Pickett Kinston 22, was Pickett justified in his actions and was it legal?

Waterloo50

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I guess that anyone who knows the name George E Pickett will be aware of the Kinston 22. I’ve read quite a few accounts of the hangings and it makes for quite uncomfortable reading. I’m hoping that people can help me out here, I view Picketts actions at Kinston as murder yet others argue that Pickett was quite within his rights to see the 22 deserters hanged.
In a letter to Major General Peck, Pickett argued that because these men had originally enlisted with the confederate army and because they were captured taking up arms against their colours, if found guilty he had every right to punish them accordingly. General Peck had told Pickett in a letter that he had also captured a number of confederate officers and men and reading between the lines, it looked as if General Peck was hoping to exchange prisoners.
What baffles me is that rather than secure the release of of those captured men, Pickett seemed intent on hanging his alleged deserters, I say alleged because many of those captured argued that they were forced into Union service. Pickett went so far as to tell Peck that if he believed that the confederate men held by union forces were deserters then he ‘Peck’ could treat them similarly, if they weren’t confederate deserters then he reasoned that if Peck were to hang them in retaliation, he would be guilty of murder.
on the face of it Pickett argued that he had the law on his side and that under confederate military law, deserters would hang.
I’m interested to know what is the general consensus, was Pickett guilty of murder or had he acted appropriately and within the law?
I’d also be interested to know if anyone has any theories as to why Pickett seemed set on hanging those men, was he such a loyal servant to the confederacy that he couldn’t tolerate desertion or was there another reason?
 

Jimklag

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By Pickett's own logic, he should have been hanged himself. He had enlisted in the US army and was now fighting against it. However, the execution of deserters was fairly common practice on both sides. I do not recall how many of the deserters received trials and how many were summarily executed.
 

RochesterBill

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For anyone interested in this topic, I cannot recommend this short book/pamphlet strongly enough. It's around 44 pages and was written by a Union officer who was there in Kinston in March and April.

https://archive.org/details/accountofassassi00hawk/page/n5

He stays pretty close to just laying out the facts and quoting original sources and, frankly, it's about a damning a piece as I can imagine.

His central thesis is that these boys were not really Confederate soldiers but rather consisted of Union loyalists who hated the Confederacy and slavery and, when the US Army showed up in the area, leapt at the chance to join the Federal forces.

Pickett considered this "desertion" which is arguable and should not have subjected those men to execution. They didn't desert, they chose sides like hundreds of thousands of others.
 

Waterloo50

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By Pickett's own logic, he should have been hanged himself. He had enlisted in the US army and was now fighting against it. However, the execution of deserters was fairly common practice on both sides. I do not recall how many of the deserters received trials and how many were summarily executed.
That makes sense to me, and I’ve seen many that have argued that same logic, maybe General Peck should have pointed that out to Pickett. I think it’s a good indicator of Picketts mind set, he must have totally believed that the war was winnable, otherwise he’d be carefully thinking about the future repercussions for his highly questionable decisions.
 

Waterloo50

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For anyone interested in this topic, I cannot recommend this short book/pamphlet strongly enough. It's around 44 pages and was written by a Union officer who was there in Kinston in March and April.

https://archive.org/details/accountofassassi00hawk/page/n5

He stays pretty close to just laying out the facts and quoting original sources and, frankly, it's about a ****ing a piece as I can imagine.

His central thesis is that these boys were not really Confederate soldiers but rather consisted of Union loyalists who hated the Confederacy and slavery and, when the US Army showed up in the area, leapt at the chance to join the Federal forces.

Pickett considered this "desertion" which is arguable and should not have subjected those men to execution. They didn't desert, they chose sides like hundreds of thousands of others.
Is there any solid evidence to support his thesis, it’s an interesting perspective and in some respects supports my theory that the hangings were never about desertion but more about Picketts failings, I believe that he seized the opportunity at Kinston to distract from another defeat and to re-establish his position of authority, a kind of don’t mess with Pickett type of move.
 

RochesterBill

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Is there any solid evidence to support his thesis, it’s an interesting perspective and in some respects supports my theory that the hangings were never about desertion but more about Picketts failings, I believe that he seized the opportunity at Kinston to distract from another defeat and to re-establish his position of authority, a kind of don’t mess with Pickett type of move.

Read the article.

The accused were poor North Carolina Unionists. The Court Martial consisted entirely of officers from Virginia. Among other things, Pickett was warning North Carolinians that, as the Union penetrated deeper into the state, if you joined them you were subject to execution.
 

Waterloo50

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Read the article.

The accused were poor North Carolina Unionists. The Court Martial consisted entirely of officers from Virginia. Among other things, Pickett was warning North Carolinians that, as the Union penetrated deeper into the state, if you joined them you were subject to execution.
Thanks for that, I’ve read a fair bit about the actual hangings and the description of the deserters always seems to be a bit woolly, having said that you’ve just provided yet another motive for the hangings.
 

WJC

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"Was Pickett justified in his actions?" No. "Was it legal?" No. It was a blot on his name and on the honor of the so-called Confederate States of America. His rebel superiors should have prosecuted him.
 

Waterloo50

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"Was Pickett justified in his actions?" No. "Was it legal?" No. It was a blot on his name and on the honor of the so-called Confederate States of America. His rebel superiors should have prosecuted him.
Thanks for the response, why wasn’t it legal? The confederate conscription act clearly laid out the responsibilities of enlisted men and listed the legal parameters of loyalty and duty along with its strict enforcement procedures, under confederate states military law, Pickett hadn’t done anything illegal, agreed though his motives were questionable.
 

RochesterBill

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I don't think I have ever heard anyone give a serious defense of Pickett's action. It was a war crime even by the standards of 1864 and Pickett himself seemed to realize that by fleeing the country at the end of the war.

And while we probably will never kjow for sure, I suspect that Grant didnt actually have all the facts.

If he had known that they were North Carolinians who hated the Confederacy and enlisted instead with the Union - Grants own army - I cant believe he would have taken it so lightly
 
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berlin
I guess that anyone who knows the name George E Pickett will be aware of the Kinston 22. I’ve read quite a few accounts of the hangings and it makes for quite uncomfortable reading. I’m hoping that people can help me out here, I view Picketts actions at Kinston as murder yet others argue that Pickett was quite within his rights to see the 22 deserters hanged.
21st century pov, my dear 'loo - everybody was a harsch disciplinarian in those times (seen from the 21st century). i read (don't ask me where; that was decades ago) a story that during the napoleonic wars a midshipman carried his mortally wounded captain under deck
without orders. while doing so the brits wiped the bridge clean - the french hung the poor guy for abandoning his post as commanding officer of the ship in the face of the enemy. just think what your court martial did with those parts of the bounty crew bligh brought home. that verdict was considered lenient.

you just didn't exchange your own deserters when you got hold of them, you finished them off - i doubt he would have exchanged them for lee, longstreet and lyon (all three of them) if such an offer would have been on the table.

Pickett considered this "desertion" which is arguable and should not have subjected those men to execution. They didn't desert, they chose sides like hundreds of thousands of others.

enlisted men couldn't resign, only officers could do that

disclaimer: i don't they had it comming, what i say it that stuff like that was the usual thin then
 
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berlin
That makes sense to me, and I’ve seen many that have argued that same logic, maybe General Peck should have pointed that out to Pickett. I think it’s a good indicator of Picketts mind set, he must have totally believed that the war was winnable, otherwise he’d be carefully thinking about the future repercussions for his highly questionable decisions.

there are examples from other wars (which i can't discuss in an open setting) where the cracking down on deserters and other scum that made us lose the war got especially heavy when the war in question was in all but name lost already
 
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berlin
"Was Pickett justified in his actions?" No. "Was it legal?" No. It was a blot on his name and on the honor of the so-called Confederate States of America. His rebel superiors should have prosecuted him.

why? the honour of the confederate army was at stake - those men had worn grey and were captured in blue - try seeing that from an 1860s pov. 'had been forced to' was certainly not an excuse in those times.
 

Waterloo50

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why? the honour of the confederate army was at stake - those men had worn grey and were captured in blue - try seeing that from an 1860s pov. 'had been forced to' was certainly not an excuse in those times.
I’ve been thinking about the ‘had been forced to’ was certainly not an excuse response you gave.
What about mitigation circumstances for men like Charles Cuthrell.

One man among the group, had he been granted the opportunity to summon witnesses and not been forced to sit before a kangaroo court, was in a position to present far stronger justification for his actions. Twenty-five-year-old Charles Cuthrell of Broad Grove, N.C., had resisted serving in the Confederate Army and was hanged apparently for simply maintaining his loyalty to the U.S. government. After the war, three of Cuthrell’s neighbors attested that in January 1862 Confederate authorities had notified men fit for military duty that if they did not come forward and enlist they would be conscripted into the Rebel army. Cuthrell was one of those who was drafted and, in fact, had to be taken by force from his home.
 
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berlin
I’ve been thinking about the ‘had been forced to’ was certainly not an excuse response you gave.
What about mitigation circumstances for men like Charles Cuthrell.

One man among the group, had he been granted the opportunity to summon witnesses and not been forced to sit before a kangaroo court, was in a position to present far stronger justification for his actions. Twenty-five-year-old Charles Cuthrell of Broad Grove, N.C., had resisted serving in the Confederate Army and was hanged apparently for simply maintaining his loyalty to the U.S. government. After the war, three of Cuthrell’s neighbors attested that in January 1862 Confederate authorities had notified men fit for military duty that if they did not come forward and enlist they would be conscripted into the Rebel army. Cuthrell was one of those who was drafted and, in fact, had to be taken by force from his home.

was the concept of 'mitigation circumstances' even known then (you may want to check when they were introduced into british law before you answer that :whistling:)?
 

RochesterBill

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I’ve been thinking about the ‘had been forced to’ was certainly not an excuse response you gave.
What about mitigation circumstances for men like Charles Cuthrell.

One man among the group, had he been granted the opportunity to summon witnesses and not been forced to sit before a kangaroo court, was in a position to present far stronger justification for his actions. Twenty-five-year-old Charles Cuthrell of Broad Grove, N.C., had resisted serving in the Confederate Army and was hanged apparently for simply maintaining his loyalty to the U.S. government. After the war, three of Cuthrell’s neighbors attested that in January 1862 Confederate authorities had notified men fit for military duty that if they did not come forward and enlist they would be conscripted into the Rebel army. Cuthrell was one of those who was drafted and, in fact, had to be taken by force from his home.

This seems to have been true for most of these poor guys, or at least as far as we can tell. They were pro-Union.

Having refused enlistment and hiding from the Confederate conscription officers, they agreed to join local-only militia groups formed to protect homes and farms, from both sides.

But Pickett and his officers decided to declare them conscripted and tried to force them into the army. He declared them to be in the 66th NC infantry and ordered them to report.

They refused and then when the Union army reached their area they raced to enlist and fight the Confederacy.

Pickett chose to claim they were deserters, but he knew better. They were simply pro-Union and anti-slavery, and neither of those things was a hanging offense even in the South.

It appears that, as much as anythjng else, they were sending a signal to any other North carolinians to not try and join the Union army or they would be executed.
 
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Waterloo50

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This seems to have been true for most of these poor guys, or at least as far as we can tell. They were pro-Union.

Having refused enlistment and hiding from the Confederate conscription officers, they agreed to join local-only militia groups formed to protect homes and farms, from both sides.

But Pickett and his officers decided to declare them conscripted and tried to force them into the army.

They refused and then when the Union army reached their area they raced to enlist and fight the Confederacy.

Pickett chose to claim they were deserters, but he knew better. They were simply pro-Union and anti-slavery, and neither of those things was a hanging offense even in the South.0
I suppose that Pickett wasn’t interested in excuses, he was probably aware of what John Paris (chaplain 54th regiment NCT) had said about the oath each man had made regardless of political persuasions.

‘I do solemnly swear that I will bear true allegiance to the Confederate States of America, and that I will serve them honestly and faithfully against all their enemies and opposes whatsoever, and observe and obey the orders of the President of the Confederate States, and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to the rules and articles for thegovernment of the armies of the Confederate States; so help me God’
 
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