Sorry for being away for so many days. I guess it is time to get started again.
I spent today trying to get caught up on email. I had one about a soldier in the 58th NCT, Felix Sluder. What I thought was going to take five minutes to answer developed into a morning-long affair.
Sluder lived in the North Fork District of Ashe County in 1860. He was a thirty-six year old farmer. Also in the house hold were his wife and two children. According to Sluder, on April 3, 1862, he was conscripted to serve in the Confederate army. It could be that he was in error about the date, since the first Conscription law enacted in early 1862 set the age limit at 35, and Felix Sluder would have been thirty-eightish. A revision to the law in September 1862 capped the age at 45. Regardless, Sluder was able to evade conscription officers for several months.
According to Sluder “on or about the last days of August 1863 I was captured on Roans Creek Johnston Co. Tenn by the Rebel home guard, while on my way through the lines to join the 4th Tenn. Infantry United States Army. as I had previously enlisted under one Joel Eastridge who were a recruiting officer of said Regt.” Sluder was taken to Camp Vance, and then on to Raleigh, before being sent to the 58th North Carolina. The 58th NCT was stationed near Missionary Ridge at the time. Sluder continued to refuse to join the Confederate army; “they then tried to force me to Enlist in the Confederate army.” Sluder wrote after the war; “and I willfully refused to do so. They then threatened to starve me until I did enlist in their service and I yet willfully refused. They then kept me under arrest until about the 26th day of Nov, 1863 and then about the same day they placed me in the breastworks at Mission Ridge and in the front of battle, where I were captured by the Yankees refusing all the while to enlist under any service for the Confederate authorities. and after bearing all the afore said punishment I still refused to enlist or render any service that ever for the confederates, and that I did not enlist in the Confederate army in no shape nor form.”
Sluder believed that he was placed on the front lines, in the breastworks, to be executed by the advancing Federals as the Confederates retreated. He wrote as much: “I [was] that day forced into the Breastworks so as to have me killed for refusing to enlist in the Confederate service” While this might be true, it smacks a little of the David/Bathsheba/Uriah story in the Old Testament. I find it hard to believe that the Confederates would have just left Sluder, knowing that he would desert. If the members of the 58th NCT understood anything, it was desertion.
As with almost all Confederate prisoners, Sluder was sent to Nashville, Tennessee. He was then transferred to Louisville, Kentucky, where he arrived on December 7, 1863. He transferred to Rock Island, Illinois, where he arrived on December 9, 1863. About six weeks later, Sluder was given the chance to join the Federals, which he did. He enlisted in the United States Navy on or about January 25, 1864, serving on board the USS Ticonderoga. In April 1865, Sluder was given a 10-day furlough. He felt that his health was so bad that he could no longer serve at sea. Towards the middle of April, he joined Company G, 57th Pennsylvania Infantry, and was mustered in as a private. He enlisted under the alias “John Malron, because he was sure that if he was captured by the Confederates, he would be executed for being a deserter. At the end of June 1865, he was honorably discharged from the United States army. Sluder returned to Ashe County where he died October 31, 1907. I assume he is buried in Ashe County, but I am not sure where.
I found most of this remarkable story in Sluder’s pension application. Sluder was not discharged from the US Navy at the end of the war, and was listed as a deserter. This “slight” on his record was later corrected in the 1890s and Sluder received his pension until he passed over.
The Sluder story has several good points that I plan to use in the book. It may not all be true, but will make for some interesting thoughts.