I found the following letter in the correspondence of Mississippi Governor John J. Pettus, and thought it was very interesting, as it gives a detailed description of the punishment meted out by a court-martial to Private Henry Taylor of the 16th Mississippi Infantry. The hapless soldier was convicted of theft, and his sentence was both swift and sure:
Headquarters, Army Northern Virginia
23d January 1863
Gen. Order No. 8
And the court does therefore sentence the said Henry Taylor Co. F, 16th Miss. Regt. to have one half of his head shaved immediately after the publication of his sentence, and thereupon be marched, his head so shaved, his hat off, wearing a barrel shirt on which shall be hung an overcoat and which shall be distinctly labelled “thief” and the Rogues March beaten on a drum, before him, up and down every regiment of his brigade when on any parade once, then to be sent to the Mississippi Penitentiary provided the Governor of Mississippi will receive him, and there to be confined for two years. But if the said Governor shall not receive the said accused, then to be sent to the Va. Penitentiary and there confined for the said two years, and to be kept on bread and water for fourteen days immediately after the publication of this sentence unless sent to the penitentiary.
By Command of General
A.A. & I. General
Headquarters, Dept. of Henrico
Richmond, Va., April 9, 1863
A copy of the court-martial was sent to Governor John J. Pettus, along with this cover letter:
To his Excellency
The Governor of
The State of Mississippi
I have the honor to enclose herewith a copy of an order from General Lee publishing the sentence of the Court Martial in the case of Henry Taylor, Co. “F” 16th Miss. Regt. He is now confined here awaiting your decision as whether he can be received in the State Penitentiary of Mississippi. I have the honor to request that you will let me know your decision.
Your Obdt. Servant,
Jno. H. Winder
Brig. Genl. Comdg.
I did a little research on Private Taylor, and found him in the 1860 United States Census for Jasper County. The 18 year old was living with his mother, Elizabeth, age 36, his brother J.Z., age 8, and sisters E.A., age 11, and Elizur, age 5. Elizabeth Taylor listed her occupation as farmer, and Henry was described as a “day laborer.” In fact, the family was just barely making enough to keep body and soul together: Elizabeth listed the value of her personal estate at $100, and the column for value of real estate owned was left blank, so the family may have been renting the plot of land they were working.
Henry Taylor enlisted in the “Jasper Greys,” Company F, 16th Mississippi Infantry, on March 3, 1862, at Paulding, Mississippi. His service record shows nothing out of the ordinary until the muster roll for January-February 1863, when he was listed as “In arrest or confinement.” In the next muster for March-April 1863, the private is listed as “In prison by sentence of court martial.”
Although Confederate authorities attempted to turn Taylor over to the State of
Mississippi, apparently the transfer never took place. On September 22, 1863, Taylor was sent to General Hospital No. 13 in Richmond, suffering from constipation. After receiving treatment, there was a notation that he was returned to “Castle Thunder.”
Castle Thunder was a notorious prison in Richmond that housed all manner of criminals. The facility was known for its brutality toward prisoners, so Taylor’s time there was most likely very unpleasant.
There was one final notation made in Taylor’s service record, giving a hint to his fate: “Released from confinement, Dec. 1, 1864.” I did a little more research, and found the following concerning Taylor in the General Orders and Circulars of the Confederate War Department, 1861 – 1865:
By the end of 1864, the Confederacy badly needed soldiers in the field, even those convicted of theft. I have not been able to find out where Private Taylor was transferred, but I do believe that he survived the war. I found a Henry Taylor, age 26, living in Jasper County, living with an Elizabeth Taylor, age 21, who may be his sister. The veteran was making his way just as he had before the war, scratching out a living on a small farm in Mississippi.
The letters concerning Henry Taylor’s court-martial were found here:
John J. Pettus Correspondence
Folder 10, Box 944
Mississippi Department of Archives and History