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[161] unanimous request that the entire company might act as firing party. This request was refused, however, and a detail of fifteen men made for that purpose. But whereas it is usual for the sergeant in charge of such a detail to load the muskets himself, putting blank cartridges into one, two, or three of the muskets, on this occasion the men were allowed to load for themselves, and when the surgeon examined the lifeless body he found fifteen bullets in it, showing that each one of the fifteen men had felt it to be his duty to shoot his former comrade, and that he had conscientiously acted up to that duty.

Shocking and solemn as such scenes were, I do not believe that the shooting of a deserter had any great deterring ilfluence on the rank and file; for the opportunities to get away safely were most abundant. Indeed, any man who was base enough to desert his flag could almost choose his time for doing it. The wife of a man in my own company brought him a suit of citizen's clothing to desert in, which he availed himself of later; but citizen's clothes, even, were not always necessary to ensure safety for deserters. When a man's honor failed to hold him in the ranks, his exit from military life in the South was easy enough.

I have been asked if all deserters captured were shot. No; far from it. There were times in the war when the death penalty for this offence was entirely ignored, and then it would be revived again with the hope of diminishing the rapid rate at which desertions took place. Desertion was the most prevalent in 1864, when the town and city governments hired so many foreigners, who enlisted solely to get the large bounties paid, and then deserted, many of them before getting to the field, or immediately afterwards. They had no interest in the cause, and could not be expected to have. These men were called bounty-jumpers, and, having deserted, went to some other State and enlisted again, to secure another bounty. In this manner many of them obtained hundreds of dollars without being detected; but

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1864 AD (1)
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