Sunday, April 27, 2014

Northern Deserters at Fort Steadman


By 1865, the Northern government had paid some $300 million in bounties to obtain recruits, with State and local governments paying a near equal amount – totaling $600 million.  Bounty-jumping was common as men would enlist and obtain a handsome payment, then desert and enlist elsewhere for more cash. They obviously made poor soldiers.

Bernhard Thuersam, Chairman

North Carolina War Between the States Sesquicentennial Commission

"Unsurpassed Valor, Courage and Devotion to Liberty"

"The Official Website of the North Carolina WBTS Sesquicentennial"

Northern Deserters at Fort Steadman

"Another incident I remember [in late March, 1865]: The enemy's picket line was only about seventy-five yards from ours.  In each pit they had six men day and night.  Sometimes these fellows would call and beg me to come  over and sit awhile and talk with them, promising to let me return when the friendly interview was over.  Though I would never take the risk, they broke the monotony themselves one night and came over to us.

The night was quite dark, and I thought I heard a man's voice out in front saying in a low tone: "Don't shoot; I'm coming in." This he repeated several times as he advanced toward me and, repeating these words, tumbled into my pit.  He seemed to be very much excited and begged me to pass the word up the line not to shoot, as others were coming over.

Those who followed veered to the left and piled into Perkin's pit.  He was very much excited and called out to me, saying: "I have a lot of deserters here; what shall I do with them?  There are seven of them." I told him to send them to the rear, as I had done my man.

These fellows were "bounty-jumpers"; their government was giving a thousand dollars to all who would enlist.  Some nights during the winter a hundred or more would come over to our pickets.  General Lee let them slip through the lines somewhere again to perform the same maneuver.  They were not very dangerous foes and cared very little for which side won."

(On Picket Duty in Front of Fort Steadman, I.G. Bradwell, Brantley, Alabama, Confederate Veteran, August 1930, pg. 305)