Discussion "One Third of the Union Army Deserted"

Fairfield

First Sergeant
Joined
Dec 5, 2019
I'm not sure where Bankor, Maine is, but you certainly have a facination with the area. You do seem to completely discount the fact that the South had desertion issues as well. The North's manpower was pretty much endless with immigrants constantly flowing in. So what if thousands deserted? There were plenty to take their place.
Obviously he mistyped "Bangor" (a few weeks ago, I sloshed a glass of sherry on my keyboard and have been having similar problems ever since). Bangor is Maine's second largest city and is about 1/3+ up the state. Because of rivers and an uneven coastline, it has easy access to the sea. And if anyone has a fascination [see how easy it is to miss a key?] with the area, it is because it is so lovely; those deserting Confederates showed good taste! 😂
 

IslayMalt

Private
Joined
Mar 28, 2016
Location
Waynesboro, PA
Yes, Bangor is a nice area. I traveled around Maine often when I lived in NH. But I've not yet read any writings about the South wanting to take over Maine. I have no idea why they would. Did many even know what a Lobster was, let alone have one?
 

Fairfield

First Sergeant
Joined
Dec 5, 2019
Yes, Bangor is a nice area. I traveled around Maine often when I lived in NH. But I've not yet read any writings about the South wanting to take over Maine. I have no idea why they would. Did many even know what a Lobster was, let alone have one?
IMO taking over Maine would have been a silly thing to do--at least as long as there was so much Union territory between Kittery and the Mason-Dixon line. However there were assaults (one of which may have been a prelude to some sort of invasion attempt).

There was a Confederate raid on Portland (by sea, of course). There was some damage to Hallowell and some to Portland itself. I believe that the intent was to destroy Portland harbor--or at least the ships therein. Then there was a raid on Machias: a small number of Confederates came down through Halifax (Canada) and claimed Machias for the Confederacy. Rather like the St. Albans raid by Confederates in Vermont. Since Machias is barely north of St. Albans, I guess that Maine was the site of the most northerly battle of the Civil War. ☺️ Lastly there was the very strange posting of Confederate agents to map out the coast; they pretended to be artists but were turned in to authorities by vigilant locals who became uneasy about this sudden cultural assault. They admitted to being Confederates but refused to reveal their purpose. Incidentally, Bangor was considered to be a major "port" for shipping lumber--and for a long time, it was the world's greatest lumber "port". If you are interested, I recommend Mason Philip Smith's Confederates Downeast. Also, there are several useful chapters in William Hutchinson Rowe's Maritime History of Maine.

The Civil War was hard on Maine which never really recovered. Once a strong commercial presence because of ship-building and shipping, the state was been reduced to "Vacation-land," a destination for tourists.

Lobsters. They weren't limited to Maine: several other states (and countries) have lobster populations; if you ever got down to Portsmouth, you'll know. Many Confederate officers had spent time up north so I should think that lobsters weren't unknown. Lobsters prefer cold water but many southern soldiers had eaten crabs. Just as Union troops ate what they considered to be strange, so southern troops probably would have coped with lobsters.
 

leftyhunter

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
May 27, 2011
Location
los angeles ca
They moved Maine?
No my point was simply that it's hogwash that the Confedracy just wanted to be left alone and they tried to size the South West but Mexican American troops stoped them cold. If it is true that one third of the Union Army deserted then the Confedrate Army could of easily marched to Maine.
I'm not sure where Bankor, Maine is, but you certainly have a facination with the area. You do seem to completely discount the fact that the South had desertion issues as well. The North's manpower was pretty much endless with immigrants constantly flowing in. So what if thousands deserted? There were plenty to take their place.
To the contrary I have a whole thread " who serious was desertion in the Confedrate Army". I can link it to you if you like.
I was simply making the point that if it was true that one third of the Union Army actually deserted the Confedrate Army should of easily been able to march to Bankor Maine and endure itself plenty of delicious lobsters.
Leftyhunter
 

Cycom

Private
Joined
Feb 19, 2021
Location
Los Angeles, California
No my point was simply that it's hogwash that the Confedracy just wanted to be left alone and they tried to size the South West but Mexican American troops stoped them cold. If it is true that one third of the Union Army deserted then the Confedrate Army could of easily marched to Maine.

To the contrary I have a whole thread " who serious was desertion in the Confedrate Army". I can link it to you if you like.
I was simply making the point that if it was true that one third of the Union Army actually deserted the Confedrate Army should of easily been able to march to Bankor Maine and endure itself plenty of delicious lobsters.
Leftyhunter
Any civilization/large group wants to conquer and expand. This has been a hallmark of history. Not sure what the Confederacy wanting to seize the SW has to do with the OP. You’ve also mentioned that “Mexican-American” troops stopped Confederate incursions. TBH I’ve never heard about this, and I assume it’s true, but again, what’s the relevance?

Btw, if indeed they were “Mexican-American,” that would make them American. Not sure about the need to keep bringing up race/ethnicity. Respectfully, it takes away from the conversation.
 

leftyhunter

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
May 27, 2011
Location
los angeles ca
Any civilization/large group wants to conquer and expand. This has been a hallmark of history. Not sure what the Confederacy wanting to seize the SW has to do with the OP. You’ve also mentioned that “Mexican-American” troops stopped Confederate incursions. TBH I’ve never heard about this, and I assume it’s true, but again, what’s the relevance?

Btw, if indeed they were “Mexican-American,” that would make them American. Not sure about the need to keep bringing up race/ethnicity. Respectfully, it takes away from the conversation.
The ACW was all about race and ethnicity. US history has always been about race and ethnicity from day one. It is what it is .
Leftyhunter
 
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Fairfield

First Sergeant
Joined
Dec 5, 2019
TBH I’ve never heard about this, and I assume it’s true, but again, what’s the relevance?
Discussions tend to veer off into side issues. My lengthy discourse on maritime Maine and lobster eating is totally irrelevant to the core issue; if you wish to stick only to the stated OP, then simply ignore the rabbit holes.
 

IslayMalt

Private
Joined
Mar 28, 2016
Location
Waynesboro, PA
IMO taking over Maine would have been a silly thing to do--at least as long as there was so much Union territory between Kittery and the Mason-Dixon line. However there were assaults (one of which may have been a prelude to some sort of invasion attempt).

There was a Confederate raid on Portland (by sea, of course). There was some damage to Hallowell and some to Portland itself. I believe that the intent was to destroy Portland harbor--or at least the ships therein. Then there was a raid on Machias: a small number of Confederates came down through Halifax (Canada) and claimed Machias for the Confederacy. Rather like the St. Albans raid by Confederates in Vermont. Since Machias is barely north of St. Albans, I guess that Maine was the site of the most northerly battle of the Civil War. ☺️ Lastly there was the very strange posting of Confederate agents to map out the coast; they pretended to be artists but were turned in to authorities by vigilant locals who became uneasy about this sudden cultural assault. They admitted to being Confederates but refused to reveal their purpose. Incidentally, Bangor was considered to be a major "port" for shipping lumber--and for a long time, it was the world's greatest lumber "port". If you are interested, I recommend Mason Philip Smith's Confederates Downeast. Also, there are several useful chapters in William Hutchinson Rowe's Maritime History of Maine.

The Civil War was hard on Maine which never really recovered. Once a strong commercial presence because of ship-building and shipping, the state was been reduced to "Vacation-land," a destination for tourists.

Lobsters. They weren't limited to Maine: several other states (and countries) have lobster populations; if you ever got down to Portsmouth, you'll know. Many Confederate officers had spent time up north so I should think that lobsters weren't unknown. Lobsters prefer cold water but many southern soldiers had eaten crabs. Just as Union troops ate what they considered to be strange, so southern troops probably would have coped with lobsters.
Yes, the shipping industry of Maine is honestly something I no longer think about. But raids on shipyards is a far cry from marching an army from VA to ME, for an unknown reason.
 

IslayMalt

Private
Joined
Mar 28, 2016
Location
Waynesboro, PA
Unless you are one of the civilians being raided (on either side). But I wasn't equating the two--merely responding to your question. 🙂
I understand, and appreciate it. As to someone else's statements that Confederate forces should have been able to march to Maine, since 1/3 of the Union army deserted. That is just silly. But of course nobody in the Southern Army deserted.
 

IslayMalt

Private
Joined
Mar 28, 2016
Location
Waynesboro, PA
Nor did they march to Maine.

Why would they even have a desire to? The comment may have been made to produce some sort of reaction, but as I've said, I have never come across anything that said the Confederacy wanted to take Maine.
Besides trying to cover all of their land, they didn't have the manpower, or animal power, to frolic around NJ, NY, MA, NH, or ME. In the end, they had just too much land to cover & not enough manpower & supplies. I think that is obvious, although I remember someone stating that since the war was shorter than any other, the South was far inferior to the North. May be true, I won't speak to what my ancestors on both sides experienced.
 

Rebforever

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Oct 26, 2012
I understand, and appreciate it. As to someone else's statements that Confederate forces should have been able to march to Maine, since 1/3 of the Union army deserted. That is just silly. But of course nobody in the Southern Army deserted.
Who said that? Go to civilwarhome.com, if it is still working, and see what that has to say about desertions.
 

CSA Today

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Dec 3, 2011
Location
Laurinburg NC
Union desertion

In view of the conditions which prevailed in the war department and in the Union army, it is not surprising that desertion was a common fault. Even so the actual extent of it, shown in official reports, comes as a distinct shock. Though the determination of the full number is a bit complicated, the total would have been over 200,000. From New York there were 44,913 deserters according to the records; from Pennsylvania, 24,050; from Ohio, 18,354. The daily hardships of war, deficiency in arms, forced marches sometimes made straggling a necessary for less vigorous men), thirst, suffocating heat, disease, delay in pay, solicitude for family, impatience at the monotony and futility of inactive service, and (though this was not the leading cause) panic on the eve of battle—these were some of the conditioning factors that produced desertion. Many men absented themselves merely through unfamiliarity with military discipline or through the feeling that they should be "restrained by no other legal requirement than those of civil law governing a free people"; and such was a general attitude that desertion was often regarded "more as a refusal… to ratify a contract than as the commission of a grave crime."

The sense of war-weariness, the lack of confidence in commanders, and the discouragement of defeat tended to lower morale of the Union army and to increase desertions. General Hooker estimated in 1863 that 85,000 officers and men had deserted from the Army of the Potomac, while it was stated in December of 1862 that no less than 180,000 of the soldiers listed on the Union muster roll were absent, with or without leave. Abuse of leave or furlough privilege was one of the chief means of desertion. Other methods were: slipping to the rear during a battle, inviting capture by the enemy (a method by which honorable service could be claimed), straggling, taking French leave when on picket duty, pretending to be engaged in repairing a telegraph line, et cetera. Some deserters went over to the enemy, not as captives but as soldiers; others lived in a wild state on the frontier; some turned outlaw or went to Canada; some boldly appeared at home; in some cases deserter gangs, as in western Pennsylvania, formed bandit groups.


To suppress desertion the extreme penalty of death was at times applied, especially after 1863; but this meant no more than the selection of a few men as public examples out of many thousands equally guilty. The commoner method was to make public appeals to deserters, promising pardon in case of voluntary return with dire threats to those who failed to return. That desertion did not prevent a man posing after the war as an honorable soldier is evident by a study of pension records. The laws required honorable discharge as a requisite for a pension; but in the case of those charged with desertion Congress passed numerous private and special acts "correcting" the military record.
Source: J.G. Randall, David Donald, The Civil War and Reconstruction pp. 329-331.




Confederate Desertion

Desertion in the South though less extensive than in the North was a factor of large significance; and a study of the causes that produced it goes far toward revealing the conditions which made the war intolerable to thousands among people and soldiers. As explained by Miss Ella Lonn, backwoodsmen and crackers were drawn into the army who had no sympathy with slavery and no interest in the issues of a struggle which they did not understand. The conscript net gathered in even Northerners and Mexicans, whose tendency to desert was natural enough. Many of the deserters were mere boys. Poor food and clothing lack of shoes and overcoats, and insufficient pay inevitably produced dissatisfaction. Sometimes the pay was fourteen months behind; Often a soldier on leave could not pay the transportation to return to his command. Unsanitary camp conditions had their debilitating effect. Soldiers kept in unwholesome inaction were more than commonly subject to homesickness and depression. Often the alternative was abandonment and neglect of wife and children or departure from the army – in other words a choice between two kinds of desertion, a dilemma in facing conflicting loyalties. Not a few Southern soldiers found themselves in the situation of an Alabaman who deserted the army when his wife wrote him: "We haven’t got nothing in the house to eat but a little bit of meal… I don’t want you to stop fighting them Yankees… but try and get off and come home and fix us up some and then you can go back." Some Arkansas soldiers deserted when informed that Indians were on a scalping tour near their homes. Indignant at extortioners and profiteers, soldiers would become disgruntled at the "rich man’s war and the poor man’s fight." For such men desertion bore no stigma; and, in sum, it appears that this factor (which after all, was but a reflection of many other factors) ‘contributed definitely to the Confederate defeats after 1862 and to the catastrophe of 1865."

J.G. Randall, David Donald, The Civil War and Reconstruction pp. 516-517
 

IslayMalt

Private
Joined
Mar 28, 2016
Location
Waynesboro, PA
Union desertion

In view of the conditions which prevailed in the war department and in the Union army, it is not surprising that desertion was a common fault. Even so the actual extent of it, shown in official reports, comes as a distinct shock. Though the determination of the full number is a bit complicated, the total would have been over 200,000. From New York there were 44,913 deserters according to the records; from Pennsylvania, 24,050; from Ohio, 18,354. The daily hardships of war, deficiency in arms, forced marches sometimes made straggling a necessary for less vigorous men), thirst, suffocating heat, disease, delay in pay, solicitude for family, impatience at the monotony and futility of inactive service, and (though this was not the leading cause) panic on the eve of battle—these were some of the conditioning factors that produced desertion. Many men absented themselves merely through unfamiliarity with military discipline or through the feeling that they should be "restrained by no other legal requirement than those of civil law governing a free people"; and such was a general attitude that desertion was often regarded "more as a refusal… to ratify a contract than as the commission of a grave crime."

The sense of war-weariness, the lack of confidence in commanders, and the discouragement of defeat tended to lower morale of the Union army and to increase desertions. General Hooker estimated in 1863 that 85,000 officers and men had deserted from the Army of the Potomac, while it was stated in December of 1862 that no less than 180,000 of the soldiers listed on the Union muster roll were absent, with or without leave. Abuse of leave or furlough privilege was one of the chief means of desertion. Other methods were: slipping to the rear during a battle, inviting capture by the enemy (a method by which honorable service could be claimed), straggling, taking French leave when on picket duty, pretending to be engaged in repairing a telegraph line, et cetera. Some deserters went over to the enemy, not as captives but as soldiers; others lived in a wild state on the frontier; some turned outlaw or went to Canada; some boldly appeared at home; in some cases deserter gangs, as in western Pennsylvania, formed bandit groups.


To suppress desertion the extreme penalty of death was at times applied, especially after 1863; but this meant no more than the selection of a few men as public examples out of many thousands equally guilty. The commoner method was to make public appeals to deserters, promising pardon in case of voluntary return with dire threats to those who failed to return. That desertion did not prevent a man posing after the war as an honorable soldier is evident by a study of pension records. The laws required honorable discharge as a requisite for a pension; but in the case of those charged with desertion Congress passed numerous private and special acts "correcting" the military record.
Source: J.G. Randall, David Donald, The Civil War and Reconstruction pp. 329-331.




Confederate Desertion

Desertion in the South though less extensive than in the North was a factor of large significance; and a study of the causes that produced it goes far toward revealing the conditions which made the war intolerable to thousands among people and soldiers. As explained by Miss Ella Lonn, backwoodsmen and crackers were drawn into the army who had no sympathy with slavery and no interest in the issues of a struggle which they did not understand. The conscript net gathered in even Northerners and Mexicans, whose tendency to desert was natural enough. Many of the deserters were mere boys. Poor food and clothing lack of shoes and overcoats, and insufficient pay inevitably produced dissatisfaction. Sometimes the pay was fourteen months behind; Often a soldier on leave could not pay the transportation to return to his command. Unsanitary camp conditions had their debilitating effect. Soldiers kept in unwholesome inaction were more than commonly subject to homesickness and depression. Often the alternative was abandonment and neglect of wife and children or departure from the army – in other words a choice between two kinds of desertion, a dilemma in facing conflicting loyalties. Not a few Southern soldiers found themselves in the situation of an Alabaman who deserted the army when his wife wrote him: "We haven’t got nothing in the house to eat but a little bit of meal… I don’t want you to stop fighting them Yankees… but try and get off and come home and fix us up some and then you can go back." Some Arkansas soldiers deserted when informed that Indians were on a scalping tour near their homes. Indignant at extortioners and profiteers, soldiers would become disgruntled at the "rich man’s war and the poor man’s fight." For such men desertion bore no stigma; and, in sum, it appears that this factor (which after all, was but a reflection of many other factors) ‘contributed definitely to the Confederate defeats after 1862 and to the catastrophe of 1865."

J.G. Randall, David Donald, The Civil War and Reconstruction pp. 516-517

Very nice information. I know that my GGF in the Union army, took a leave in 1863, but his wife and daughter had already left Philly. I would guess because they didn't have the money to live? He reinlisted in his regiment, and was killed at Saylor's Creek. He could have disappeard while on leave I suppose. Another ancestor on the Southern side seems to have deserted after Antietam. Going home to take care of a family with 8 children. One of his sons was in the army when he reached 16. Conscripted or volunteered I don't know. Such scenarios I would imagine happened on both sides.
 

IslayMalt

Private
Joined
Mar 28, 2016
Location
Waynesboro, PA
Who said that? Go to civilwarhome.com, if it is still working, and see what that has to say about desertions.

Nobody said that. But based on the 'South could have marched to Maine' comment, they would have had to have ranks fully filled, not to mention a lot of supplies, which of course as the war progressed they did not. As I said, it was a silly statement and made no realistic sense what so ever.
 

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