- Dec 17, 2014
If you pull a bunch of service records from soldiers of the same company, sometimes you can even see where and when morale problems occur. A whole bunch of soldiers slunk away in the vicinity of Abbeville, for example.It seems R. E. Lee didn't think the confederates were fighting almost to the last man.
"Late in February General Lee declared that the despair of the North Carolinians was destroying his army. He wrote Governor Vance: 'Desertings are becoming very frequent and there is reason to believe that they are occasioned to a considerable extent by letters written to the soldiers by their friends at home.' The diaries and letters of the men in the line around Richmond show that Lee had reason to be concerned. 'Deserters increase ... we had three more last night' is the February 21 entry in the diary of Samuel Hoey Walkup of the Forty-eighth North Carolina regiment." [John G. Barrett, Sherman's March Through the Carolinas, p. 118]
Lee wasn't the only one.
"It was not those soldiers who looked to heaven for comfort but those who took off for home themselves that occasioned six North Carolina regimental commanders to write Senator William Alexander Graham of the Confederate Congress:
" 'Numerous desertions are now occurring among the troops from our state. ... We believe that the spirit of discontent among our soldiers owes its birth and growth to the influences of those of our citizens at home, who by evil councils and by fears have een made to despair of the success of our cause and are constantly, while the soldiers are home on furlough and through the mails, instilling into them opinions which too often culminate in desertion. We are led to this conclusion by intercepted letters, addressed to those who deserted.' " [Ibid.]
Seems there was a home front after all, and it seems they had quite an impact on soldier desertions.
I'm not sure it's fair to discuss desertion in the Confederacy without considering how much easier it was to desert, however. I have some Dickerson cousins from Fulton who all deserted at the same time, two sons and a father. The thing is, they were in Fulton with the 7th TN Cav at the time. That's an extreme example, but it's obviously easier for most Confederates to get home than for most Union boys.