During the Civil War desertion within the ranks was fairly common for both the Union and Confederate armies but worse for the North. One estimate suggested that 200,000 Union soldiers deserted during the Civil War; records of the Army of the Potomac revealed in December of 1862 that no less than 180,000 of the soldiers listed on the Union muster rolls were absent without leave (AWOL).
Some soldiers had family obligations that motivated them to shirk their duty. Others simply feared for their lives while in combat. On Tuesday, March 10, 1863 President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation of amnesty to all AWOL Federal soldiers, provided they would report for duty before April 1. After that date, they would be arrested and prosecuted as deserters.