Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Court Martial of Jerry Burnett

I thought at this point of my publishing my family history letters from the Civil War I should add the court martial trial of Jeremiah Burnett my third great grandfather. The trial happened about the point we are in the letters. It's not a part of the letters, but in the Confederate records and I'm extremely lucky to have them. There is a paper marked K that is missing from the court records and it would be very interesting to know what that paper contained. Whatever it was, whether a letter from his wife asking for help or perhaps having a sick child, the paper obviously saved his life as you can tell by listening to his defense in court. Without the letter, he would probably have been found guilty and shot. Here is the trial.

The Court martial of Jerry Burnett.

2nd Lt. D.C. Jones Rice's Tenn. Artillery Co.
2nd Lt. J.F. Thompson Owen's Ark. Artillery Co.
2nd Lt. W.J. Winton Thrall's Ark. Artillery Co. (Judge Adv.)

The court after having read and reconsidered the proceedings in the case of Private Jerry Burnett of Captain A.J. Guttery's Company A, 13th Battalion Alabama Partisan Rangers tried for desertion on the 22nd day of January 1863 at Columbus, Mississippi have adopted the following as pensive and corrected copy of the same.

Proceedings of a general court martial held at Columbus, Mississippi by (unreadable) of the following order.

Dept. of Miss. And Ala.
Jackson, January 4, 1863

Special Order #4
A general court martial is hereby ordered to convene at Columbus, Mississippi on the 10th of January 1863 at eleven o'clock A.M. Or as soon hereafter as practicable for the trial of such prisoners as may be properly brought before it.

Detain for the court

Major W.W. Guy Brigade Commissary
Major W.J. Anderson A.Q.M.
Captain T.W. Rice Rice's Tenn. Heavy Artillery
Captain J.A. Owens Light Artillery
Captain J.C. Thrall Heavy Artillery Company
1st Lt. J.C. Barlow Thrall's Artillery
1st Lt. W.C. Howell Owen's Artillery
1st Lt. W.P. Barksdale Owen's Artillery
2nd Lt. H.H. Briggs Rice's Heavy Artillery

Proceedings of a general court martial reconvened at Columbus, Mississippi on the 20th day of March 1863 at 11 o'clock a.m. By (unreadable) of the following order.

Headquarters Dept. of Miss. And La.
Columbus, Miss. March 20, 1863

Special Order #23
The general court martial convened by order Special Order #4 from Dept. Miss. And East La. Jackson, Mississippi dated January 4, 1863 at Columbus, Mississippi on the 10th of January 1863 is hereby ordered to reconvene at Columbus, Mississippi on the 20th day of March 1863 in conformity with instructions from Lieutenant General Pemberton commanding Dept. of Miss. & East La. Dated March 6, 1863 for the reason and reconsideration of the proceedings of the court in accordance with these instructions.

By order Brig. Gen. Ruggles
Court Room Columbus, Miss.
March 28, 1863, 2 o'clock p.m.

Should any officer named in the above detail be prevented from attending, the court, will nevertheless proceed with the business before it provided the members present be not less than the minimum provided by law. The above being the greatest number that can be assembled without manifest injury to the service.

By order Lt. Gen. Pemberton
J.R. Waddy, A.A.G.
Court Room Columbus, Miss.
January 22, 1863

The court then proceeded to the trial of Jerry Burnett a private in Captain A.J. Guttery's Company A, 13th Battalion Alabama Partisan Rangers who having been called into court and having heard the special order read was asked if he had any objections to any of the members named in the order to which he replied in the negative. The court was then duly sworn in his presence by the Judge Advocate and the Judge Advocate was duly sworn by the President of the Court and Private Jerry Burnett was then arraigned in the following charge and specification.

Charge Desertion.
Specification. Said Jerry Burnett a private in Captain A.J. Guttery's Co. A, 13th Battalion Ala. P.R. Did on or about the 1st day of December 1862 desert from Camp Adams near Columbus, Mississippi. Said Burnett did not carry away with him any of his arms or equipment. Said Burnett was arrested and brought back to Columbus, Mississippi on the 19th day of December 1862.

Major W.A. Hewlett
Commanding Battalion

To which the accused pleaded as follows.
To the specification not guilty. To the charge not guilty.

Lieutenant Bibb a witness for the prosecution being sworn says.
Question by the Judge Advocate, “Do you know the prisoner?”
Answer, “I do.”
Question by the Judge Advocate, “Do you know that the prisoner left without the proper leave of absense?”
Answer, “I do.”
Question by the court, “Did you arrest the accused?”
Answer, “I did not, but it was done by my order.”
Question by the court, “Where was the accused arrested?”
Answer, “In Walker County, Alabama.”
Question by the court, “Did he make any resistance or try to avoid being arrested?”
Answer, “No, he did not.”
Question by the court, “Did the prisoner tell you his reasons for going home?”
Answer, “He did not.”

The prosecution here closed and the accused produced the following testimony in his defense.
Private John D. Sparks of Company D a witness for the defense being sworn says.

Question by the accused, “Did I not tell you when you arrested me that I intended starting back in two or three days?”
Answer, “You did.”

The accused having no further testimony to offer submitted the following paper marked K in his defense.

The court was then closed and after making deliberation on the evidence admitted from the accused as followed.

Of the specification Guilty.
Of the charge Not Guilty of desertion. Guilty of absence without leave.
Owing to the protracted confinement of the prisoner the court is of the opinion that he has already been sufficiently punished, and do, therefore acquit him.

T.W. Rice, Captain Artillery W.J. Winton, Lt. Artillery
President of the court Judge Advocate of court

J.E. Johnston, General

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