the country I had taken the responsibility to compel enrollment of troops. I was now resolved, for the same object, to compel them to remain. An order was issued convening a military commission of three officers. Four prisoners were ordered before it for trial. They were found guilty of double desertion, cutting the telegraph wire, and burning a tannery in government employ. Each confessed his guilt. I ordered them shot to death in presence of the troops, and saw the order executed. Five other men—four deserters and one citizen, guilty of inciting desertion, all of whom had been captured with arms in their hands fighting in the Federal ranks at the battle of L'Anguille—were tried, found guilty, and put to death. Two deserters were similarly dealt with at Fort Smith, and one at Batesville. These summary measures had the intended effect. The spirit of desertion was crushed. It did not again manifest itself while I commanded in the Trans-Mississippi district.

In consequence of the virtual abdication of the civil authorities, I believed it my duty, as the only man having

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Napoleon (Arkansas, United States) (1)
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