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Information on desertion in N. Alabama
Posted by: Dave Frederick (ID *****5447) Date: November 25, 2003 at 14:42:45
  of 780

Hello Friends,

A couple of small articles I found in the Florence paper. (1965 Centennial Addition)

Secrets of Deserters' Organization are told.

During the week of March 23-28, 1864, Gen. Gideon J. Pillow, commanding Confederate headquarters in Montgomery, Ala., was informed of a secret

society at work in North Alabama. Signs and pass-words of the organization, whose intent was reportedly the depletion of Southern ranks by desertion,were exposed. Col. B. J. Hill, provost, marshal general of the Army of Tennessee, reported that a Private E. D. Meroney from Blount County had come to suspect such an organization existed while a Federal prisoner in Knoxville. When he returned home after making his escape, Meroney searched out the society and became a member. He makes the following divulgement of their proceedings, signs, pass-words, and oaths," Hill wrote:"They swear not to give any aid or comfort to a Confederate soldier, nor give any enrolling officer, or anyone engaged in the Conscript Bureau, any satisfaction, aid, or comfort, nor to write of the secrets or signs of the society upon paper, earth, or earthenware. "The sign: When you meet a man walking salute him with your right hand closed, the thumb pointing back behind the shoulder. If he is all right he grasps his own left hand with his right, the knuckles of the right up, those of the left down. They then look one another in the eye and tap the right foot with a sm*** stick or article; after this is done, one party picks up a sm*** stick, breaks it in pieces with his right hand, and throws them over his left arm. This gives the other party to understand that he can speak of any secret matter whatever connected with the order."

Instructions to recognize members in a crowd and on horseback follow. The pass-word varied from repeating the word "Washington" five times while in prison or the guard house to obtain release, to sign for recognition of members in the Federal guard posts and in the lines. "Mr. Meroney reports that the enemy have a secret line of spies from Tennessee to T***apoosa County, Ala., through the instrumentality of the secrecy of the society," Hill wrote, adding that Private Meroney has stated that with a regiment of cavalry, the entire society could be captured in North Alabama.

Confederate Desertion In North Alabama Encouraged

During the week of Feb. 1-6, 1865, J. J. Giers, an Alabama resident who sympathized with the Union, wrote to Lt. General U. S. Grant to encourage him to revise the Federal military laws and regulations concerning deserters from the Confederate forces in Alabama.
Giers had been introduced to Grant by a letter from Andrew Johnson, Federal Governor of Tennessee, who stated that Giers was "a man of high character, standing, and integrity, and thoroughly loyal to the Federal Government."
Giers asked Grant to consider e revising the existing laws so that Confederate deserters who turned themselves in to the Union forces would be ***owed to remain in Alabama rather than being sent north of the, Ohio River. Such laws already were in effect in Tennessee and Kentucky, Giers reminded, Grant, stating "... in my humble opinion North Alabama has always been and is at this time more loyal than the former states.
"A great many Alabamians are coming in under your order," he wrote, "but many do so under the idea that they will be ***owed to remain within your lines in Alabama or Tennessee and not sent north of the Ohio River. By permitting Alabama deserters to remain south of the Ohio River, under proper regulations and guarantees, ********** of them would be greatly increased, and the rebel armies still more depleted."
To further convince Grant to keep Alabama soldiers nearer their homes, Giers said, "Many of the prisoners you took in your campaign of Vicksburg were Alabamians. Since their exchange many have come into your lines who speak in the highest terms of your kindness and humanity. Several hundred of them are employed in various capacities on the lines of railroad toward Chattanooga, etc., *** of whom have proven themselves during the late rebel invasion in every way loyal and reliable."


Dave Frederick

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