Out of Control

After his acquittal on the bogus court-martial charge, Captain Samuel Fiske served as an inspector-general for the army. One of the regiments he inspected in the course of his duties was his own, the Fourteenth Connecticut, which was now encamped at Elk Run.

Immediately upon his arrival, Fiske was told, “Only ten gone since last roll call.” Fiske wrote: Three thousand dollars worth of New England’s purchased heroes had vanished within the two hours previous to my arrival; $18,000 worth in the three days previous. Sixty out of two hundred and ten in one regiment, and the ratio increasing constantly. One of them boasted that he had already made $1800 in the substitute business. Several others had sold themselves twice. Another who had gambled away the most of the $300 that constituted his prize, in order to get himself in funds again (temporarily till the next sale), stole $75 which one of our good boys had just had paid him, on the night he left.

Three hundred passed our headquarters last night—all substitutes—at least one-third of them scoundrels who had been engaged in the New York riots, and found it convenient to retire a little while into the country, took the $300 to pay their expenses.

Some of them won’t go back. Two were killed and several wounded on their way here from the station, seeking to break guard. We can, probably, by letting the enemy go unwatched, and turning our whole attention to these northern friends, be able to catch some of them as they are deserting, and by shooting save ourselves from any further trouble from those individuals.

Fiske’s words would prove prophetic. Next week’s post will deal with one of the most tragic events in the history of the Fourteenth Connecticut: the execution of two men for desertion.


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