War Between the States

Regarding soldiers arrested and tried as deserters

5 x 7 3/4, imprint.

War Department,
Adjutant General's Office,
Washington, April 21, 1865

MEMORANDUM:

In case a soldier is arrested and tried as a deserter, but found guilty only of absence without leave, can he be subjected to a stoppage against his pay for the amount of the expenses, (including reward) of his apprehension as a deserter?

OPINION:

In my opinion such stoppage would be wholly without legal sanction. The accused having been judicially determined not to have been guilty of a desertion, can properly be made liable to none of the consequences resulting by operation of law upon a commission or conviction of a specific crime. That the Government has once, upon imperfect evidence in regard to the facts in the case, allowed and paid the expense in question to the officer making the arrest, constitutes no good reason why these should be required of the soldier, after the only tribunal competent to pass upon his offense has pronounced him guiltless of the charge upon which he was apprehended.

J. HOLT,
Judge Advocate General

Official

Light age toning. There are two tiny punch holes at the left edge which do not affect any of the content.

General Joseph Holt: (1807-94) A renowned lawyer and Democratic orator in Kentucky, he was President Buchanan's Commissioner of Patents (1857), Postmaster General (1859), and Secretary of War (1861). When President Lincoln was inaugurated, he returned to Kentucky to try to turn that state from a policy of neutrality. He then was named colonel and the first Judge Advocate General on September 3, 1862, holding the prerogative of certain civil powers of arrest and of holding persons in arrest without writ of habeas corpus. Promoted Brigadier General U.S.V., Judge Advocate General, June 22, 1864 upon the establishment of the Bureau of Military Justice, he tried General Fitz John Porter as well as the Lincoln assassination conspirators, and Andersonville commandant, Captain Henry Wirz. He was severely criticized for obtaining Mrs. Suratt's death warrant by keeping the military commissioners plea of clemency for her from President Andrew Johnson.

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