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Our Military Dessenters


Throughout history, those who have fought wars have not always proven themselves "worthy", at least, that is, on the pages that chart their official records.

Deserter! A single, cutting, indelible word.

It is, in my opinion, a cold assessment of what the military considers an egregious act committed during a time when rarely nothing but egregious acts are being perpetrated. I do not condone war crimes. But, lets face it, there's a broad valley between being a war criminal and being just plain scared blue by the mechanisms of war. Heck! Maybe after seeing all the chaos and mayhem, the death and destruction the dessenter came to the conclusion that war, while it may be justified, wasn't an idea that was all that great and they just up and left.

Today, we'd call them "conscientious objectors". During Vietnam (my war), the objectors tried to leave the country before they were inducted! But, during the civil war, where were they going? Home. In many cases, these men just wanted to go home to their families, friends; back to the life they once had.

But, the scribes of history recorded them not as souls adrift; they recorded a single, cutting, indelible word - deserter. Without judgement of their reasons for their actions, those whom we have found during our research to be among our family's military dessenters are herein listed:

  • Elcanah Lanier, son of Edmund Lanier, Jr

Deserted - 8/26/1863

Convicted - 9/17/1863

Executed - 9/26/1863, firing squad

  • Jacob Lanier, son of Edmund Lanier, Jr

Deserted - 8/26/1863

Convicted - 9/17/1863

Executed - 9/26/1863, firing squad

The Lanier Brothers are shown to have been buried immediately following their execution in the cemetery attached to or associated with the Orange County Courhouse, Orange County, VA.

  • Merritt/Merit Burgin Hopson McKinney (also found under Merritt Bergin Hobson McKinney), son of Charles McKinney

Deserted - 7/30/1862

Listed as Deserter - 10/1862

Convicted - No record of court martial found

Resources show that Meritt McKinney at sometime returned to active duty, was promoted to corporal, and was later captured and held as a POW. He was an exchanged prisoner on or about 3/16/1865. Merritt/Merit McKinney survived the war. He died in Little Switzerland, McDowell Co., NC in December 1903.

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