Description[Confederate States]. Leonidas Polk Broadside Pardoning Confederate Soldiers. One printed page, 8.75" x 10.5", Demopolis [Alabama], April 16, 1864, "To all soldiers in this department absent from their commands without leave." Desertion was a constant problem for both sides during the Civil War and especially so in the South, where a smaller population made filling the army with fresh soldiers a serious issue. In an effort to entice soldiers to return, President Jefferson Davis offered a full pardon if deserters would return. Similarly, as stated in this broadside, both Houses of the Mississippi Legislature proposed that Lieutenant General Leonidas Polk (1806-1864), the "Fighting Bishop," offer a comparable pardon, in part:
"The Lieutenant-General Commanding has had presented to him a petition...setting forth that a large number of men now absent from their commands in this Department, who in a moment of weakness were induced to abandon their duty and desert their colors, have seen reason to regret their want of fidelity and are anxious to return...experience of the past in this and other armies of the Confederacy, is not favorable to the expediency of the measures proposed..." Polk adds that he is "...nevertheless willing...to add one more effort to the list of those already made to recover those misguided men, and restore them to the service of their country...." and therefore he "...offers a pardon to all soldiers of this Department absent from their commands...who shall within ten days after having knowledge of this Proclamation, report for duty to their respective commands..."
Polk further expresses his desire "...to add the expression of the hope, that this last opportunity now presented for wiping out the disgrace which attaches to the characters of these men...will be availed of by them, and that he will thus be relieved from the painful duty of making examples of those who...have not only deserted their standards, but, by banding themselves together, have...reduced society to the condition of lawlessness and violence."
Moderate to heavy water staining has discolored the document, but does not affect the text.
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