or exasperation at continued and unreasonable exactions, as the victim believed.
The penalty for sleeping at one's post, that is, when it was a post of danger, was death; but whether this penalty was ever enforced in our Army I am unable to state.
There is a very touching story of a young soldier who was pardoned by President Lincoln
for this offence, through the pitiful intercession of the young man's mother.
Whether it was a chapter from real life, I am in doubt.
I certainly never heard of a sentinel being visited with this extreme penalty for this offence.
The penalty attaching to desertion is death by shooting, and this was no uncommon sight in the army; but it did not seem to stay the tide of desertion in the least.
I have seen it stated that there was no time in the history of the Army of the Potomac, after its organization by McClellan
, when it reported less than one-fourth its full membership as absent without leave.
The general reader will perhaps be interested in the description of the first execution of a deserter that I ever witnessed.
It took place about the middle of October, 1863.
I was then a member of Sickles
' Third Corps, and my company was attached for the time being to General Birney
's First Division, then covering Fairfax Station, on the extreme left of the army.
The guilty party was a member of a Pennsylvania regiment.
He had deserted more than once, and was also charged with giving information, to the enemy whereby a wagon-train had been captured.
The whole division was ordered out to witness the execution.
The troops were drawn up around three sides of a rectangle in two double ranks, the outer facing inward and the inner facing outward.
Between these ranks, throughout their entire extent, the criminal was obliged to march, which he did with lowered head.
The order of the solemn.
procession was as shown in the accompanying diagram, the arrows indicating its direction.
First came the provost-marshal
,--the sheriff of the army,