Tuesday, August 6, 2013

July 30, 1863

July 30, 1863

---An exchange of messages reveals a growing desertion problem in the Confederate army:

July 30, 1863.
Honorable JAMES A. SEDDON,
Secretary of War:
     SIR: I regret to send you the inclosed report of the adjutant [com-mander] of Scales' North Carolina brigade (Pender's old brigade), one which has done good service and reflected great credit upon that State. The officers attribute these desertions to the influence of the newspaper writers. I hope that something may be done to counteract these bad influences. From what I can learn, it would be well, if possible, to picket the ferries and bridges on James River and over the Staunton and Dan Rivers, near the foot of the mountains, in Halifax, Pittsylvania, Patrick, and Henry, at the most prominent points. Many of these deserters are said to pass that way, and it would be a great benefit to the army to catch them, in order to make some examples as speedily as possible.
     I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

     R. E. LEE,


AUGUST 7, 1863.
     I find it difficult to command the needed guards. Efforts will be made to do so.

     J. A. S. [SEDDON,]


July 30, 1863.
Assistant Adjutant-General:
      MAJOR: I am pained this morning to inform you that last night brought another slur on our old brigade, and consequently on our State. Out of our small number present, about 50 deserted-42 from the Twenty-second, and 5 from the Thirty-eighth [North Carolina Regiments]. If any more, they have not been reported. It is that disgraceful "pease" sentiment spoken of by the Standard. Some-thing should be done; every effort should be made to overhaul them, and every one should be shot. Let us hope to check it now, for if this should pass by unnoticed, many more will very soon follow. I ask what to do.

     WM. L. J. LOWRANCE,
     Colonel, &c.

---President Abraham Lincoln, in response to South Carolina’s threat to execute the 24 prisoners taken from the 54th Massachusetts Infantry’s failed assault on Fort Wagner, issues this retaliation directive:

Executive Mansion, Washington D.C.  July 30, 1863

It is the duty of every government to give protection to its citizens, of whatever class, color, or condition, and especially to those who are duly organized as soldiers in the public service. The law of nations and the usages and customs of war as carried on by civilized powers, permit no distinction as to color in the treatment of prisoners of war as public enemies. To sell or enslave any captured person, on account of his color, and for no offence against the laws of war, is a relapse into barbarism and a crime against the civilization of the age.

The government of the United States will give the same protection to all its soldiers, and if the enemy shall sell or enslave anyone because of his color, the offense shall be punished by retaliation upon the enemy's prisoners in our possession.

It is therefore ordered that for every soldier of the United States killed in violation of the laws of war, a rebel soldier shall be executed; and for every one enslaved by the enemy or sold into slavery, a rebel soldier shall be placed at hard labor on the public works and continued at such labor until the other shall be released and receive the treatment due to a prisoner of war.


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