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Civil War Roster Notation

Civil War Roster

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#1 Rick Landrum

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Posted 29 August 2020 - 03:25 PM

Looking for a little help interpreting Civil War roster notations.

 

While posting military service records for an ancestor, I came across a curious notation.

 

The record showed that the person had enlisted on date 1 but was not present on roster date 2. They were listed as "deserted" on that date. Subsequent records showed the person had been transferred to another unit and finished their enlistment there. I have seen this before numerous times, and I am wondering if the term "deserted" just meant the person had left the unit and the reason was not known. Or did it actually mean AWOL? It almost seems that the writer meant to say "has left the unit' for whatever reason, instead of actually "deserted". 

 

Just wondering if anyone else has come across this, and how you handled it in RM. 

 

Thanks

Rick


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#2 KFN

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Posted 29 August 2020 - 09:33 PM

I don’t know this exact situation, but I do know that men were paid to “enlist” in a unit.  It is possible that they received money to join unit “A”, deserted, and join unit “B” and received another payment.



#3 robertjacobs0

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Posted 30 August 2020 - 07:36 AM

That happened a lot. Most of the serious histories of the war remark on it.



#4 Rick Landrum

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Posted 30 August 2020 - 07:36 AM

That's possible, but I am thinking maybe the term "deserted", as it was used in civil war muster roles, may have meant  had "left" the unit, but not deserted as we think of it today. I guess the only way to handle this in RM is through notes.


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#5 Jerry Bryan

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Posted 30 August 2020 - 07:37 AM

I think the root cause of the sloppy Civil War records we see is that sometimes record keeping was actually pretty sloppy. Soldiers would sometimes disappear and reappear without apparent cause, even though there was perhaps a valid cause that was never written down.. Perhaps they lost track of their unit after a battle. Perhaps after a battle they informally became members of a different unit because their original unit had ceased to exist or had become lost to them. Perhaps they were in a field hospital for a while and nobody knew they were there. I have one Civil War ancestor who was sent home immediately after enlistment to serve as a recruiter. When he applied for a Civil War pension, affidavits were filed in opposition to his application on the grounds that he was a deserter. But he then was able to come up with an affidavit from his commanding officer to prove that he indeed did have a commission to serve as a recruiter and that he had done so.

 

The phrase "fog of war" comes to mind here. Said fog applies to many things military in wartime, including record keeping. It wasn't just the Civil War. Consider what happened to the American paratroopers on D-Day who were dropped many miles from their intended drop zone. Many of them thereafter fought with a different unit. I have no idea how the record keeping of this situation was reconciled.

 

So I just tend to transcribe the records I find without necessarily trying to resolve every discrepancy. I find that a soldier was frequently missing from one roll call and then reappeared on the next roll call.

 

Jerry

 



#6 robertjacobs0

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Posted 30 August 2020 - 07:38 AM

Although many were pardoned by Lincoln, "deserters" were shot. The term meant what it does today.



#7 Rick Landrum

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Posted 30 August 2020 - 09:00 AM

Thanks all,

I'm going with Jerry's approach and just transcribe the records as is and place any thoughts about the accuracy in my notes. Such notes may be necessary in the case of conflicting records. For example my ancestor 's National Archive military records say one thing, and his Texas Confederate records say another.

 

He enlisted in Feb 1862 as a private in his first unit. It was reorganized in May 1862, and he was transferred to his second unit on May 6, 1862. However, he was listed as "deserted" on April 15, 1862. The second unit muster roster shows him present in May and June, and he was discharged as 3rd sargent in 1865 at the end of the war. Obviously not a deserter.
 
Whew! Civil War records created in the midst of all that confusion were sloppy at best.
Rick

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