Guide to Orders and oaths for Union and Confederate deserters C0382
Published by George Mason University Libraries
The United States Civil War lasted from 1861 - 1865, pitting southern (Confederacy) and northern states (Union) against each other. The central conflicts of state sovereignty and the institution of slavery, under which millions of people were enslaved, were at stake. Though the Union eventually won, the war resulted in over 600,000 casualties. The Civil War was the most devastating conflict the United States had seen up to that point in its history.
The Civil War saw soldiers deserting on both sides for a variety of reasons, some in political protest, some in desperation or a need to return to their families. In Virginia specifically, "[Confederates] fled military service at a rate of between 10 and 15 percent, more or less comparable to the desertion rate among Union troops, which stood between 9 and 12 percent." (Sheehan-Dean). North Carolina also saw one of the highest rates of desertion during the war (Franch).
Four printed documents, three Union and one Confederate, regarding policies and procedures for deserters from each side of the Civil War, all printed in 1864. The Confederate document by S. Cooper, the Adjutant and Inspector General, outlines policy toward non-U.S. born Union deserters (General Order no.65). Two documents from the Office of the Provost Martial Headquarters Department of Virginia and North Carolina are the oath to be sworn by Confederate deserters who surrender to the Union and the certification of that oath, specifically in Virginia. Both are unfilled and unsigned. The fourth document from the Headquarters of the Armies of the United States and Assistant Adjutant General T.S. Bowers, outlines requirements of Confederate deserters who wish to surrender to the United States.
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The Special Collections Research Center holds many collections pertaining to the Civil War, including the Northern Virginia Civil War images collection, Randolph H. Lytton Historical Virginia collection, the Letter from unidentified Confederate soldier to his mother, among many others.
United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865
Virginia -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865
Orders and oaths for Union and Confederate deserters, C0382, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.
Purchased by Lynn Eaton from Jerry Showalter in April 2019.
Processing completed by Amanda Brent in January 2022. EAD markup completed by Amanda Brent in January 2022.
Franch, Daniel. "Desertion in the Confederate Army: A Disease that Crippled Dixie," 2014. Accessed January 14, 2022. https://uncw.edu/csurf/explorations/documents/volume%209%202014/franch.pdf.
McPherson, James. "A Brief Overview of the American Civil War," August 24, 2021. American Battlefield Trust. https://www.battlefields.org/learn/articles/brief-overview-american-civil-war.
Sheehan-Dean, Aaron. "Desertion (Confederate) during the Civil War," accessed January 14, 2022. https://encyclopediavirginia.org/entries/desertion-confederate-during-the-civil-war/.