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AfriGeneas Military Research Forum Archive

Re: Voices
In Response To: Re: Voices ()

Mr. Smith:
No duel--no points scored--thus, no "Touche".
Just an exchange of views and information. And that's a pretty good way to "do" history.

On the reenlistment of your Great Uncle, James H. Green.
Until sometime before WWI (I am not sure of exact date) the army did not use the terms "honorable" or "dishonorable" discharge. And here I am writing about soldiers discharged at the end of an enlistment--not men dismissed by sentence of a court-martial or discharged for medical disability Soldiers who completed an enlistment (whether they elected to reenlist or not, and the great majority, black and white, moved on to civilian life ) received a discharge with or without "character." This practice referred to the following from the Army regulations re certificate of discharge:

[at the time of the discharege the soldier's} "...character must
be accurately describned at the bottom of the certificate, and if not sufficiently good to allow his re-enlistment that portion of the certificate relating to character will be cut off."

Of course, in an army run on paper-work copies of discharge certificate were kept and filed. I have looked at hundreds of these--most carry a character of "good". "satisfactory" was sometimes used,
and "excellent" was not uncommon. Some officers, however, wanted to make very sure that the army knew the bad apples, and I have also seen discharge certificates of black soldiers that contained a character of "worthless", the even stronger "utterly worthless", and one that reads "do not re-enlist this man under any circumstances."

Tom Phillips


18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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