Pickett Justice or Atrocity: Gen. George Pickett and the Kinston, NC Hangings.

DanSBHawk

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Again it was your assertion it was "official policy of the Confederate state of NC" not mine, and you have provided nothing that indicates so, nor that NC viewed the Confederate court martials a crime during the war......

I suppose you find it easier to falsely attack me personally then provide any evidence of your own assertions.........which appear baseless from lack of support.

Again this is pointless as long as you make baseless assertions with no evidence......then attack others for simply pointing out you are actually providing nothing to prove you thesis.

I don't need to disprove something that never has been proven at all. As the actual historical record is Confederate NC never charged or accused anyone of some crime for the court martials........nor the USA........nor the CSA.........There is no need to disprove Bigfoot, UFO's, ghosts, or a shooter on the grassy knoll either, you simply note there is little basis for such claims, which I have done.
I provided evidence. From the governors office. From the board of inquiry.

I'll let my opinion stand, supported by actual evidence as opposed to unsupported speculation and denial.
 
Joined
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mo
I provided evidence. From the governors office. From the board of inquiry.

I'll let my opinion stand, supported by actual evidence as opposed to unsupported speculation and denial.
Which is no evidence of the official view of Confederate state of NC during the war at the time.

An unfortunate fact is when countries lose or are occupied, some will collaborate, grovel or try to curry favor with the new power......why I tend to go by one set of circumstances.....if we are talking about an "official" stance of a government, in this case the government of the Confederate state of North Carolina, I would look to the actions and words while actually the Confederate state of North Carolina....which indeed was no charges.

Not postwar statements after the government ceases to exist to be an "official stance" of anything at all...much less ones prefaced "best I can recall" from someone who we have no idea of their motivation postwar.

Again history is the events that actually occured.......not what one wishes or thinks "should" have happened. There was no crime charged, no basis for a crime, as one was never concluded warranted.....and it's absolutely impossible to determine a verdict if one had ever been made.

Personally I doubt citizens of a occupied NC would have had alot of sympathy postwar for Confederate deserters in any sort of trial, but that is indeed speculation to a fantasy what if that never occured.
 
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J. Horace

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North Carolina
From Sun Journal, New Bern, NC:

When General George Pickett hanged 22 men in early 1864, he charged them with being traitors to the Confederate cause.

At first glance, the charges were just.

Pickett had picked about 500 men up as prisoners of war during his retreat from what would be the final attempt for the South to recapture New Bern. Most were North Carolinians and 22 were identified as men who had previously served in the Confederacy.

Southern regiments of union-leaning men were generally referred to as “buffalo soldiers.”

You don’t read much about these regiments in battle, because the government was smart enough not to make them fight aggressively against their fellow North Carolinians – not only would they be likely to refuse to do so, but many of these soldiers had been fighting for the Confederate side and their capture in a fight could not go well for them.

One might find the thought that a man could quit the Confederate side and join the Union side to be incomprehensible. Imagine an American soldier crossing the lines and signing up with the Germans in World War II. Certainly, fellow Confederates found it incomprehensible – at least those who dared to speak. “The deserter… belongs to the wicked and abandoned grade of society morally, that can be found in the land,” Chaplain John Paris of the 54th NC, a witness to the hangings, wrote. “They are generally illiterate, ignorant and vicious. Possessed of prejudices, proceeding from gross ignorance, against government officials; they can readily listen to any appeal made to these prejudices… hence an easy matter for them to learn to despise their country and its cause.”

More tellingly, he complained of “disloyalty at home… disloyalty that has its home in the bosoms of persons not in the military service…” Merchants and others, who would grow fat off the war (and many did, selling to both sides) – men who were troublemakers declaring the conflict “a rich man’s war and the poor man’s fight,” men whose hearts are against their nation.

But one must remember it was a war of ideals as much as of boundaries – and unionists in North Carolina undoubtedly considered themselves to be supporting their nation – the federal government – as did the Confederate soldiers. A man could have his heart with the Union and not, in his heart, be against his home state. Rather, he believed he was fighting to return it to the fold where it belonged. As one historian has argued, most of the generals fighting for the South had little room to criticize men who wrote on the Confederate government to join another side. Hadn’t they done the same thing in violating the oaths they’d taken when they left the US Army?

A number of men who joined the Carolinian armies were not at all enthusiastic about it. Rather, they did so in fear for their lives, their families’ lives or their reputations. Others were forced to join, against their will.

While I don’t mean to say there weren’t deeply loyal Southern men making up the vast majority of the Confederate army, there were also unionists who were looking for any opportunity to safely switch sides.

Early on, when battles ended, the captured men were often paroled and sent home behind Union lines. There, they found themselves unable to buy or sell unless they took an oath of loyalty. When times got bad enough, many men signed up for the Union army simply as a means of having an income to keep their families alive.

The final sticky wicket for Pickett (I honestly didn’t realize I was writing a bad rhyme, there, until I finished it) was the men he was hanging were enemy combatants – prisoners of war. Executing your enemy’s men is rarely a wise move, especially when he’s got plenty of yours for retaliation.

I don’t know where Pickett’s head was at – none of us can – but we know he was a vain man, that he had never really recovered from the trauma of Gettysburg, that he was quick to pass the buck, and that he had nothing to show for his latest effort but a gang of North Carolinians in blue. He was ready to take his anger out on something and he had it in the Kinston 22.

He received a letter from Union commander General John Peck begging for the men’s lives – a in which, sadly, Peck made the mistake of naming the prisoners who had formerly been Confederates. In a supreme act of sarcasm, he thanks Peck for supplying the names of the men he would hang. The men would get a trial, but records tell us it was a kangaroo court that sent them to their deaths.

Next week we’ll take a personal look at one or two of those men.

Contact Bill Hand at [email protected] or 252-229-4977.
hangclip.jpg
 

Cryptic

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Jul 11, 2011
As a side note, the material that I read concerning the incident stated that most of the men were from I believe Robeson County, North Carolina. Though armed unionism in the area was non existent, the county quickly developed a reputation for tepid enthusiasm for secession early on.

When times were good for the CSA, the men were allowed to serve in a non deployable rail guard unit (the material did not specify whether this was a state unit or CSA unit, but only stated that the unit was non deployable).

As war turned against the CSA, the unenthusiastic men found themselves deployed into combat and the immediate area developed a reputation for sheltering CSA deserters. Though the men did not desert per se from the CSA, they were easily captured by the Union Army and paroled.

Them men then found themselves the subject of a union recruitment drive in which unionist regiments, even the lukewarm ones, had both a military and a propaganda value. Times were good for the USA, and like the CSA did previously, they were flexible with local unionist recruits of the tepid type. Enlistment bounties were doubled and the unit would be non deployable, rear area security only.

The doubled enlistment bounty and the fact that the now union soldiers frequently drifted back to their farms did not instill good relations with northern soldiers. When things went momentarily bad for the USA with a surprise CSA offensive, the regiment was hastily sent into combat and some men were ordered to man a defensive block house. The fortification was then surrendered to the CSA with out a shot.

A CSA NCO recognized several of the men once they were made POWs. This then led to a comprehensive search for others amongst a prison column. Things then went from bad to worse. After the death sentences were given, a local executioner refused the job. A hangman, described as being of a "black Irish" complection, was then brought in from Raleigh for the contract.

Pickett evidently also wanted to hang a small group of local civilians whom had been reported as being over friendly to union troops. After being informed of possible unrest, however, the Pickett dropped the plan.
 
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Waterloo50

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As a side note, the material that I read concerning the incident stated that most of the men were from I believe Robeson County, North Carolina. Though armed unionism in the area was non existent, the county quickly developed a reputation for tepid enthusiasm for secession early on.

When times were good for the CSA, the men were allowed to serve in a non deployable rail guard unit (the material did not specify whether this was a state unit or CSA unit, but only stated that the unit was non deployable).

As war turned against the CSA, the unenthusiastic men found themselves deployed into combat and the immediate area developed a reputation for sheltering CSA deserters. Though the men did not desert per se from the CSA, they were easily captured by the Union Army and paroled.

Them men then found themselves the subject of a union recruitment drive in which unionist regiments, even the lukewarm ones, had both a military and a propaganda value. Times were good for the USA, and like the CSA did previously, they were flexible with local unionist recruits of the tepid type. Enlistment bounties were doubled and the unit would be non deployable, rear area security only.

The doubled enlistment bounty and the fact that the now union soldiers frequently drifted back to their farms did not instill good relations with northern soldiers. When things went momentarily bad for the USA with a surprise CSA offensive, the regiment was hastily sent into combat and some men were ordered to man a defensive block house. The fortification was then surrendered to the CSA with out a shot.

A CSA NCO recognized several of the men once they were made POWs. This then led to a comprehensive search for others amongst a prison column. Things then went from bad to worse. After the death sentences were given, a local executioner refused the job. A hangman, described as being of a "black Irish" complection, was then brought in from Raleigh for the contract.

Pickett evidently also wanted to hang a small group of local civilians whom had been reported as being over friendly to union troops. After being informed of possible unrest, however, the Pickett dropped the plan.
The more I read about Pickett, the more I’m inclined to interpret his attitude of one that is mostly about self-promotion, definitely a narcissist.

He strikes me as one of those people that could have been a reasonable leader of men but he just didn’t invest the time and effort, Pickett became lazy and foolish which is in stark comparison to his early military career, at first he showed incredible heroism and motivation but he appears to have adopted a ‘let’s just get through this’ attitude. So many mistakes were caused by him that he would eventually be left with no other choice than to try and repair his tarnished reputation. The hangings ‘I think’ we’re just a reflection of his poor mental state at that time, he needed to appear tough and unrelenting, the hangings IMHO were seized upon by Pickett as an opportunity to promote his name as a man that couldn’t be messed with, it was also an opportunity to remind his men that he was the boss a sort of ...‘you may not respect me but by god you will fear me’ approach.
And, that’s my point really, Pickett was often responsible for doing stupid things that raised his profile, sometimes it worked for him but more often than not he just got himself into deeper trouble, Five Forks being a good example, I think I’d be correct in saying that Lee had no confidence in Pickett and Pickett would have understood that his career prospects were definitely taking a nose dive hence his erratic behaviour and decision making. Pickett arrived in Kinston with yet another defeat to his name...somebody was going to suffer.
 

ShoreDutyCSN

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Location
Shohola, Pennsylvania
But if they were conscripted against their will, were they deserters? Not an open and shut case as far as I'm concerned....will have to read the book.
It's a matter of what conscription means. Conscription is a draft. A different form of it. To step out of this for a minute for comparison. in 1944 they were drafting people as old as 45 to throw to the meat grinder of Europe. That is rather like taking men of 60, boys of 15. Or people with three teeth to pull a cartridge and/or a thumb and two fingers to shoot a rifle.

Did anyone want to go to Europe? At 17 or 45? Going into a winter filled with blood in the snow? Not everyone but they had to go. Like it or not. Same same with thirty mile a day marches, getting into some of the most murderous fire of the era? Nahhhhhhh!

Now think, you're in a dwindling army. A lot of people are going over the hill. You make your run and you failed. Is it wrong to think you'll be thrown the stockade and possibly killed for desertion? Yep, you'd be right to think about that while you awaited courts martial. They make the ruling. Period.

In the war Lincoln signed death warrants. Some sentences we're commuted but a majority of those sentences were carried out. On to Richmond and Davis signed almost no warrants. He said it was better to have a man in the field than in the ground.

So my question is not what side they were on but Pickett have express instruction from Davis to execute on his own judgement as a sea captain OR was he doing what he wanted against Davis' own wishes. A president surely wouldn't want anyone executed unless he had a say.

As to this were they Union citizens. Look, that's a moot point. As far as the Confederacy considered itself a country. It passed muster enough to start a war. The Union refered to the Confederacy themselves. Wouldn't it just be 'The South" if not another country?It wasn't a police action or an incursion. It was a full on war.

Anyway, I wrote a book here and I need to go buy some milk. See ya.

Anyway, didn't mean to write a book here. These are just my thoughts
 

Waterloo50

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It's a matter of what conscription means. Conscription is a draft. A different form of it. To step out of this for a minute for comparison. in 1944 they were drafting people as old as 45 to throw to the meat grinder of Europe. That is rather like taking men of 60, boys of 15. Or people with three teeth to pull a cartridge and/or a thumb and two fingers to shoot a rifle.

Did anyone want to go to Europe? At 17 or 45? Going into a winter filled with blood in the snow? Not everyone but they had to go. Like it or not. Same same with thirty mile a day marches, getting into some of the most murderous fire of the era? Nahhhhhhh!

Now think, you're in a dwindling army. A lot of people are going over the hill. You make your run and you failed. Is it wrong to think you'll be thrown the stockade and possibly killed for desertion? Yep, you'd be right to think about that while you awaited courts martial. They make the ruling. Period.

In the war Lincoln signed death warrants. Some sentences we're commuted but a majority of those sentences were carried out. On to Richmond and Davis signed almost no warrants. He said it was better to have a man in the field than in the ground.

So my question is not what side they were on but Pickett have express instruction from Davis to execute on his own judgement as a sea captain OR was he doing what he wanted against Davis' own wishes. A president surely wouldn't want anyone executed unless he had a say.

As to this were they Union citizens. Look, that's a moot point. As far as the Confederacy considered itself a country. It passed muster enough to start a war. The Union refered to the Confederacy themselves. Wouldn't it just be 'The South" if not another country?It wasn't a police action or an incursion. It was a full on war.

Anyway, I wrote a book here and I need to go buy some milk. See ya.

Anyway, didn't mean to write a book here. These are just my thoughts
We have a WW1 monument here in the UK known as the ‘shot at dawn memorial’, it was created to commemorate the number of men who were executed under court-martial but were later pardoned. 3,000 men were sentenced to death but out of that number only 346 actually received the death penalty, out of those 346 that were killed 309 were later to receive a pardon.

My point being that the WW1 court-martial was lawful but the behaviour/motives of those commanders in charge of the court-martial could and have been called into question, I’ve often wondered if any of those officers that sat on the court martial attended with an open mind or were they already so incensed by desertion that a court martial just became an annoying formality that had to be done in order to get the result they wanted, isn’t this exactly what we see with Pickett!

I’m guessing here that a court martial didn’t need approval from the president but a sentence of death did, having said that, desertion was so common place on both sides that the president would have been inundated with paperwork and this would not have been a practical thing to do, it was probably better to let those in command of the army deal with the death penalty decision.

The motives for holding those deserters to account appears to be correct under military law but It seems obvious to me that Pickett just used the formality of a court hearing to exact revenge given his anger and frustration at his own losses and failures, it was not perhaps during the verdict but during the handing down of the death penalty that Pickett went ‘sea captain’
 
In the war Lincoln signed death warrants. Some sentences we're commuted but a majority of those sentences were carried out. On to Richmond and Davis signed almost no warrants. He said it was better to have a man in the field than in the ground.
I believe this may be incorrect. My bold:

"Clemency as a Military Strategy Central to an analysis of Lincoln's clemency policy is an examination of the considerable number of pardons issued to Union soldiers convicted of military offenses during the Civil War. The generally liberal posture taken by Lincoln in the cases of those convicted of military crimes suggests that he may have intentionally issued such pardons in an attempt to boost the morale of Northern fighting forces. Several authors have noted that Lincoln was widely admired among Union troops because of the perception that he took a genuine interest in their well-being, a sense that was reinforced by the pardoning of military offenders (Holland 1866, 431; Wiley 1950, 106). Of all the sentences of death imposed on Union soldiers for sleeping on post that crossed Lincoln's desk for his signature, it is reported that none received his approval (Wiley 1950, 106). When it came to requests for the pardon of officers convicted of transgressions, however, Lincoln tended to be less lenient (Dorris 1953b, 11)."
The Forgotten Side of Lincoln's Clemency Policy, P.S. Ruckman Jr., Northern Illinois University, David Kincaid, Northern Illinois University, pg. 3

https://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.455.4380&rep=rep1&type=pdf
 

ShoreDutyCSN

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We have a WW1 monument here in the UK known as the ‘shot at dawn memorial’, it was created to commemorate the number of men who were executed under court-martial but were later pardoned. 3,000 men were sentenced to death but out of that number only 346 actually received the death penalty, out of those 346 that were killed 309 were later to receive a pardon.

My point being that the WW1 court-martial was lawful but the behaviour/motives of those commanders in charge of the court-martial could and have been called into question, I’ve often wondered if any of those officers that sat on the court martial attended with an open mind or were they already so incensed by desertion that a court martial just became an annoying formality that had to be done in order to get the result they wanted, isn’t this exactly what we see with Pickett!

I’m guessing here that a court martial didn’t need approval from the president but a sentence of death did, having said that, desertion was so common place on both sides that the president would have been inundated with paperwork and this would not have been a practical thing to do, it was probably better to let those in command of the army deal with the death penalty decision.

The motives for holding those deserters to account appears to be correct under military law but It seems obvious to me that Pickett just used the formality of a court hearing to exact revenge given his anger and frustration at his own losses and failures, it was not perhaps during the verdict but during the handing down of the death penalty that Pickett went ‘sea captain’
Went "Sea Captain". I like it.
 

RochesterBill

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Oct 11, 2016
I have long found this topic of considerable interest and have looked into it extensively. I believe I can shed some light on at least some of it.

First off all, as most people know, the residents of coastal North Carolina were predominantly anti-slavery and very much opposed to secession. The fact that this has less to do with their attitudes towards human freedom and more to do with the way slavery degraded the economic value of free labor is beside the point. At bottom, the war was a conflict instigated and propagated by the planter class, who owned most of the slaves. There were virtually no large plantations around Beaufort, Newbern, Little Washington, etc.

Then of course the Union took the Pamlico river area up to Washington, along with Beaufort, very early in the war and held onto it until the end, so being pro-Union was a much safer proposition than it was 100 miles south in Charleston.

Secondly, we need to draw a line between the two NC Union regiments. The First North Carolina (Union) was formed in 1862, and the terms of enlistment are pretty clearly spelled out in this amazing recruiting poster:

1614538540225.png


Locals could enlist with the promise that they would only be used locally as sentries and such. Pay and treatment would be the same as any other Union soldier. A great deal, and they rather quickly filled up a regiment with men who disliked the Confederacy.

But by November of 1863, when it was decided to form the 2nd NC Union, much had changed. Confederate conscription had become ruthless and serving in the Confederate army was not a pleasant prospect. Conversely, the Union was offering a $300 cash bounty, sometimes as much as twice that ($100 was the average yearly salary in NC at the time) PLUS Northern states were paying up to $1000 for substitutes (it didn't matter where you signed up; you simply submitted a form saying you were a substitute for a Northern state and it counted).

So you had a lot of men who simply wanted the money, and some more who were draft dodgers, but you also had a lot of men who had, in fact, deserted from the Confederate army. At that point many of them had been conscripted at gun point anyway, and many more had grudgingly agreed to serve as "home guards" for the Confederacy under the promise that they could basically live at home and go out guarding bridges and such in the neighborhood. These latter were never actually sworn into service and were under state, not national, orders.

So there's no question that there were some men who had once been under rebel colors and who (mostly for the money, one guesses) had taken French leave and enlisted with the Union.

Ironically, the unit which was captured, Company F, was serving under a Captain from New York. The soldiers pleaded with him to let them make a run for it (they were all within five or ten miles from home) but he refused. The officer is the only one who survived the war. 57 men were taken prisoner but only 25 or so were hung. It's believed that they determined to try them in batches but after the first hanging party nobody had the stomach to do another one.

So Pickett was not entirely wrong about who some of these men were but no effort was ever made to determine who was a deserter and who really wasn't. They captured a bunch of North Carolina guys in Union uniform and Picket had them all hung. Furthermore, the board which Pickett convened to pass judgement on these men was made up entirely of planter class officers from Virginia, who detested poor white North Carolinians anyway. A jury of their peers it was not.

Sadly, it didn't end up mattering much whether Pickett hung you or not. The 25 or so men who were not hung were transferred to a Confederate prison in Richmond where it's believed that they all died of typhus.

Bottom line, Pickett failed in his attack on Beaufort, was angry, and rigged a "trial" to condemn these unfortunate men, some of whom were almost certainly deserters, most of whom were not. Picket didn't really care.
 
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