Discussion George Thomas to his prisoners at Nashville 1864

Joined
Aug 1, 2018
Location
Nashville, TN
It's my understanding that Thomas offered them all paroles so long as they took the oath and promised not to fight again. I heard they were told to put their rifles down, go home, and start farming again. Can anyone elaborate more on this? Was there a ceremony, a speech? Is there a good description of it written somewhere?

Thanks!

Cody
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
It's my understanding that Thomas offered them all paroles so long as they took the oath and promised not to fight again. I heard they were told to put their rifles down, go home, and start farming again. Can anyone elaborate more on this? Was there a ceremony, a speech? Is there a good description of it written somewhere?

Thanks!

Cody
Confederate prisoners & deserters had been offered the option of “swallowing the dog” ( swearing allegiance) & return to their home for a couple of years. This humane program was, as I understand it, one of Lincoln’s best ideas. The CSA Army of Tennessee lost deserters at an ever increasing rate from the start of the Tullahoma Campaign in June 1863 onward. Company sized units came through the lines regularly. A surprising number of officers were executed for facilitating their men’s desertion.

The oath was administered with raised hand & official papers signed. It was, as far as I have read, a routine military administrative action. There are several illustrations from Harpers or Leslie’s of CSA deserters taking the oath.

The swallow the dog policy was a sterling example of enlightened self interest. All a discontented CSA soldier had to do was go home & behave. Nobody could bother them, brilliant & humane... just like Lincoln to come up with such a thing.
 
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wausaubob

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
Confederate prisoners & deserters had been offered the option of “swallowing the dog” ( swearing allegiance) & return to their home for a couple of years. This humane program was, as I understand it, one of Lincoln’s best ideas. The CSA Army of Tennessee lost deserters at an ever increasing rate from the start of the Tullahoma Campaign in June 1863 onward. Company sized units came through the lines regularly. A surprising number of officers were executed for facilitating their men’s desertion.

The oath was administered with raised hand & official papers signed. It was, as far as I have read, a routine military administrative action. There are several illustrations from Harpers or Leslie’s of CSA deserters taking the oath.

The swallow the dog policy was a sterling example of enlightened self interest. All a disconnected CSA soldier had to do was go home & behave. Nobody could bother them, brilliant & humane... just like Lincoln to come up with such a thing.
Do you have an example of an article explaining the process? Because that is more or less Grant's procedure at Vicksburg. In Tennessee it made a lot of sense.
 
Joined
May 1, 2015
Location
Upstate N.Y.
It was a humane common sense process to extract men who may had been conscripted or were fed up of the senseless bloodshed and from the prisoners point of view they all knew that ending up in prison on either side was a terrible way to end their faithful honorable service. No shame on any man who had done their part in agreeing "They Would Fight No More Forever" to coin a phrase of Chief Joseph.
 
Joined
Aug 1, 2018
Location
Nashville, TN
Confederate prisoners & deserters had been offered the option of “swallowing the dog” ( swearing allegiance) & return to their home for a couple of years. This humane program was, as I understand it, one of Lincoln’s best ideas. The CSA Army of Tennessee lost deserters at an ever increasing rate from the start of the Tullahoma Campaign in June 1863 onward. Company sized units came through the lines regularly. A surprising number of officers were executed for facilitating their men’s desertion.

The oath was administered with raised hand & official papers signed. It was, as far as I have read, a routine military administrative action. There are several illustrations from Harpers or Leslie’s of CSA deserters taking the oath.

The swallow the dog policy was a sterling example of enlightened self interest. All a disconnected CSA soldier had to do was go home & behave. Nobody could bother them, brilliant & humane... just like Lincoln to come up with such a thing.
Thank you.
 

MikeyB

Corporal
Joined
Sep 13, 2018
Any stats out there of how many of these men went home, only to reenlist, either voluntarily or forced impressment? If they caught you again, could they execute you for breaking the oath? And if so, any accounts of this actually happening? Was there even a way to check this with the record keeping of the time? (ie. checking a newly captured prisoner to see if he had been paroled once before)
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Any stats out there of how many of these men went home, only to reenlist, either voluntarily or forced impressment? If they caught you again, could they execute you for breaking the oath? And if so, any accounts of this actually happening? Was there even a way to check this with the record keeping of the time? (ie. checking a newly captured prisoner to see if he had been paroled once before)
That's easy, once they got home they stayed home. Surely somewhere someone was boneheaded enough to break his parole, but I have no record of it in my files.
 

19thGeorgia

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
It's my understanding that Thomas offered them all paroles so long as they took the oath and promised not to fight again. I heard they were told to put their rifles down, go home, and start farming again. Can anyone elaborate more on this? Was there a ceremony, a speech? Is there a good description of it written somewhere?

Thanks!

Cody
I've never heard of this. The number of POWs in midwestern prison camps* was 30,202 on November 30, 1864. On December 31, 1864, it was 43,711. Thomas took about 5,000-6,000 prisoners during the campaign. Doesn't look like they swallowed the dog.

*Camp Chase, Camp Douglas, Camp Morton, Johnson's Island, Louisville, Nashville and Rock Island.
https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=coo.31924079575233&view=1up&seq=1011
 

Lubliner

1st Lieutenant
Forum Host
Joined
Nov 27, 2018
Location
Chattanooga, Tennessee
I've never heard of this. The number of POWs in midwestern prison camps* was 30,202 on November 30, 1864. On December 31, 1864, it was 43,711. Thomas took about 5,000-6,000 prisoners during the campaign. Doesn't look like they swallowed the dog.

*Camp Chase, Camp Douglas, Camp Morton, Johnson's Island, Louisville, Nashville and Rock Island.
https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=coo.31924079575233&view=1up&seq=1011
It sounds more like deserters being discussed.
Lubliner.
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
I have recently become aware of a wrinkle in the parole system that I had not considered. Any CSA soldier could voluntarily enter Union lines, swallow the dog (sign the loyalty oath) & be sent home. Strict orders were issued to interview those men individually. Men who had voluntarily walked away were often very free with information. They were a vital source of accurate, timely intel. There was another, murkier reason for careful interviews.

No, it was not to ferret out CSA infiltrators pretending to desert, far from it. It was found that enterprising Union soldiers who wanted to desert would change uniforms & pretended to be CSA deserters. If it worked, they were given travel passes & had papers ensuring their safety upon arrival. You gotta take your hat off to that one. Pretend to be a CSA soldier in order to be a deserter from the Union army.

I don’t know for sure, but given the hostility toward bounty jumpers, the galvanized ones might have met a grisly fate. That might be the source of citations in another thread about Union deserters captured in CSA uniforms.
 
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