‘He May Be Lurking About Charleston': The Hunt for Irish Confederate Deserters

Men deserted the armies of the North and South in their thousands during the American Civil War. They did so for many different reasons; some tired of the rigours of military discipline, while others had become emotionally drained by their experiences. Some simply lost faith in the fight, or enlisted only with the intent of getting a quick buck before immediately deserting. Local newspapers ran advertisements which offered bounties for the apprehension of deserters- here are some that relate to absent Confederate Irishmen in Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and Virginia. 

Former Confederates taking the Oath of Allegiance in 1865, drawing by Alfred Waud (Library of Congress)

Former Confederates taking the Federal Oath of Allegiance in 1865, drawing by Alfred Waud (Library of Congress)

Deserted! From EMMETT GUARDS, formerly Mechanic Guards, Co. B, 24th Regiment Alabama Volunteers. MARTIN MURPHY, a native of Ireland, aged about 27 years, florid complexion, gray eyes, 5 feet 6 inches high with sandy hair, inclined to curl- for whose apprehension and delivery at Camp Bragg, near Fort Morgan, the Confederate States will pay Thirty Dollars. B. O’Connell, Captain Comd’g, Co. B, 24th Regiment Alabama Volunteers. (1)

The ad seeking Murphy ran in the Mobile Register on 28th March 1862. His company was recruited mainly from men from Mobile County, Alabama. I have found no further record of him.

Thirty dollars reward will be paid for the delivery at Fort Sumter or Charleston Jail of each of the following:…5. JOHN WHELAN, Company K. Deserted from Sullivan’s Island. Said Whelan is 28 years of age, 5 feet 7 inches high, dark complexion, brown eyes, brown hair; is a native of Ireland, and enlisted at Sullivan’s Island…By order of Lieutenant-Colonel Jos. A. Yates. S.C. BOYLSTON, First Lieutenant, Acting Adjutant. (2)

The ad ran in the Charleston Courier on 2nd December 1862. Whelan was a member of the 1st South Carolina Artillery. Company K had originally been formed of men from Fairfield, Lancaster, Union, Spartanburg, Anderson and Edgefield counties. I have found no further record of him.

Thirty dollars reward will be paid for the delivery at Fort Sumter or Charleston Jail of each of the following:…6. THOMAS ROGERS, Company I, deserted from Fort Beauregard, Sullivan’s Island. Said Rogers is 46 years of age, 5 feet 7 inches high, ruddy complexion, brown hair, brown eyes; is a native of Ireland, and enlisted at Sullivan’s Island; is by occupation a “baker”…By order of Lieutenant-Colonel Jos. A. Yates. S.C. BOYLSTON, First Lieutenant, Acting Adjutant. (3)

The ad ran in the Charleston Courier on 2nd December 1862. As with Whelan, Rogers served in the 1st South Carolina Artillery. His service record shows that he had gone AWOL on 27th October 1862, having enlisted only four days previously on 23rd October. His company was commanded by John Mitchel’s son. In January 1863 it was thought he had been apprehended- his file records: ‘Thomas Rodger was thought to be a deserter from Capt. Mitchel’s Co. I 1st S.C. Artillery. He was arrested on that ground, but when examined, was found to be another man. Capt. Macbeth says he was employed by Major Chiles, and that no charges now exist against him.’ (4)

Thirty dollars reward will be paid for the delivery at Fort Sumter or Charleston Jail of each of the following:…7. THOMAS HART, Company I. Deserted from Fort Beauregard, Sullivan’s Island. Said Hart is 28 years of age, 5 feet 8 1/2 inches high, dark complexion, blue eyes, dark hair; is a native of Ireland and enlisted at Charleston…By order of Lieutenant-Colonel Jos. A. Yates. S.C. BOYLSTON, First Lieutenant, Acting Adjutant. (5)

The ad appeared in the Charleston Courier on 2nd December 1862. Hart was also a member of the 1st South Carolina Artillery. His service record shows he had enlisted on 24th February 1862 and had been serving on detached duty, working at the telegraph office in Charleston. He had been due to return to his Company on 26th October and it would appear that it was his failure to do so that led to the call for his apprehension. In fact his detached service was extended to January 1863 and Hart returned to his regiment after this. He spent much of 1863 on detached duty at the Ordnance Department. However, he finally did desert, leaving his unit for good on 10th March 1864. (6)

THIRTY Dollars reward will be paid for the delivery at Fort Lamar, James’ Island, or Charleston Jail, of each of the following deserters: 1. MATTHEW RYAN, Company “B,” deserted from Fort Lamar on the 17th November. Said Ryan is 26 years of age, 5 feet 5 inches high, hazel eyes, dark hair, dark complexion, is a native of Ireland, and was enlisted at Camp Butler, S.C. He may be lurking about Charleston or in the neighborhood of Blackville…J. WELSMAN BROWN, Maj, Com’ding Batt. 2d S.C. Artillery Vols., Fort Lamar. (7)

The ad originally ran in the Charleston Mercury of 6th December 1862. Company B of the 2nd South Carolina Artillery had mainly been recruited in Barnwell and Edgefield counties. Ryan’s service record shows he enlisted on 4th October 1861, deserting just over a year later on 17th November 1862. (8)

Deserted from their post and company, at Charleston, Privates P.M. Berry, 49 years old, five feet three inches high, blue eyes, dark hair, and fair complexion, born in Ireland…The above reward will be paid for all, or $30 for either them, if delivered at these Headquarters, or confined in jail in this State or the State of Georgia. R.F. AIKEN, Capt. Commanding 2d Battalion Georgia Cavalry. G.O. WARNOCK, A. Adjutant. (9)

The ad originally ran in the Charleston Mercury of 6th December 1862. I have found no further record of him.

Deserted- $250 Reward! FORT GAINES, Alabama, Dec. 29, 1862. PRIVATE JAMES WILLIAMS, of Captain Thomas J. Massey’s Company E 1st Confederate Regiment. 46 years old, gray eyes, light hair, light complexion. 5 feet 11 inches high, born in Down county, Ireland, enlisted as a substitute at Mobile, December 25th 1862, to serve three years. The above reward will be paid for his delivery to me at Fort Gaines, Ala., or into the charge of the Provost Marshal of Mobile. T.J. Massey, Captain. Com’dg Co. F. 1st Confederate Regt. (10)

The ad originally ran in the Mobile Register of 2nd January 1863. Williams had originally enlisted in Memphis, Tennessee on 15th March 1862. Williams was on detached service in Columbus, Mississippi in July 1862 at which point he deserted. (11)

NAVAL. NAVAL BATTERY, SAVANNAH RIVER, February 19th, 1863. $90 REWARD will be paid for the apprehension and delivery of Privates MICHAEL MARTIN, THOMAS McLEAN and PETER McGUIRE, deserters from Co. G, 22d Battalion, Georgia Artillery. Said Martin deserted on the 20th day of December 1862, is 26 years of age, 5 feet 10 inches high, born in Ireland, sallow complexion, dark hair, blue eyes; he was originally a member of Co. B, Irish Jasper Greens, which company he deserted, and was taken prisoner at Charleston S.C., and transferred to this company in November last. (12)

The ad originally ran in the Daily Constitutionalist (Augusta, Georgia) of 1st March 1863. Michael Martin had enlisted at Savannah on 10th October 1862. He had been transferred to the 22nd while in prison at Savannah Barracks following his desertion from the Irish Jasper Greens. When he deserted for the second time he was in Savannah Hospital. (13)

DESERTERS. HEADQ’S BAT. SAV. VOL GUARDS, Fort Beggs, January 9, 1862. SPECIAL ORDERS, NO.8. The following named men are published as DESERTERS from the Battalion Savannah Volunteer Guards, viz:…2. John Makin, from Company A; enlisted March 18, 1862 for the war; 28 years of age; 5 feet 9 1/2 inches in height, dark complexion, brown eyes, dark hair; born in Ireland and by occupation, when enlisted, a baker. Makin has a slight stoop and seems older than stated in his description. He has a wife in Savannah. (14)

Ad originally appeared in the Augusta Chronicle (Georgia) on 7th December 1862. He had been recorded as sick on 20th June 1862. (15)

CAMP 46th REGIMENT ALA. VOLUNTEERS. NEAR VICKSBURG, MISS., FEB. 13th. 1863. Deserted. Private Hugh Faulkner, Company F, 46th Alabama Regiment, answering the following description: A native of Ireland, 51 years of age, 5 feet 7 1/2 inches high, fair complexion, grey eyes, dark hair, a small piece taken out of his left ear. Deserted this camp on the 13th inst. The usual reward will be paid for apprehension and safe delivery to any proper authority. JOHN E. SPINKS Capt. Company F, 46th Ala. Regiment. (16)

Ad originally appeared in the Mobile Register of 3rd March 1863. Company F was mainly formed of men from Macon County. I have found no further record of him.

DESERTIONS. DESERTERS From the 15th Ala. Regiment…COMPANY K. Private PAT O’HERRIN, born in Cork, Ireland, aged 30 years. 5 feet 11 inches high, light complexion, grey eyes and light hair; was enlisted by Capt. Hart, July 3d, 1861 in Barbour county, Ala, for the war, and deserted his company, at Richmond, Va., 27th June 1862…A reward of $30 will be paid for the apprehension and delivery of each of the above deserters, or their confinement in some jail in the Confederate States, inside the lines of our armies. W.C. OATS, Colonel, commanding 15th Ala. Regiment. (17)

Ad originally appeared in the Richmond Enquirer of 2nd September 1863. Company K was the Eufaula City Guard from Barbour County. I have found no further record of him.

DESERTIONS. DESERTERS From the 15th Ala. Regiment…COMPANY K. Private PAT CLARKE born in Dublin, Ireland, aged 29 years, 5 feet 10 inches high, dark complexion, blue and black hair; was enlisted by Capt. Hart, July 3d, 1861 in Barbour county, Ala., for the war, and deserted company at Madison Court House, Va, August 9th 1862. A reward of $30 will be paid for the apprehension and delivery of each of the above deserters, or their confinement in some jail in the Confederate States, inside the lines of our armies. W.C. OATS, Colonel, commanding 15th Ala. Regiment. (18)

Ad first appeared in the Richmond Enquirer on 2nd September 1863. Also a member of the Eufaula City Guard from Barbour County. I have found no further record of him.

(1) Mobile Register 28th March 1862; (2) Charleston Courier 2nd December 1862; (3) Charleston Courier 2nd December 1862; (4) Thomas Rodger Confederate Service Record; (5) Charleston Courier 2nd December 1862; (6) Thomas Hart Confederate Service Record; (7) Charleston Mercury 6th December 1862; (8) Matthew Ryan Confederate Service Record; (9) Charleston Mercury 6th December 1862; (10) Mobile Register 2nd January 1863; (11) James E. Williams Confederate Service Record; (12) Daily Constitutionalist 1st March 1863; (13) Michael Martin Confederate Service Record; (14) Augusta Chronicle 17th January 1863; (15) John Makin Confederate Service Record;(16) Mobile Register 3rd March 1863; (17) Richmond Enquirer 2nd September 1863; (18) Richmond Enquirer 2nd September 1863;

References

Mobile Register (Alabama)

Charleston Courier (South Carolina)

Charleston Mercury (South Carolina)

Daily Constitutionalist (Georgia)

August Chronicle (Georgia)

Richmond Enquirer (Virginia)

Confederate Service Records

New York Public Library Digital Collections

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Categories: Confederacy, Desertion

Author:Damian Shiels

I am an archaeologist based in Ireland, specialising in conflict archaeology.

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