This week in the Civil War | Wintertime furloughs, a court-martial and recruitment drives

January 3, 2014 

Many soldiers 150 years ago in the Civil War returned to homes on winter furloughs, finding rest after battles and months away from loved ones.

In January 1864, authorities on both sides were seeking to recruit new fighters as the conflict dragged on inexorably.

The Springfield Republican in Massachusetts reported on Jan. 1, 1864, of much going on despite a lull in the fighting.

Quoting dispatches from The Associated Press, in part, the paper reported that Union Gen. William Sherman’s forces had returned from Knoxville, Tenn., to a base in Chattanooga, tired, dirtied and clothes shredded after recent fighting.

“While Gen. Sherman’s men were returning ... they encountered a furious storm, and when they reached Chattanooga many of them were barefooted, and not a few of them wore pantaloons, the legs of which had been torn into shreds to the knees.”

A dispatch from Philadelphia reported the court-martial of a Union private found guilty of desertion. He was sentenced to be shot and, according to the report, the sentence would be carried out in February 1864.

Elsewhere, divers scrubbed grit and grime off the bottoms of warships off the South Carolina coast. Reports said divers with special helmets worked “five or six hours at a time under water,” gasping for air as they surfaced.

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