I Pray Thee Peace (Examiner Part IV)

Published:May 18, 2011 by Brendan Wolfe

We’ve been reading the May 17, 1864, edition of the Daily Richmond Examiner [pdf], and so far we’ve read accounts of battles along the Southside of the James River, up near Spotsylvania Court House, and at New Market in the Shenandoah Valley. Our skin crawled hearing about the “cowardly and diabolical murder” of Mr. J. L. Wilcox of Charles City County by “a party of negro Yankee cavalry.” (And that’s not even to mention the deaths of “four helpless females, one of whom was totally blind, and one paralyzed.”) And of course there was the saga of the gentlemanly “German” General Heckman.

All of which brings us to “The Courts.” We’re about two-thirds down the third of six columns, by the way, and, in addition to some slaves accused of stealing “fiery fluid” and lots and lots of corn, we read here that “The habeas corpus case of Armstead Neale was continued. Neale was a Nazarene; had been arrested by Provost Marshal Chartres, and prayed to be released upon the ground that his faith exempted him from military service.”

Conscientious objectors did exist during the Civil War, and were a byproduct of conscription acts passed in both the Union and Confederacy. In October 1862 the Confederate Congress exempted Quakers, Nazarenes, Mennonites, and Dunkards from service so long as they found someone to fight in their place or paid a rather hefty fee of $500. It could be that, in Mr. Neale’s case, the Richmond authorities weren’t convinced he was a Nazarene, although the Examiner seems to stipulate otherwise. Or perhaps he just didn’t have the cash on hand to satisfy the law. The Quakers pooled their money to pay each others’ exemption fees, but the Nazarenes might not have been so clever. Whatever the case, it became more and more difficult, as the war raged on, to secure an exemption.

John B. Crenshaw, a Richmond Quaker, wrote in a diary entry dated April 18, 1863, that he won “a release for Wm. Osborne, [but] heard the C. H. Robinson’s (Dunkard) application was refused but they offer a detail to Hospitals.”

Maybe, in the end, Neale ended up at Chimborazo.

COMING IN PART V: The gallant General Stuart and the equally gallant Colonel Pate gallantly resolve a petty conflict before being shot to death, gallantly.

IMAGE: Quaker clothing