Spartan Band diarist William H. Hill said it was snowing at dress parade on the morning of March 12, 1863, when an order from Gen. Lee was read to the regiment.
The order said that four 13th lieutenants whom a board of officers had examined in January for competence would lose their commissions.
Reduced to private were 2nd Lieutenant Robert J. Lyles, 21, and 3rd Lieutenant William George Baber, 27, both of the Spartan Band; 1st Lieutenant Thomas J. Hearn, 21, of the Alamutcha Infantry; and 3rd Lieutenant William Calhoun Godwin, 23, of the Newton Rifles.
All four had begun the war as privates and subsequently been elected to their officer positions. As Jess N. McLean reminds us:
“There was no ‘Officer Training’ in this period…Often popular men were elected who had no knowledge of Hardee’s Tactics or anything similar. The competency board was the only method of removal. It was not [a] reflection on the bravery or character of the man.”
Hill said Gen. Lee’s order concluded that the four junior officers “were pronounced, by the Board, as incompetent officers….”
According to H. Grady Howell, Jr., Baber, Lyles and Godwin would regain their lieutenancies by election later in the war. Neither McLean or Howell have any record of a subsequent promotion for Hearn.