AN UNLUCKY JEWETT - the tale of Thomas Jewett of Rockland Maine, who deserted at Salem Church, Virginia in 1863.

I am indebted to Lee Petry who supplied the following chronologue on the events surrounding the demise of one Thomas Jewett, deserter. Thomas was born in England (I have so far been unable to ascertain where) and was living in Rockland, Maine when he enlisted in the 5th Maine Infantry 1 May 1861. At 33 years old, 5 ft 8-1/2 inches tall with a dark complexion, black eyes, and dark hair, he listed his occupation as a laborer. He was listed as a deserter 3 May 1863 in Fredericksburg, Virginia and was "shot to death by musketry by sentence of court martial 14 Aug 1863".

I was particularly touched by the eye-witness account of the execution given at the end of the account.

Does anyone have any connection. or better still, a picture?

American Civil War, 5th Regiment Maine Infantry
Shot for Desertion

Civil War Record: 5th Regiment Maine Infantry, Co. D, Pvt, enrolled 1 May 1861 Brunswick ME, mustered 24 Jun 1861 Portland ME, Shot by sentence of General Court Martial 14 Aug 1863, enlistment period 3 years, Age 33, height 5 ft 8 in, dark complexion, dark hair, black eyes, born England, Residence Rockland ME, occupation laborer.

Sources: Maine Civil War Card File; National Archives Military Record; Record Group 153, Records of the Office of the Judge Advocate General (Army), Court Martial Case Files, 1809-1938, File No. MM 588, Thomas Jewett, Company D, 5th Maine Infantry. With thanks to Lee Petry.

Headquarters Provost Marshal’s Office, Washington D.C. May 26th 1863:
1 Thomas Jewett. Says he went to Belle Plain to peddle; boat left and could not get back. Belongs in Rockland Maine.
2 Thomas Higgins.....3 Edward Grant...
The above named men were endeavoring to cross our lines a little below Mills Ford and evidently were trying to evade our pickets.

Central Guard House, Washington D.C. June 1st 1863
Capt. Henry B. Todd
Pro. Marshal
In the case of Thos Jewett, Thos Higgins and Edw Grand committed from Head Quarters Provost Marshals Office 26 May 1863
I respectively submit the following report -
Thomas Jewett is a deserter from the 5th Maine Regt Co. "D"....

Very Respectfully Sir
Your Obedient Servant
J.P. Cilley
Major & Judge Advocate

Proceedings of a General Court-Martial held at Head Quarters of the Second Brigade, First Division, Sixth Army Corps by virtue of the following Orders viz.;
Head Quarters 1st Division 6th Corps
July 29th 1863
Special Orders}
No. 44 }
A General Court-Martial is hearby appointed to assemble at the Head-Quarters of the 2nd Brigade at 10 o’clock tomorrow morning July 30th 1863, or as soon thereafter is practicable for the trial of Private Erastus Green 121st NY Vols and such other prisoners as may be brought before it.
Detail for the Court
Col C.S. Edwards 5th Me Vols
Capt J.D. Fish 121st NY Vols
Capt P. Egan 95th Pa Vols
Capt F.L. Limint(?) 5th Me Vols
Capt  J.D. Boyle 96th Pa Vols
Capt M.R. Casler 121st NY Vols
Capt F.G. Santun(?) 5th Me Vols
Capt Wm. Byrnes 96th Pa Vols
Capt A.J. Campbell 121st NY Vols Judge Advocate
No other officers then those named can be assembled without manifest injury to the service. The Court will sit without regard to hours, the cases requiring immediate example.

By order of Brig Genl Wright
Henry B. Dalton
Asst Adjt Genl.

The Court having met pursuant to the above Orders adjourned from day today and on Saturday Aug 1st until Monday August 3rd.
Monday August 3rd 1863; The Court met pursuant to adjournment

Colonel C.S. Edwards President
Capt J.D. Boyle Capt J.D. Fish
Capt F.L. Limint Capt F.G. Santun
CaptM.R. Casler Capt P. Egan
Captain A.J. Campbell Judge Advocate

The Court proceeded to the trial of Private Thomas Jewett Co "D" 5th Me Vols who being brought into Court and having heard the Official Order read was asked if he had any objection to any of the members named in the Special Orders to which he replied in the negative.

The Court was then duly sworn in his presence and the Judge Advocate by the President of the Court and Private Thomas Jewett Co "D" 5th Me Vols was arraigned on the following charge and specification viz

Charge Desertion

Specification- In this that said Private Thomas Jewett Co. "D" 5th Me Vols did on the 3rd day of May 1863 while in the presence of the enemy, his Company and regiment being engaged at the time, desert his Company and Regiment and did not return until the 17th of July 1863.

This at or near Salem Church Va on the 3rd day of May 1863.

To which the prisoner pleaded as follows

Not Guilty to the Specification
Not Guilty to the Charge

All persons required to give evidence were directed to withdraw and remain in waiting until called.

1st Lieut Daniel C. Clark 5th Me Vols, a witness for the prosecution being duly sworn deposes and says. I know the prisoner. I commanded the Company to which he belonged during the months of April and May. He was present with the Company and reported "present for duty" until the afternoon of May 3rd. I last saw him on that day just before we went into action at Salem Church. He was present at a roll-call had when we rested on the hill after we had marched through Fredericksburgh. That was I think about half an hour before the first indications of the fight. We had a roll-call at the reforming of the Company immediately after the battle. The prisoner was not present at that roll-call. After the time above referred to I did not see the prisoner, nor did I hear anything positive concerning him, until he was brought from Washington under guard about the 17th of July. The prisoner has been under guard since that time.

Question by the Court. Has the prisoner ever before attempted to desert?

Answer. Never that I know of.

Questions by the Court. Did the Company which you commanded on the 3rd of May fall back in order or otherwise?

Answer. They were somewhat scattered. At the roll-call had immediately after the fight, the members of the Company since with it were all present with two exceptions.

Question by the Court. What has been the general character of the prisoner as a soldier?

Answer. The prisoner was never under my command in a battle until the 3rd of May. During the time that he was under my command up to that day, his character as a soldier was very good. I do not know of his having done anything unbecoming a soldier during that time.

2nd Lieut. Frank G. Patterson 5th Me Vols, a witness for the prosecution being duly sworn deposes and says. I know the prisoner. I was 2nd Lieut of Company "D" at the time of the battle at Salem Church May 3rd 1863. The prisoner was not present with the Company during that fight. I last saw him in the field over which we marched just before entering the woods in which the engagement took place. He there fell out without asking permission and without giving any reason for doing so. I attempted to keep him in the ranks, but the Company was marching forward at the time, and I was unable to keep him in his place. I did not again see the prisoner until he was brought to the regiment under guard on the 17th of July. He was reported "present for duty" in the morning of the battle.

Question by the Court. Was the prisoner in the fight on the morning of May 3rd?

Answer. I think he was.

Question by the Court. Are you positive that the prisoner was not with the Company after the regiment had entered the woods?

Answer. I am not absolutely certain, but I think as much so as it would be possible for any one to be under the circumstances.

Question by the Court. How you long have you known the accused?

Answer. I have known him only since the middle of April, at which time I joined the Company.

Question by the Court. What has been the general character of the prisoner as a soldier?

Answer. I know of nothing against his character prior to the 3rd of May.

1st Sergeant Alonzo Herley(?) Co. "D" 5th Me Vols, a witness for the prosecution being duly sworn deposes and says. I know the prisoner. I have been 1st Sergeant of Co. "D" nearly a year. I was present with the Company on duty on the 3rd of May last. I believe the prisoner was "for duty" at that time. He was present with the Company until about 5 or six o’clock on the afternoon of the 3rd of May. While we were lying in line of battle in the woods where the engagement took place, I saw the prisoner come up to the fence which ran along the edge of the woods - He turned and as soon as he saw the regiment lying there and went back. There were at that time a few shots being fired but the engagement had not become general on that part of the line - there was brisk firing on the right. The prisoner was not with the Company at any time afterwards on that day. I next saw him on or about the 17th of July last when he was brought back under guard - The prisoner made "pretty good time" going back from the fence. I think he started on a double quick. He did not move as if tired.

Question by the Prisoner. Did you see any other members of the regiment going to the rear at the time you say you saw me doing so?

Answer. I did not.

Question by the Court. What has been the general character of the prisoner as a soldier?

Answer. His character as a soldier was very good back to the third of May. I think he was present at Gaines Mill, at Crampton’s Pass and at Antietam. He was with the Company on the morning of May 3rd during the engagement. I never knew him to display cowardice until the time referred to in my testimony - the afternoon of May 3rd.

The papers hereto annexed and marked "A" offered in evidence by the prosecution and in support thereof.

Colonel C.S. Edwards 5th Me Vols being duly sworn deposes and says. These papers marked "A" are the papers which were handed to me by the person who brought the prisoner to camp under guard on or about July 17th.

Captain C.J. Campbell 121st NY Vols being duly sworn deposes and says. I was for some months last winter Adjutant of the 152nd NY Vols. A regiment at that time stationed in Washington and acting as a portion of the Provost Guard. I have frequently seen Lieut. A.W. Baker A.S.C.(?) With his name. I am familiar with his signature. The signature to the endorsement on the paper marked "A" is the signature of Lieut. Baker.

The prosecution was here closed.

Dr. Frances G. Warren Surgeon 5th Me Vols a witness for the prisoner being duly sworn deposes and says. I know the prisoner. I was on duty with the regiment at the time the movement was made across the Rappahannock [River] in April last. There were only two men in Company "D" excused at that time. The prisoner was not one of them. The prisoner was not excused from duty at any time after we crossed the river. The prisoner did not ___ (illegible)___sick call after we crossed the river.

Question by the Court. Do you remember anything as to the general health of the prisoner prior to the movement in April.

Answer. I think he was under treatment during the middle of April for diarrhea. He may have been treated up to the 20th.

The prisoner having no further evidence to offer made the following statement.

I was in the fight at Salem Church - After the fight I started for Fredericksburgh and got as far as a house about half a mile from the city. There I stayed one night and the next morning May 4th went into the fortifications and fought about an hour against rebel skirmishers advancing on our left flank. We were obliged to fall back, and I was obliged in order to save myself to throw my rifle and accouterments into the river and to swim across, the bridges having been taken up. I met two men of the 96th Pennsylvania, John Live and Luke Delainy, who persuaded me to desert with them, they saying that there was a Pennsylvania regiment going home and they could get away with it. I was afraid I should be court-martialed for throwing away my things if I went back to the regiment and I was therefore induced to go with them.

The Court was then cleared for deliberation.

After mature deliberation on the evidence adduced the Court finds the prisoner as follows

Of the Specification Guilty

Of the Charge Guilty

And the Court does therefore sentence him the said Private Thomas Jewett Co. "B"(sic) 5th regiment Me Vols to be shot to death with musketry at such time and place as the Commanding General may direct - two thirds of the Court concurring.

C.S. Edwards
Col. 5th Me Vols

Alexander J. Campbell
Capt 121st NY Vols
Judge Advocate

 Head-Quarters, Army of the Potomac
Camp near Germantown, Va., August 7th 1863

General Orders,}
No. 73 }

III. Before a General Court Martial, convened at Head-Quarters, 2d Brigade, 1st Division, 6th Corps, by virtue of Special Orders, No. 44, July 20th, 1863, of which Colonel C.S. Edwards, 5th Maine Volunteers, is President, was arraigned and tried -

Private Thomas Jewett, Company "D," 5th Regiment Maine Volunteers.

CHARGE - Desertion.
Finding - Guilty.

And the Court does therefore sentence him, the said Private Thomas Jewett, Company "D," 5th Maine Volunteers, "To be shot to death with musketry, at such time and place as the Commanding General may direct:" two-thirds of the Court concurring....

In the case of Private Jewett, the proceedings, finding and sentence are approved. The sentence will be carried into effect in presence of the Division, on Friday, the 14th instant, between the hours of 12, m. (sic) and 4 o’clock, p.m.


Assistant Adjutant General.

 Head Quarters 1st Brigade
1st Division 6th Army Corps
Aug 14th 1853


To Commandants of Regts

1 This Brigade will form this morning at 9:30 for the purpose of proceeding to witness the execution of the sentence in the case of Priv Thos Jewett Co. "D" 5th Maine Vols

2 Each Battalion will form on its respective Color line at the hour above named. The 1st Regt NJ Vols will report on the open space in front of the 15th NJ Vols.

By Order of Brig Genl Torbert
J.T. Whitehead

 Head Qrt 1st Div 6th Corps

Warrenton Va Aug 14th 1863


I have the honor to report that in pursuance of Genl Orders No. 73, Head Qrs Army of the Potomac, Private Thomas Jewett, 5th Me Vols was shot in the presence of this Division at one and a half P.M. today for the crime of desertion.

Very Respectfully
Your Obedient
H.G. Wright
Brig Gen Comdg
Lt Col M.T. McMahan
A.A. Genl
6th Corps Army of the Potomac

 Distant Drums, David Krutz, p. 163-4

While in New Baltimore, the 121st’s (NY) division was ordered out to witness a military execution. The soldiers looked on as Thomas Jewitt (sic) of the 5th Maine was executed by a firing squad for desertion. In a letter to his father in Brockett’s Bridge [NY], John Ingraham of the 121st described the execution:

"The deserter rode in a army wagon without a cover on. He sat upon his coffin. All the way there the Chaplain was with him. When he arrived there we formed the whole Division into a square of three sides leaving one end open where he was to be shot. When we were formed they drove all around the squared inside. He sat on his coffin and did not seem to mind it a great deal. He had a scrap of some kind of reading I think. But the worst of all was to hear our Brigade Boys Band play the mournful dirge as he passed us. And as they came around to ersey and they played a burial dirge. That is what sounded solemn. It did not seem to make any difference with him there too. When they got around to the other end they halted the wagon. He got up off from his coffin, jumped out of the back end of the wagon pretty spry. They then took the coffin, placed it on the ground in position. He then shook hands with the men that were to shoot him and the Chaplain and had his hands tied behind him and kneeled on the coffin and then got up and sat on it facing to the front and the men that were to shoot him were in front of him about two Rods. The Chaplain made a prayer and they shook hands with him again and bid him goodbye and left him. Then there was an officer rode by and read his Court martial to the whole Division and rode away. The officer then that was in Command of the men that were to shoot him stepped up and blindfolded him. Commanded his men to shoulder arms. Ready. Aim. Fire and it threw him right over his coffin. His head struck the ground before his feet. He never knew what hurt him. His head & breast were shot through & through. They were ten men out of the 96th PV[Pa. Vols.] Regt. done it. 10 shots, 8 balls & two blanks."

Copyright S D Jowitt, Lee Petry