“Soldiers, imitate this noble example…”: Lee, Beauregard and reenlistment

On this day (February 3) in 1864, General Robert E. Lee’s Headquarters of the Army of Northern Virginia issued General Orders No. 14, which read in part:

The commanding general announces with gratification the re-enlistment of the regiments of this army for the war, and the re-iteration of the war regiments of their determination to continue in arms until independence is achieved. This action gives new cause for the gratitude and admiration of their countrymen. It is hoped this patriotic movement, commenced in the Army of Tennessee, will be followed by every brigade of the Army of Northern Virginia, and extend from army to army until the soldiers of the South stand in one embattled host determined never to yield.

The troops which initiated this movement, so honorable to themselves and so pleasing to the country, are Hart’s (South Carolina) battery, Battle’s (Alabama) brigade, Doles’ (Georgia) brigade, Ramseur’s (North Carolina) brigade, Johnston’s (North Carolina) brigade, Daniel’s (North Carolina) brigade, the Eleventh and Eighth Alabama Regiments, and the Forty-seventh Regiment North Carolina troops.

Soldiers, imitate this noble example and evince to the world that you never can be conquered. The blessing of God upon your undaunted courage will bestow peace and independence to a grateful people.

A few days later, February 8, General P.G.T. Beauregard issued this notice from his headquarters in Charleston:

Soldiers of the Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida: The term of service of some of you is about to expire. You must have observed from the newspapers of your country that your brothers in arms of the veteran armies of Northern Virginia and of Tennessee have re-enrolled, as was to be expected of such men, by entire companies, battalions, regiments, and brigades, proudly retaining the organizations intact under which they have won renown. Will the men who have defended Forts Sumter and Moultrie and Battery Wagner fail to follow these examples of soldierly patriotism?

These two encouragements offer proper points of comparison with Federal efforts at the same time, particularly in the Army of the Potomac.  The Confederate appeals are focused at the unit level, with appeals upon the individuals pride of their unit.

Beauregard encountered, at this time, a problem unknown to Lee.  In the summer of 1863, the Confederate government authorized six-month emergency call-ups of state troops in South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.  These troops were little more than militia and temporary formations.  But their presence allowed Beauregard to shift veteran organizations to meet the threat at Charleston.  The presence of those emergency units pulled men out of the pool of potential volunteers and conscripts.  Furthermore, the governors of the respective states considered the troops to be “theirs” and bound to the defense of the state.

In January and February 1864, the enlistments of the men in those six-month units was due up.  So should those emergency formations be retained as units in support of Beauregard’s command, but as “state” units?  Should those units be demobilized, with the men, before being allowed to return home, assessed by the conscription systems?  And if the six-month men were reenlisted, who should get the pick of the men?  After all, Lee was already complaining that Beauregard’s regiments were getting too big at the expense of the Army of Northern Virginia.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 33, Serial 60, pages 1144-5; Volume 35, Part I, Serial 65, page 577.)

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