tv The Civil War Confederate Deserter John Futch CSPAN April 21, 2019 10:00am-11:06am EDT
>> watch part two of the women's at 6 p.m.our sunday eastern and 10 p.m. eastern on andrican artifacts kmco explore the nations passed on --rican history tv artifacts," and explore the past of the nation on american history tv. >> next on the civil war, and he spread college professor peter carmichael talks about confederate soldier john futch, and why he chose to desert after the battle of gettysburg. mr. carmichael is the author of "the war for the common soldier: how men thought, fought, and survived in civil war armies." the virginia museum of history and culture hosted the event. it's just over one hour. >> so, now for today's program we are privileged to have one of the nation's for most authorities on the american civil war with us today. dr. peter carmichael earned his phd under gary gallagher at penn
state for beginning his academic career in 1997. he went on to teach at the university of north carolina greensboro and west virginia university before landing and -- landing probably at one of the finest places you can land as a civil war historian, gettysburg college, as the professor of civil war studies and director of the civil war institute at gettysburg college, where he has been since 2010. peter also serves as coeditor of froml war america" series, the university of north carolina press. he is no stranger to the historical society, where he has conducted a lot of research and spoken a number of times before. he is the author of numerous scholarly and popular articles, and several books, including "the last graham," generation, war and reunion,"
and most recently, "the war for the common soldier: how men thought, fought, and survived in civil war armies," copies of which are available at our shop -- museum shop and i'm sure pete would be happy to sign them for you after today's lecture. so, please give a warm welcome to peter carmichael. [applause] peter: ok, sorry. [laughter] need to get settled. thank you so much for the kind introduction. coming back here is nostalgic and it makes mean this logic
of 1985 i the summer was a seasonal historian at appomattox courthouse. i had to play a union soldier, bobby fields, 9:00 to 5:00 every day that summer, pretending it was 1865. it was a gratis -- experience, of course. the former chief historian their that i wasew interested in william pegram. he said, why don't you come to the virginia bcm and historical society. and i was getting to that point in my life where i was like -- remember when? i did my first research there. other things since then, i've relied heavily on the collections here. in many ways this was my home court to do research. i have had a number of people helping me along the way. of course it's a number -- it's a mistake to list names because you forget somebody but i have
to mention everybody, but i have to remember francis, who was so kind and so wise. it is a pleasure and an honor. this is a way to express my gratitude because historians cannot do this job alone. they have to have partners in crime, right? and archivists are critical to any historian's success in original research. i say that and i should note that my wife is an archivist and -- archivist by training from i have to get a good plug-in, i know she will be watching. thank you so much for having me here. on august 20, in the middle of the night, 13 veterans of the third north carolina top rifles -- pick up the rifles, slung on their cartridge boxes, and fled camp. from that point on, there was no turning back.
they had a trek of a few hundred miles that would eventually , they hoped, bring them back to north carolina. as you know, the north carolinians were hardly alone in the aftermath of the defeat at gettysburg. there would likely thousands of -- lee'seft to leave's army without permission. who were these deserters? not just the deserters in the north carolina, but who were these men who took great risk and fled their commands? just today, they are relatively a faceless mob. name your favorite deserter. you can name your favorite general, but you cannot name your favorite best favorite deserter. we do not know them as individuals. why is that? why is there a silence, here? and that is something that, as i got deep into this study here, was -- i was reminded of the fact that to acknowledge the
silence is to also acknowledge how the historic records are created. and also how historic narratives are created that it is a reflection of who has power. why have we not heard from the deserter? why don't you have your favorite -- a single deserter? it's because the sources that we typically have access to other sources that were written by military officials, government officials, newspaper men. right? that is what we hear. that is what we have access to. and that is largely why we, of course, cannot put a face on these men. i also think there is a problem in the scholarship. and that problem in the scholarship is that we have stereotyped deserters. we have stereotyped deserters as men who were cowardly. as men who did not have a strong
sense of duty. and that perception, or i should say that interpretation in the scholarship, it reaffirms a popular believe that the common civil war soldier was what? always faced the front, was always a brave. those are the stories we like to hear. those are the stories we repeat. and the scholarship by professional historians to some degree has reaffirmed that. i will give you an example from a man i greatly inspire and that -- admire, whose work has deeply influenced me. and that's james mcpherson. there is always a risk to take a shot at a very prestigious and important historian as dr. mcpherson, but by giving his interpretation, i think they are open to questions and revision. dr. mcpherson described deserters as "mostly conscripts, substitutes, and bounty men."
he did not believe they were motivated and if they were motivated at all, it was not by duty, honor, or ideology. deserters were not political. now i have a very significant reservation about that claim. i think this is something that i hope to discuss and debate at the end of my talk here it i am -- talk. i am not going to race through my presentation, but i want to give you an opportunity to talk about this. of course i can't identify the person in the audience now, but before my talk a person said to me, this book you have just written, you could slap on any war on the title and the story is the same because the story of a soldier is a universal one, a timeless one. i don't believe that. but what i have often heard is
that for these men, these men who decided to flee the army, that they left for reasons that you can find about time. file that away and shoe on it -- two on it a little bit -- it a little bit and we will have a chance to be able to discuss it. what i am deeply concerned about is the stereotyping of deserters. what i want to do today and what i would like to believe i accomplished in my book is that i want you to stand in the shoes , in this case, of a deserter. shoes you to stand in the of that deserter and i want you to take in the world as that deserter took in the world. what he perceived. how he felt. how he made sense of that world. and more importantly, above all else, what options? what options did he imagine? what was in the range of possibilities?
it is the key to these talk -- this talk and is elemental in what i tried to do in my book. so, to get you all to stand in the shoes of a deserter, i have got to hear their voice. right? i have already told you that's a challenge. there is simply not any sources in which we hear, we hear the words of the men who fled. but i got lucky. in any book, you have to get lucky, and i did. i picked up a pamphlet entitled "tragedy at montpelier." it described the largest execution of lee's army in northern virginia. it took place in 1863. i knew about this execution and was fascinated by it. when i picked it up, i noticed that the author is quoting one of the men condemned and executed at montpelier.
there are the words right there. i was shocked, surprised, and excited, and those words came from a north carolinians. his name? john futch. john futch -- there was nothing that stands out about john futch. he was from new hanover county, north carolina, next to wilmington. he owned no land. no land. he did not own any slaves at all. but he lived within a network of family members, and some of them did own slaves. but he's certainly on what you might say are the margins of white southern society. nothing there that stood out about him was exceptional except for one thing, he was illiterate. illiterate. left the body, he
of correspondence. a body of letters. he obviously dictated his thoughts and feelings to comrades, many whom were barely literate themselves. and so again, i ask you to think about the books that many of you have read, about the common soldier and those that rely heavily upon those men who are highly educated. those of a highly privileged class. those are the voices that surface when we think about the common soldier. the voice of john futch we rarely hear because, as you all know, those kinds of manuscripts and letters -- and i would be willing to bet there are many here at that institution -- come from small soldiers. i had it. my goldmine. gold mine. i had my path to get into the inner world of john futch. john futch did not speak about his opposition to the war.
he did not condemn -- spell it out. he did not condemn the confederate government. he did not in any way critique the slaveholding class. he did none of that. but what he did say, in letter after letter, to my amazement, is that he had reservations about the war. he had reservations about the war because he believed it was a violation of humanity, a violation of god's will. that christians should not be killing each other, shooting at each other. that's the origin, that's the origin of his dissatisfaction. again, i will give you one more thing to think about here. that dissatisfaction that he had with the war, his moral reservations about having humans kill other humans.
how -- or does it, i should say -- does that in any way make him political, make him political in his opposition that would ultimately lead to him taking that amazing act of desertion? right? again, that's what we are wrestling with, here. seeing and trying to understand this great risk that he took when he decided to desert. is it a deeply political act? a little bit about futch. john futch lost his wife in 1861 shortly after he enlisted. he only served briefly. i'm not certain why. he left the army in 1861. i don't know if it was because of his wife's death. i'm quite certain, though, that when she passed, they still had a young child. i don't know the age of the
child, but i believe the child was an infant or still a very -- maybe. he remarried a woman named martha and went back into the confederate army under the theat of conscription, or draft, in 1862. that's when he joined in north carolina along with some relatives, including his brother, charlie. including his brother, charlie. so they go into the third north carolina and almost immediately john futch gets sick. and really for the next 10 months in 1862, he shovels -- shuttles between hospital and camp and can never get his equilibrium in the army. when he is sick, he is receiving letters from his wife, martha. and i want to make this very clear now about would -- what good confederate women, and i put quotes around that, what "good confederate women close vote were supposed to do. as you can all probably imagine,
their letters were supposed to encourage the men to do their duty, to suffer for the cause, to encourage their men to continue the fight regardless of what might be happening on the home front. i cannot stress enough to you all that what i found in this book time and time again with union and confederate soldiers, the importance women played in shaping how men understood their sense of duty. husbands and wives saw themselves as partners in the war. i already pointed out what martha futch was supposed to do. when her husband was ill, she was of course supposed to write him a letter and say, buck up, getthrough this and yourself back into the ranks. martha, she was barely literate herself and she sent him the following letter. "i learned that you have not
going before the medical board and i want you to go. if you wanted to come home as much as i want you to come, you would go every day and i want you to do it and try to get home." there is a strong-minded woman, right? forget that. not only is she violating the "code" of a woman, but violating -- of a confederate woman, but she is violating patriarchy. no man is supposed to receive instructions -- that is not even an instruction, it is an order. is it not? do this. what's even interesting about that note is that she clearly had heard through the so-called grapevine, right? from another soldier's maybe letter to another woman who lived in the neighborhood, but heardows, she said i heard you're not going back to the medical board. these of the kinds of letters john futch received from his wife, martha. as you can only imagine, those letters did little to improve
his mental state. these other letters, i will give you something of a synopsis. they described the financial collapse of the futch household. she also talked about women who were dressing up in her neighborhood as soldiers and going to a nearby military hospital, military hospital, and talking and terrorizing the men who were inside. fullyf these things explained it, and this is why i want to you back to my point. trying to understand the world as john perceived it. see the past with such incredible clarity. of course, they did not. there was a large amount of confusing and fragmented information and outright gossip and rumor. you can only imagine the difficulties that john had in trying to piece together the
broken shards coming from his wife. they are on the verge of starvation. wait, there is a sickness that's run through the community. god, there are women terrorizing soldiers in the hospital. how does one make sense of that? we will never know, but we do know this, it they absolutely had to leave this great confusion for john, right? who was also feeling that his sense of duty, as a man, that his ultimate duty was to provide care for his household. he was, john was, particularly outraged to learn someone had gone to their property and engaged in some kind of thievery -- he does not spell it out. but he gives martha some direct instructions on what to do in the instructions are shocking. he wrote to her -- he didn't write, he said it to another soldier who wrote it down --
"dam that old rascal, and you ought to take your gone and go there and shoot him for all he has been doing them tricks." times are clearly difficult for the futch household, and the -- household in new hanover county, but the situation for john was not better. he was barely getting by in the ranks because of his illness. the surgeons were refusing to give him a pass to send him back home. in fact, he spoke to his wife in the spring of 1863 and said it looks like starvation time here. now these hardships that john indu word and how he reacted to them were somewhat unusual. i found time and time again that it was the hardship in the ranks
that forged the strong sense of community and connection amongst all the soldiers. these connections were extraordinarily strong. the glue that held it together was emotion. i always thought that civil war soldiers that when they endured these trials, they kept it all within. right? and they weren't willing to confess to those at home and especially to their comrades. futch is just one of the many examples that that is not the case at all. i want to remind you that he is in fact speaking to another man. he is giving these innermost thoughts to another man. there is an outstanding book just released by jim broomall called "private confederacies." it's outstanding. it's outstanding. veryt in fact explores the deep and i think in a very
powerful and compelling way the emotional life of civil war soldiers. that emotional bond through shared suffering -- i will give you a quick example. ,harles bowden, a union soldier after the battle of fredericksburg, a horrific union defeat, he participated in the failed assault. after the battle, he was on the verge. he was on the verge of deserting. and one day he looked into his camp and saw a man from minnesota who had left his wife with nine children. nine children. and this poor man like john futch could not read or write and he saw that the man took on extra work doing laundry and sewing to send a little money back to his wife. when he looked at this and saw this great sacrifice, what this man was enduring, it filled him with an overriding connection to that man and the cause itself.
-- and to his unit and to the cause itself. john futch never felt that. when he was in the military hospital, he did not long to get back to camp to connect with his comrades. combat. combat, as you all know, also could bring men together, but not for john futch. his first battle was chancellorsville in may 1863. he spoke to a comrade and the letter conveyed to his wife and he said he was quite certain that everyone was going to be killed, and no one would be left to tell the story. you know that comrade -- he then told that comrade that another
soldier had, and he used the word, had defecated in his pants because he was so scared. when you think of chancellorsville and lee's army, northern virginia, you think of the greatest triumph of the war, of men who have supreme confidence in their general, which of course led you to believe that they were what, very comparable? that they would not be defeated? but john futch never felt any of that. i am not trying to suggest to you that those men who felt that were somehow not characteristic of the army. it most certainly was. but you, again, go back to the silences. go back to the stories we have heard and the stories that we like to tell. it is not the story of john futch, the man in the wake of a great confederate victory right -- victory writing or speaking about a comrade defecating in his pants.
an important point about combat and civil war soldiers -- it is a hot topic. it always has been and always will. it is a topic in which we can get into the inner world of these men and how they are coming to terms with this awful violence they had to confront and also conflicted. trauma. -- of ptsd. no doubt about that. i don't think that's a great revelation. certainly there was some form of trauma. men and women can't go through that without being changed in some way. i also think it's a bit fast i'll to say that these men were over combat.ctors we have a silly binary, right? we are either victims or victors.
i say neither. what i'm trying to do with this book, what i want you to see right now is how men could feel about combat and could feel very differently in different times of the war. men had many faces. remember what i said to you? i don't want to stereotype a man as courageous, beautiful, or cowardly. absolutely not. they could be all of the things. it just offend and i was happening in a very moment. the very best word to describe civil war soldiers' attitude toward that was ambivalence. on the one hand, they true in great satisfaction. -- they felt a great satisfaction. they believed they had proven themselves as men going through that ordeal. on the other hand, they would write that i don't want to go back there. i don't want to endure that again. the best example is from a new york soldier, fantastic book with a great title.
here you go. got pat and paper? i don't see them out there. i will speak lowly. i tell my students this all the time, i just say of peas me. me, just move your hand slowly on your paper and i hope you will read it. "no freedom schrieker." he wrote tompaign, his wife and he had his uniform and when he looked at it he wanted to send it back to her in their new york home and he wanted her to stuff it and put it in the office and after the war if he ever had a bad day on the farm, he'd look at that uniform and say, it is not too bad here. [laughter] he gets issued, a new sack coat. two weeks later.
saidote to his wife and he there wasn't a piece of clothing that he ever prized more in his life than the code he was wearing. that coat had the soil soil stain from the country. it became sacred in his mind. within three weeks, you can get the contradictions and tensions that resided in these men. i can't stress that enough, the contradictions and detentions. on even the campaign for gettysburg, futch feared any excursion into the north would take him farther from his family and he became absolutely fatalistic. few days before the crossed the potomac, he spoke to
his comrade and said "i hope that i will get home sometime before i die." july 2, evening of july second, john and charlie futch work part -- were part of the attack. i would like to think that all of you have been to gettysburg. if not, we welcome you. , not an see the gettysburg -- the battlefield. and, on up and you will see where john and charlie participated in the evening attack in which they were both on the ground loading their weapons. you know the rocky terrain there, right? as they were loading their weapons, a bullet struck charlie in the head. when he turned to look at john -- and you can only imagine the blood was streaming down charlie's face -- and when he
charlie was killed in gettysburg, pennsylvania, poor fella. he was a long way from home. i was very sorry i couldn't get a coffin to bury him, but i buried him the best i could. it was something i never expected to have to do, you don't know what you have to do until you get to war. i believe he is happy and far better off than any of us. john did his best to try to bring his family and his friends by charlie's side during his
last moments of his life in his bedside. i hope you have all read this , republic suffering, and which he writes about the culture of death. we see those ideas and how they permeated in the thinking of john futch. i could never imagine getting -- giving those details to a loved one. upset thosewant to who could have been -- could not have been with a loved one in that last hour. john futch did everything he could to transport his family to those rocky slopes so that they could feel they see what he saw before charlie departed. ton the army returned virginia, john spoke five
-- spoke five letters from july 19 to august 6. in each one of these letters, he made it clear he needed to escape the army for his family's survival and for his own sanity. he was getting rations in that late summer of 1863. there was a logistical breakdown in the army of northern virginia. proof of the suffering and mistreatment. for his feet, he had no shoes. and as he spoke to his comrade, he informed his comrade that they were covered with calluses and blisters. in just a moment i'm going to read one of john's letters and as you will discover, the syntax in this letter is rough going. there is not a lot of respect for grammar or punctuation. it is a little rough but you have all imagined it. i should be well prepared to be -- to read this kind of letter.
i've been grading undergraduate papers for [laughter] more than a decade. peter: i am playing to my audience because i do not think there are any students here. if you could pull that letter up for me. you can read along with me. i have the pleasure of writing you a few lines which will inform you i'm not well at this time. i have a bad cold and i am weary of marching but we are stopped at this time. we don't know how long we will stay there. there is some talk of going back to maryland but i am in hopes the war will end. for i am tired of maryland. i hope we will not hold back there. we marched through and we had a hard fight and we lost all of our boys nearly there. charlie got killed, suffered a great deal from his wound. we saw hard times there and got enough to eat there but we don't
now. as for myself, i get enough, so -- for i don't want nothing to eat hardly. i am sick all of the time and have crazy. -- half crazy. what an admission. callus ofu have read a letter letters and you've never come across an admission like that. i never wanted to come home so bad in my life. if we come down south, i will i want to come home so bad i am homesick. i want you to keep charlie's pistol and if i ever get it back, i will keep it. thomas and robert ramsey both got wounded. i hope we will be lifted to come home without a wound for i have seen so many wounded and die. , men in civilw war armies are supposed to
master their emotions. were they not supposed to come through this ordeal. i have seen so many wounded and died. i stayed with charlie until he died. he never spoke after he was wounded. i was never hurt so in my life. i would rather have it then myself. then he abruptly ends. clearly a call to duty. my opportunity as of writing, i will close. only i still remain your kind and affectionate husband. note to the next part of the letter. clearly he is speaking to somebody else. dear mother, i wanted to let you know i have not forgotten you yet, now, and never will as long as i live. i wrote to you two or three times and never got an answer. to see you the worst in the world and talk with you. i will write you before long and a long letter. don't forget to write to me. for it is all the satisfaction i
see is to hear from you all. i will close for the want of something to write. so nothing more and i remain your kind son, john futch. john futch's letters that followed. john prepared his wife for his active -- act of desertion. he encouraged his wife to go and get what we would call welfare, county relief given to soldier'' wives. he is plotting this. this isn't just waking up and deciding let's get out and head back to carolina. it is clear there was deep thinking that went behind this. it included his wife to make sure she would get the rations from the county because of course as soon as he deserted
she would no longer be eligible. he also informed his wife that the officers in the third north carolina were opening the letters of the enlisted men to try to figure out their intentions. on the day he deserted on august 20, he sent one final note to his wife. that final note said you can expect me home soon. the 20th, they made their way south. in less than four days they made it more than 50 miles. they got to the james river not far from scottsville, south of charlottesville. they got to the river in the middle of the night. they were intercepted by a confederate patrol. it is hard to know what happened next, except for possibly an -- except in an attempt to surrender, a gun battle erupted. the officer of the arresting party, richard mallette, was shot in the chest and killed.
one of futch's comrades was killed, another escaped. you really have 10 shoulders now. they are captured and put on trains to castle thunder. it is near where bottoms up pizza is located today. is that still here? it was a place for confederate political prisoners. week and there for a during that we don't know what transpired. all we have are some newspaper reports. the reporters made it clear that they had no interactions with the men at all. at the end of that week, the men were shackled together and escorted to the train station. one of the richmond reporters saw these men and said these men by their appearances alone -- he did not speak to them and did
not identify them by name -- by appearances alone, he said he knew they had craven hearts and were not remorseful for the act they had committed. he had not spoken to them. they were put on the train and back to the army in northern virginia. back to johnson's division in montpelier. at montpelier, they were escorted to a tent that was heavily guarded. it is the friday night before the execution took place on saturday. the execution takes place september 5. september the fourth, reverend armstrong spoke to futch and his comrades and he informed them of the verdict which was that they
were to be executed before a firing squad the following day. they were allowed no communication with anyone including their comrades. , a newspaper reporter somehow was able to get some insight into what had transpired between armstrong and the men. he wrote that those men, futch and his comrades, these men for the first time found jesus christ and accepted him as their savior. that's a curious conclusion. as you know, john futch was a christian and had accepted christ as his savior. in one of those letters, he sketched a hand and a finger pointing to the heavens. the next morning, they stood in -- johnson's division was formed up in a three sided square. they stood in that formation throughout much of the afternoon
waiting in silence. you can only imagine the anxiety they felt. these men knew exactly what was going to happen and were ordered to that spot, interestingly enough, without muskets. that came from above, from johnson, johnson was concerned about how the men would respond to this. as they stood there that afternoon, the sounds of the dead march were heard. again, they could see nothing and could only hear the muffled drum cadence. then the ranks parted and the condemned appeared. they were likely marched around the entire square so that they -- is the johnson's veterans could see them. they were marched to the state's.
two soldiers escorted each deserter to one of the stakes. reverend armstrong came and had final words with each soldier. then the men were forced to kneel on the ground, hands tied to the stakes, blindfolded, and the last act, the guards took the caps and pulled them over their eyes. they walked away, and during that silence, a few of the condemned yelled out -- "have mercy on me." one man cried for his mother, another yelled out save me. were those men john futch?
we will never know. we will never know what went through john's mind in those final moments. was he thinking about his wife martha or the child he would never see again? was he thinking about charlie dying in his arms? the execution companies moved forward. each had 10 men, five with loaded weapons and five with blanks. they stood 13 feet away from the condemned. at the center of the formation was general johnson. he had a confederate flag as well and the symbolic importance of this formation was not lost on the men. the supreme authority is not from the above, it is the confederate national government and general edward johnson. the command these men had her time and time again on the
battlefield, men i might add at gettysburg endured six hours of continuous fighting on july the there is not a place on the third. in whichg battlefield soldiers endured such a protracted amount of time of constant fighting. now they hear that command of ready, aim, fire and when the volley was unleashed of the smoke cleared, two of the condemned were still living. reserve companies were rushed up volleys and in essence finished the job. this gruesome ritual was not because we know this ritualist is for the living. as to whatreminder .waited a man who deserted johnson's division was marched by the corpses at slow time.
did the execution have its desired impact, did he keep men from deserting? it is something we should discuss. certainly in the third north carolina, men continued to dessert after this. -- two desert. some of the soldiers believed that what happened on the james river when richard mallette was killed was a military action. but what we can never record and what we will never know is simply this. and i want you to remember to put yourself in the shoes of a soldier. i want you to imagine you have just witnessed those 10 men getting gunned down and remind yourself that the image in memory is always there.
so one might say the execution of deserters was rare. that's what people tell me all the time. why do you write so much about it. i write about it because i know that the memory and the image of that is lodged in their minds because maybe they would have the bad luck that they would get caught and be made an example of. another comparison of this is -- how many times did a slave child have to see his mother or father whipped to know that the system of slavery at its backbone was what? it is the whip. it's force, coercion. we could get off this tracks because is an important conversation about the nature of slavery. i am not suggesting to you that every slave owner used brute force day in and day out.
what i am saying to you is just like the slave child, the civil war soldiers knew ultimately that army had the power to use brute force to keep the ranks together. they know it is there. it is part of the world. what happened after futch was -- his death was a campaign initiated by richmond papers and carried on in north carolina and elsewhere in which these men were demonized and seen as common criminal goals -- common criminals. the first step, don't give them names. the second step, make it appear they are not christians at heart. the third step is to take away
all the context. during the question-and-answer period, we will take a look at one of the newspapers clipping. if you are reading about this execution today, some active -- act of military justice -- i suspect all of you would expect that the newspaper would give context. why did this happen? in these newspaper accounts, again, no names and you know nothing of their background and the fact that most of these men were good, solid soldiers and had good combat records and had fought like futch had at chancellorsville. there was no mention that he lost his brother who died in his arms. there was no mention of that. there was no mention of the fact
that lee's army suffered a devastating defeat. that is ignored. there is no mention that lee's army was enduring horrific logistical breakdowns and that the men were getting no food and clothing. there is no mention of the fact that john futch's wife as well as many in the non-slaveholding class were suffering dearly without their husband's presence as well as their husband's income. households are falling apart. none of that is there. instead, you have a portrait of men in which they are seen as criminals who have forever dishonored their families. why did john futch desert? many of you would say, and i would agree with you, that he deserted to save his own skin.
he was clear about this before gettysburg, he is worried about the campaign and knew a battle was looming and knew he was not likely to make it out of that battle. he wanted to save his own skin. i don't dispute that whatsoever. there is a deeper condemnation that john futch offered to his -- in his words to his comrades and that deeper condemnation was that christians should not have to live this way. they should not be warring against each other and families should not be separated. there are practical issues that weighed heavily on john futch. they were always there but why , after gettysburg? it's in part to the defeat but notso much because john did order his world around great campaigns. john futch ordered his world
around day-to-day issues of survival, but they took on this radicalization, and they became radical in the moment allowed him to be radical. withlee's army was, perspective, unraveling. when john futch deserted, he showed he had a different version of what it meant to be a southern man. his version of what it meant was his sense of responsibility and duty and his honor depended upon and caring for his loved ones. he obviously was not alone in that belief, and i think we can all agree that the confederate government recognized, understood that they had to condemn and punish that version of manhood or they would not survive as a nation.
thank you. [applause] we have plenty of time for comment. i am eager to take any type of comments you have. if you have a disagreement or something you want to agree with me, i would love to hear that as well. agree all you want. >> while attending a battleground tour in northeastern carolina a couple of years ago, there was a conversation in the group led by a guide with the tour service telling us about local farmers who were soldiers in the
confederate service, and because conditions were so harsh and they had to secure food for their families, they had friends in the coastal section of carolina where the union was dominant. in that case, they came in contact with their friends on the coast. they encouraged them to sign up with the union, and the union paid them a stipend for signing up. they were involved in a battle later on in mary's creek and pickett and the group of confederates catches them. peter: and gave them the news. -- gave them the noose. >> they couldn't find enough to hang them in the courtyard but they went to the navy to secure adequate amounts of rope to do so.
the story is that after they were executed a couple dozen, , the war was over and president grant charged pickett with war crimes, who escaped to canada. peter: i am not sure his war crimes were official. i would have to look it up that's one part of the story i'm not certain of. the contours of what you said were spot on. did futch imagine himself going back to new hanover county? and maybe going to the other side. i don't think that was probably on his agenda. it was hard to know. bring it into what i intended to do for you today was to put you in his shoes and imagine this -- get back to my house in north carolina and what? who knows? it's not like he could sit on a drink. and sip
the home guard is going to come after him. if you deserted you would have to live like a fugitive. it is hard to know what he intended to do and hard to imagine he had any inclination. he very well could have, probably did after they killed his brother. but the point for us is when people say i have a lively dispute with some of my peers about desertion. most men did not desert. thus most men in lee's army had a strong devotion to the cause, and i agree that is true. however, by simply staying in the ranks does not mean you have given yourself body and soul to the cause. you are forced to be there. what is the alternative? north carolina guy i write about in petersburg and going back and forth and does not know what to do. he is by no means a confederate
patriot and has no admiration for lee and does not believe lee is going to save everything. he is trying to get through the day. the reason he stuck it out as long as he did because he remembered seeing the men executed in the fall of 1864. he brought that back to his wife. he said if i return and get home and make it, what am i going to do? i have to live in the woods like an outlaw -- they will come after me. this idea of nationalism and loyalty are categories that allow us and enable us to say that men believe blank. they didn't. they believed this at some point but often there behavior was in contradiction. there is a story there that is far more complex because we have focused so heavily on soldier ideas and ideology that we have how ideas and actions
change over the flow of time. >> thank you very much for your presentation today. it has opened a lot of thought. did the same type of process go on with any of the officer corps? did you find any evidence of officer saying they wanted to go home? peter: there is some evidence -- instances of it but it's not as prevalent. one reasons why -- one reason why the officers were able to have freedom and -- to make those physical connection to the home front. officers on both sides could return for recruiting or to get supplies for the regiment. the great irony in the confederate army is you have the greatest mobility. listen to this carefully, god knows i don't want to get in trouble. slaves. slaves, within that
system, the slaves had a degree of freedom that white men did not have in the army and how that was utilized by white men and officers, the slave could go back home and deliver information in goods. -- telling you you can only imagine, especially for an enslaved person, the resentment and fear the slave often felt from poor white guys who did not have slaves. that guys going to go back to our homes and communities. you can only imagine the grumbling that took place. i found examples of that. a guy who just had absolute hatred for the so-called camp servants or slaves because they associated with officers and got certain privileges the white soldiers in the ranks did not get. notnswer directly certainly as much as someone like john futch.
>> did either country have any policy that would allow someone to be exempt from military service based on conscious or some other reason? peter: i don't know if there's anything official on either side. i can give you one example. stonewall jackson didn't have a robust sense of humor -- i think we can all agree on that. jackson wrote jefferson davis in the spring of 1862 and said there were some mennonite in the shenandoah valley who were conscientious objectors and didn't want to fight. here is stonewall jackson's sense of humor. he says we can force them to carry muskets but that does not ensure they will shoot straight. he said let's use them as teamsters. i don't know if that's what happened. >> the montpelier thing was just
one incident, and i'm sure there were other executions, but there worry a lot of it were not. percentagewise, how much was it? peter: i don't have the numbers, but i can't imagine. we are talking less than 1%. it is a small number. but these grand displays, for example, the army of the potomac in the fall of 1863 and the entire fifth corps witnessed for -- the execution of four soldiers who were bounty jumpers. the army of tennessee had two or three divisions in an execution that was botched. i think they had 15 soldiers they were going to shoot and the firing squads instead of a verbal command, they looked at the officer in charge and as soon as the officer dropped a handkerchief they were to fire.
you can only imagine they are looking in them and handkerchief's drop they shoot and they shot all over the place. it is horrific and gruesome. more than half of the men were still alive, one guy screaming out begging to be killed. just awful stuff. that side of the war is a part of the war we have to -- we have seen in other books but i think it probably has a more stronger presence in my book because i continue to see how these men's choices were constrained and we are so eager as we look at the past now and it's all groups. i teach a class on slavery. to be like a slave nat turner but that's not how the system functioned and that's not history. we want history to reaffirm and politicaluld say
issues of the day. pastnt to draw from the whatever plug fights we have today. i absolutely understand where that come from. as a historian and a teacher i find that more than problematic, especially of late that it's so important to take people on their own terms. waggingthink this moral your finger at people of the past to proclaim air superiority , i don't think that gets us a deeper understanding. it helps think about the past and how we should think about today. that ande and more of it is certainly troubling to me and i think it is so valuable. that slavery was a absolute moral evil. --ognizing that supporters these are brutal places. many of the men who came out of it came out with very conflicted
feelings. i say this about my own father. at the same time, my dad must've been in his 60's in the first iraq war he was serious about trying to find a way to help out the nation. he hated his time in korea. it's conflicted. that's what we have to bring back to the past. everything. get that ambiguity. the list goes on, that's tough. that's what makes history challenging and tough is when we try to bring in those tensions and contradictions. >> dr. carmichael will be in the lobby to answer more questions. let's give him one more round of applause. [applause] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2015] >> you are watching american
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