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In Their Own Words

August 18, 1862

Civil War Soldier Wrote of Deserters Being Executed

Writing home to his wife, a Georgia soldier told of two men soon to receive the ultimate punishment for desertion.

“… Something will take place in our brigade this evening that hasn’t happened often in the Confederate army. Two of the 31st Virginia Regiment are to be shot in front of the whole brigade for desertion. This is, I think, the second offence. They were caught this time leading the enemy around into the rear of our army. There has been a great many desertions from the Virginia regiment. None have been sentenced to be shot before. Various other severe punishments have been inflicted on them, such as having heads shaved, branding, wearing ball and chain, their pay being taken from them, &c. The shooting is hard punishment, one that I very much regret to witness but will be compelled to see it. In war, it is a just punishment, I suppose. It is to be regretted very much that it has to be resorted to to stop desertion. …”

Source: Mills Lane (ed.), “Dear Mother: Don’t grieve about me. If I get killed, I’ll only be dead.”: Letters from Georgia Soldiers in the Civil War (Savannah: Beehive Press, 1990), p. 181.