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General Orders No.78

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Issued by the War Department on 14 July 1862 (by order of Secretary of War Stanton, and signed by Adjutant General Thomas) General Orders No.78 begins: “The many evils that arise from giving furloughs to enlisted men, require that the practice shall be discontinued...”

What “evils” are these?

For those familiar with Henry Halleck's pet peeve, Abuse of the Furlough System, the second sentence in the document provides clarity: “Hospitals, provided with ample medical attendance, nurses, food, and clothing, are established by the Government, at great expense, not only near the scenes of active military operations, but in many of the Northern States...”

In explanation, sick soldiers were no longer permitted to be sent home to recuperate from wounds or illness (except for Officers, who were exempt from G.O. No.78). And by force of Law, anyone violating this General Order was subject to Court-marshal.

[Coincidentally, the Hill-Dix Cartel, which codified the Prisoner of War exchange and repatriation system, became effective 22 July 1862. General Orders No.78 effectively elevated the diagnoses of Army Surgeons to equate with the decisions taken by Colonels of Regiments in regard to men under their charge: once admitted to Hospital, it was unlawful to leave without receiving the authority of the Head Surgeon.] Note: for those who follow Private Cyrus Ballard's story, this is likely what led to his being recorded as "deserter." He absented himself from a Smallpox Hospital without authority.

How does this relate to the Battle of Shiloh?

Over 2000 Federal soldiers were taken prisoner during the April 1862 contest; and most of them were still confined in Southern prisons when the Dix-Hill Cartel took effect in July. One of the components of the Exchange system (as promoted by SecWar Stanton) involved the establishment of Camps of Instruction (which became better known as Parole Camps) where Federal soldiers, lately confined in Confederate prisons, and who were granted their departure “on their Parole” to return to the United States, on condition that “they do not take up arms or otherwise support the war effort of the North until properly exchanged” were confined by the Federal Government until “the proper exchange” took place. [It can be argued that Edwin Stanton initiated the Parole Camp system due to the fact he did not trust men allowed to return home “until properly exchanged” to again return to military service when notification arrived at their homes that their Exchange had been effected... without considering that almost all of these men in 1862 were Volunteers – not draftees – who had committed themselves to a Higher Calling.]

The effect: All of the Shiloh Federal prisoners released from confinement in the South after Hill-Dix were processed out “on their Parole” at Libby Prison in Richmond; and then transported north. After seven months in confinement, many were dangerously unwell; and most had lost a significant portion of their pre-confinement body weight, some weighed less than half what they had in April 1862. Officers arrived at Annapolis Maryland, were granted thirty days of leave, and departed for homes across the Midwest. The enlisted soldiers arrived at Annapolis (or Portsmouth Grove in Rhode Island) and went into confinement at the Parole Camps in those locations. Sick soldiers were confined in the Parole Camp Hospital (which in the case of Annapolis was a “tent facility” two miles from downtown Annapolis.) Everyone waited until their Exchange came through; or in the case of Hospital patients, they got well and were exchanged... or they died.

Portsmouth Grove buried over 100 former POWs (most from Missouri) in the Cemetery adjacent to the Parole Camp. Annapolis National Cemetery recorded over 2000 Federal burials before the end of the war.

References

https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=hvd.hl27qz&view=1up&seq=362  General Orders No.78 of 14 July 1862

https://www.findagrave.com/cemetery/2690755/lovell-general-hospital-cemetery   Portsmouth Grove Parole Camp Cemetery

https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/national_cemeteries/Maryland/Annapolis_National_Cemetery.html  Annapolis National Cemetery

 

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