Sentence for Desertion
An official order from Confederate general Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson on October 8, 1862, notes the sentence a military court has passed upon private Thomas G. Shaver of the 27th Virginia Volunteers for having been found guilty of desertion: "To receive thirty lashes, to have his head shaved and drummed out of the service." Despite writing that "the proceedings finding and sentence are approved," Jackson overturned the punishment citing the reason that "the execution of it would be detrimental to the service."
The Confederate Articles of War (1861) specified that "death, or such other punishment" should be inflicted for deserting the military. The first executions for desertion in the Army of Northern Virginia took place at Mount Pisgah Church on August 19, 1862, when three men were shot by firing squad under orders from Jackson. The general's aide, Colonel Samuel Bassett French, wrote, "the preservation of the army itself was dependent on the maintenance of discipline, and discipline could not be had if desertions were longer to go unpunished."
Military executions were rare, however, and in the case of Private Shaver, even the lesser punishments meted out to him were overruled. The court-martial proceedings had been headed by Colonel Andrew Jackson Grigsby. The profane Grigsby, who at that time was in temporary command of the Stonewall brigade (which included the 27th Virginia Infantry), clearly did not see eye to eye with Jackson. A month later Grigsby was passed over for permanent command of the brigade and he angrily resigned from the army, vowing to duel with the general after the war.