CWI Director Peter Carmichael will explore the different facets of desertion in Lee’s army after the Gettysburg campaign in a March 30 presentation at the University of Florida. Carmichael’s talk, “Demonizing Civil War Desertion: The Execution of North Carolina’s John Futch,” is sponsored by the Richard J. Milbauer Program in Southern History and will begin at 5:00 pm in Ustler Hall Atrium.
On August 20, 1863, one day before Jefferson Davis called upon the Confederacy to renew itself through public fasting and prayer, thirteen veteran soldiers from the 3rd North Carolina decided that God had other intentions. That evening, in the blackness of night, they picked up their rifles, slung on their cartridge belts, and escaped into the woods. From that point on, there was no turning back on a trek of some three hundred perilous miles that would eventually take them to their North Carolina homes. Earlier that same day, Lee had ordered his corps commanders to organize armed parties to hunt down runaways while calling for the president to back immediate enforcement of the death penalty against deserters. For the men who left the 3rd North Carolina’s camp that night, the impact of Lee's orders would be felt with surprising swiftness.
Carmichael’s talk will use the experiences of one of these soldiers, Pvt. John Futch, to examine different facets of desertion in Lee's army after Gettysburg, including the use of violence in Confederate ranks and the role of fake news in suppressing dissent among Confederate soldiers and civilians. The program will draw heavily on Futch’s letters, which Carmichael and the audience will read and discuss together.