Over the past few days, I've been working on the desertion problem and the 58th NCT. To say that desertion was a problem for the 58th NCT is an colossal understatement. I want to go out on a limb and say no regiment in the Confederate army had more men to desert than the 58th NCT. That might be a bit of a stretch and more research needs to bedone.
One of the problems is that records for the 58th NCT are so poor. I'll give a few examples.
Jonathan Morgan of Company F (McDowell County) was reported sick in the hospital in September-October 1863. No more records. Did he die in the hospital? Did he desert from the hospital?
George W. Moore of Company E enlisted in Caldwell County on July 5, 1862. He never again appears in the muster reports of the 58th NCT. He did survive the war, but what happened to him? Did he desert? Was he discharged?
How about Allen Pierce of Company I. He enlisted on July 24, 1862, and then disappears.
Then, there is a whole host of men who disappear between August 31,1864, the last surviving muster roll for the 58th NCT, and when the regiment surrendered at Greensboro in May 1865. What happened to these men? Were they killed? Were they left at some hospital on their trek from Mississippi to Bentonville? Did they die of disease and were buried beside some road or in a family cemetery?
And why did so many men desert? Was it cowardice? Or hardship? Or family responsibilities? Or, as Katherine A Giuffre writes in herarticle "First in Flight: Desertion as Politics in the North CarolinaConfederate Army", did it have something to do with the division between eastern and western North Carolina that existed since the late 1700s? I think for some of the men, it might have been hardship. For some, family responsibility. For a few, cowardice. Some might have seen their anti-eastern NC as being anti-Confederate. It was the "planters in the eastern part of the state that support the Confederacy and we don't want noting to do with eastern North Carolina." For some, they were Unionists (see Younce's "Adventures of a Conscript." )
Who knows! I sure don't! And, I must go and write about it in abook, and explore each option.