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THE PAY OF CONFEDERATE TROOPS AND PROBLEMS OF DEMORALIZATION: A Case of Administrative Failure Harry N. Scheiber The reasons for the erosion of morale among soldiers and citizenry of the Confederacy—a key factor in defeat of the South in the Civil War —have recently been given increasing attention by historians.1 The cycle of miseries that produced fatal morale problems is now well defined. Defeats on the battlefield had an immediate impact on the resolution of those behind the lines, for it was difficult to accept daily sacrifices of comfort and necessities when military prospects were grim. And throughout the war, as the Confederacy's central government came increasingly into direct contact with citizens whom it conscripted, taxed, and subjected to levies and seizures, civilian disaffection became aimed more and more against the administration at Richmond.2 Rising disaffection manifested itself in Unionist political activity; in resistance to taxation, impressment and conscription; in the support of state-rights governors who resisted wholehearted cooperation with the central government; and among the armies, in desertions and resistance to authority which often frustrated planning by the military high command.3 One of the prime causes of demoralization among Confederate fighting men was their government's failure to provide adequate pay—or, indeed, in many cases, to provide any pay whatever. Pay scales established by the Confederate Congress were low: eleven dollars per month until June, 1864, and eighteen dollars from then until the wars 1 Disintegration of morale is a major theme in Clement Eaton's comprehensive study, A History of the Southern Confederacy (New York, 1954). A pioneering interpretive study of this problem is Bell Irvin Wiley, Tlie Plain People of the Confederacy (Baton Rouge, 1954). 2 See, generally, Richard C. Todd, Confederate Finance (Athens, Ga., 1954); Frank L. Owsley, State Rights in the Confederacy (Chicago, 1925); E. Merton Coulter , The Confederate States of America, 1861-1865 (Baton Rouge, 1950); Paul P. Van Riper and H. N. Scheiber, "The Confederate Civil Service," Journal of Soutliern History, XXV (Nov., 1959), 448-470. 3 The best concise account of discontent in the ranks of the armies is Bell Irvin Wiley, The Life of Johnny Reb: The Common Soldier of the Confederacy (Indianapolis , 1943), ch. 6-8 et passim. See also Owsley, State Rights, ch. 4-5; Ella Lonn, Desertion during the Civil War (New York, 1928); Edward Younger (ed), Inside the Confederate Government: The Diary of Robert Garlick Hill Kcan (New York, 1957). 226 end, for the infantry and artiUery privates who comprised the mass of the troops. A few congressmen recognized that such aUowances were sorely inadequate, especially in the face of monetary inflation, and one (Gatrell of Georgia) asserted that he would "vote any amount of money, and one million of men, if necessary for the success of this revolution ."4 The prevailing sentiment, however, was a determination by the Confederate Congress to avoid harsh taxation measures—as would be necessary to support higher pay scales—and specious arguments, advanced frequently that the troops neither needed nor wanted better pay.5 In actuality, soldiers of the Confederacy were often unable to collect even the pitifully small allowances which had been authorized. Mounting government deficits caused arrearages to build, so that many troops went unpaid for months at a time. The trans-Mississippi armies, which faced unusual difficulty in transporting funds from Richmond or even communicating with War Department officials, were particularly hard hit. Many soldiers stationed beyond the Mississippi were therefore never paid beyond August or September of 1863!6 As a result, their families were deprived not only of the protective presence of the breadwinner, but also of his earnings. They often suffered extreme destitution and were easy victims of speculators, bushwhackers, or unscrupulous impressment officers. The hard-pressed state governments often undertook to provide welfare relief for soldiers' famüies, but their efforts were generaUy inadequate. For the soldier himself, arrearages of pay were usually accompanied by supply shortages. When these grievances were compounded by disquieting letters from home, desertion often followed.7 Historians have usually associated the morale problems herein described with the events of late 1863 to 1865, when Confederate government deficits led to severe shortages of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 226-236
Launched on MUSE
2013-01-02
Open Access
No
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