The Civil War News & Views Open Discussion Forum

The case of General J. G. Spears

Witnesses state that in private conversation Union General J. G. Spears stated...

"that there had not been a time since the rebellion began that the war could have been closed in sixty days; that he believed it was the policy of those in power to continue the war as a pretext or excuse to interfere with the institution of slavery, and when he found this to be the case, the Government might go to hell and he would be found fighting in the field against it."

Spears was found guilty of "using disloyal language" and "conduct prejudicial to good order and military discipline" and sentenced to be dismissed from the service of the United States. The findings and sentence were disapproved by Maj. Gen. John M. Schofield, commanding the Department of the Ohio, because "using disloyal language is an offense not specified in the rules and articles of war and hence one over which a general court martial has no jurisdiction." Although Schofield acknowledged the lack of jurisdiction in the case, he recommended that the accused be dismissed anyway. This recommendation was forwarded for action to the President of the United States. President Lincoln concurred with Schofield's suggestion and on August 17, 1864, penned "summarily dismissed" on the case file, thus ending the military career of Brig. Gen. James G. Spears.

The Shady Side of the Family Tree: Civil War Union Court-Martial Case Files
By Trevor K. Plante