Featured Fredricksburg: Sound tactics or war crime?

thomas aagaard

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 19, 2013
Location
Denmark
Dont use the wording "war crimes". No one during the civil war was guilty of
war crimes!!!

The conventions (saint Petersburg, Geneva... ) are rules about warfare signed by sovereign states and they are only in effect during wars between the states.
So if a danish soldier in Afghanistan kill a captured Taliban fighter, that would not be a war crime. Since the Taliban have not signed the relevant conventions. But it would still a crime by danish law.
And that is naturally ignoring the fact that they did not exist back then.

Show me the treaty that define war crimes and signed by both sides. If not stop using that wording... it is anachronistic.

The general order you quote do make plundering a crime by military law... but that do not make it a war crime.
 

leftyhunter

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
May 27, 2011
Location
los angeles ca
Dont use the wording "war crimes". No one during the civil war was guilty of
war crimes!!!

The conventions (saint Petersburg, Geneva... ) are rules about warfare signed by sovereign states and they are only in effect during wars between the states.
So if a danish soldier in Afghanistan kill a captured Taliban fighter, that would not be a war crime. Since the Taliban have not signed the relevant conventions. But it would still a crime by danish law.
And that is naturally ignoring the fact that they did not exist back then.

Show me the treaty that define war crimes and signed by both sides. If not stop using that wording... it is anachronistic.

The general order you quote do make plundering a crime by military law... but that do not make it a war crime.
I agree with you about 90%. What gets a bit tricky is modern politics i.e. the Nuremburg trials but of course that decades later then the CW. In theory those Union troops that vandalized or committed arson on US Citizens could of been tried in either state court (since Va did not legally secede from the Union) or military tribunal. For practical purpose no army can arrest its men every violation because there is only so much manpower to go around. At the same time a small percentage of Union troops where tried and convicted of rape and murder.
Leftyhunter
 

leftyhunter

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
May 27, 2011
Location
los angeles ca
If the orders from Washington were carried out, the AOP might have had more deaths from executions than they received from combat with Lee. Burnside and many of his subordinates were guilty of war crimes. I couldn't find General Orders Numbers 108 or the 52nd Article of War, which are said to include more regulations.

APPENDIX.

A.

GENERAL ORDERS,

WAR DEPT., ADJT. General 'S OFFICE,

Numbers 107.

Washington, August 15, 1862.

I. Officers of the Regular Army will, as a general rule, receive leaves of absence to accept the rank of colonel in volunteer regiments, but not lower grades. Non-commissioned officers and privates will be discharged on receiving commissions in volunteers regiments.

II. The oath of allegiance will not be administered to any person against his own will; it must in all cases be a voluntary act on his part, nor will any compulsory parole of honor be received. But oaths taken and paroles given to avoid arrest, detention, imprisonment, or expulsion are voluntary or free acts, and cannot be regarded as compulsory. All persons guilty of violating such oaths or paroles will be punished according to the laws and usages of war.

III. The laws of the United States and the general laws of war authorize in certain cases the seizure and conversion of private property for the subsistence, transportation, and other uses of the Army, but this must be distinguished from pillage; and the taking of property for public purposes is very different from its conversion to private uses. All property lawfully taken from the enemy, or from the inhabitants of an enemy's country, instantly becomes public property, and must be used and accounted for as such. The fifty-second article of war authorizes the penalty of death for pillage or plundering, and other articles authorize severe punishments for any officer or soldier who shall sell, embezzle, misapply, or waste military stores, or who shall permit the waste or misapplication of any such public property. The penalty is the same whether the offense be committed in our own or in an enemy's territory.

IV. All property, public or private, taken from alleged enemies must be inventoried and duly accounted for. If the property taken be claimed as private, receipts must be given to such claimants or their agents. Officers will be held strictly accountable for all property taken by them or by their authority, and it must be returned for the same as any other public property.

V. Where foraging parties are sent out for provisions or other stores the commanding officer of such party will be held accountable for the conduct of his command and will make a true report of all property taken.

VI. No officer or soldier will, without authority, leave his colors or ranks to take private property or to enter a private house for that purpose. All such acts are punishable with death, and an officer who permits them is equally as guilty as the actual pillager.

VII. Commanding officers of armies and corps will be held responsible for the execution of these orders in their respective commands.

By command of Major-General Halleck, General-in-Chief of the Army:

E. D. TOWNSEND,

Assistant Adjutant-General.
Good research! If said penalties where carried out on a regular basis there would not be much of an army left. Boys will be boys.
Leftyhunter
 

dvrmte

Major
Joined
Sep 3, 2009
Location
South Carolina
Good research! If said penalties where carried out on a regular basis there would not be much of an army left. Boys will be boys.
Leftyhunter

Isn't that what Oliver O. Howard said? Regardless, the CO was responsible for keeping those 'boys' in line and were supposedly held accountable for their actions.
 

dvrmte

Major
Joined
Sep 3, 2009
Location
South Carolina
Dont use the wording "war crimes". No one during the civil war was guilty of
war crimes!!!

The conventions (saint Petersburg, Geneva... ) are rules about warfare signed by sovereign states and they are only in effect during wars between the states.
So if a danish soldier in Afghanistan kill a captured Taliban fighter, that would not be a war crime. Since the Taliban have not signed the relevant conventions. But it would still a crime by danish law.
And that is naturally ignoring the fact that they did not exist back then.

Show me the treaty that define war crimes and signed by both sides. If not stop using that wording... it is anachronistic.

The general order you quote do make plundering a crime by military law... but that do not make it a war crime.

Actually I prefer and will use the term 'war crime' or 'crimes committed during a war'. You are the one using an anachronistic modern definition to describe crimes committed during the ACW.
 

thomas aagaard

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 19, 2013
Location
Denmark
Was it a crime to loot the town. Yes... But it was not a warcrime, since that was not a term in use.
If you want to use a modern word, use the modern understanding of the word and the modern moral view...
You are deliberately using an anachronistic term to make others compare this to WWII warcrimes.
 

leftyhunter

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
May 27, 2011
Location
los angeles ca
Isn't that what Oliver O. Howard said? Regardless, the CO was responsible for keeping those 'boys' in line and were supposedly held accountable for their actions.
If you have the exact quote that would be interesting. It sounds like something a general would say. The good lord knows the boys at Fredricksburg where not the first or last to be naughty.
Leftyhunter
 

Pat Young

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Featured Book Reviewer
Joined
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Location
Long Island, NY
The conventions (saint Petersburg, Geneva... ) are rules about warfare signed by sovereign states and they are only in effect during wars between the states.
Not entirely true. Common Article 3 of the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 apply to internal conflicts:

Article 3 In the case of armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, each Party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions:

1. Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of the armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all cases be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, color, religion or faith, sex, birth of wealth, or any other similar criteria.

To this end the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:

(a) violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;

(b) taking of hostages;

(c) outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment;

(d) the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgement pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.

2. The wounded and sick shall be collected and cared for.

An impartial humanitarian body, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, may offer its services to the Parties to the conflict.
The Parties to the conflict should further endeavor to bring into force, by means of special agreements, all or part of the other provisions of the present Convention.
The application of the preceding provisions shall not affect the legal status of the Parties to the conflict.

- See more at: http://www.crimesofwar.org/a-z-guide/international-vs-internal-armed-conflict/#sthash.fdCZQmvY.dpuf
 

thomas aagaard

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Location
Denmark
But as the article also point out, that is only a small part of the conventions. The others are not in effect.
But I admit I was thinking about the older Saint petersburg decleration.
 

Pat Young

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Long Island, NY
But as the article also point out, that is only a small part of the conventions. The others are not in effect.
But I admit I was thinking about the older Saint petersburg decleration.
There are also many acts which may not be considered "war crimes" under international humanitarian law because they are incident to an internal conflict which may still be considered human rights violations or persecutory acts. This law is more modern than the law of war and provides an analytic frame rather than a strictly legal one.

However, as I have said, Gen Order 100 was clearly meant to apply to Union troops during the Civil War and there appear to have been many violations of it at Fredericksburg. Although the order was issued after the battle, it claims to codify existing usages.
 

thomas aagaard

1st Lieutenant
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Location
Denmark
My point is, war crime is a legal term that should only be used about "cases" that happened when the relevant international treaties are in existence.
So if you want to judge a "case" during the war you got to use the terms, laws and standards in use back then.
And start out by remembering that we are not talking a binding treaty between the two sides, but different US laws and general orders.

And similar with human rights, crimes against humanity and similar. Judging what happened 100+ years ago by modern standards is problematic.

Now about the looting. Sure that was a break down in discipline and looting was clearly no longer acceptable... even if the town was defended. (Go back in time, and looting a defended town was the norm.. and morally accepted )
 

Pat Young

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Now about the looting. Sure that was a break down in discipline and looting was clearly no longer acceptable... even if the town was defended. (Go back in time, and looting a defended town was the norm.. and morally accepted )
So was burning witches. The Lieber Code clearly says that acceptance of looting is anachronistic. By the time of the Civil War it was not accepted.
 

thomas aagaard

1st Lieutenant
Joined
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Location
Denmark
Iam not disagreeing in anyway.
My point was, that go back x years and it was acceptable and even part of the "system" (surrender the town or we loot it).... but thing changed and "clearly was no longer acceptable".
What happened was a crime... (but a crime according to a US law... not an international treaty)

But I am curious to the general orders. When it say that looting is punishable by death. Could a general decide so on his own?


(Iam not sure it was ever legal for a mob to burn a witch... ;-) but that have very little to do with the civil war... )
 

dvrmte

Major
Joined
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Location
South Carolina
If you have the exact quote that would be interesting. It sounds like something a general would say. The good lord knows the boys at Fredricksburg where not the first or last to be naughty.
Leftyhunter

Close, but no cigar. Howard said, "Soldiers are not expected to be angels", when overwhelmed by civilians asking for protection. I don't blame the soldiers as much as the CO's, who were expected to maintain discipline
 

dvrmte

Major
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Sep 3, 2009
Location
South Carolina
You are willing to hold Confederal generals responsible for their men as well right?

Can you give me an example of Confederate officers participating in or condoning the sack of a city for no reason other than they could? Even if you can find an example, would it not then be considered retaliation, since Fredericksburg was the first sack of an American city since the sack of Washington during the War of 1812?

Francis A. Walker, soldier and historian of the Second Corps, said this about it, "There was in this nothing contrary to the laws of war, the town had refused a formal demand for its surrender, it had been carried by assault with great loss, the contending forces had actually fought for possession from street to street, so that by the strict law governing such cases the conquerors had the right to sack and pillage."

It's alright though, Walker says it was all in fun. Remind me to never play with Yankees.

"It goes almost without saying that all that was done, of real mischief, was done by a small number, and it is also true that much that was done came from a spirit of fun, rather than of hatred."

http://books.google.com/books?id=59...y to the laws of war conquerors right&f=false
 

wilber6150

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deep in the Mohawk Valley of Central New York
Can you give me an example of Confederate officers participating in or condoning the sack of a city for no reason other than they could? Even if you can find an example, would it not then be considered retaliation, since Fredericksburg was the first sack of an American city since the sack of Washington during the War of 1812?

Francis A. Walker, soldier and historian of the Second Corps, said this about it, "There was in this nothing contrary to the laws of war, the town had refused a formal demand for its surrender, it had been carried by assault with great loss, the contending forces had actually fought for possession from street to street, so that by the strict law governing such cases the conquerors had the right to sack and pillage."

It's alright though, Walker says it was all in fun. Remind me to never play with Yankees.

"It goes almost without saying that all that was done, of real mischief, was done by a small number, and it is also true that much that was done came from a spirit of fun, rather than of hatred."

http://books.google.com/books?id=59BaLZv7JUQC&pg=PA153&lpg=PA153&dq=francis walker nothing contrary to the laws of war conquerors right&source=bl&ots=YoYDofJ3Jv&sig=MB_rNNYZ642oyNJHOUCVMQodbUk&hl=en&sa=X&ei=IVZdVKqzLYqfyQTslIAI&ved=0CB4Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=francis walker nothing contrary to the laws of war conquerors right&f=false
Why limiting it to just sacking of towns and cities? Did you not say
the CO was responsible for keeping those 'boys' in line and were supposedly held accountable for their actions.
Its an easy question. Are you holding Confederate generals to the same accountability for the actions of their troops? But, if you need examples of troops ransacking and looting houses Im sure you came across some by Confederate troops in the Gettysburg campaign, among other crimes committed by them..
 

dvrmte

Major
Joined
Sep 3, 2009
Location
South Carolina
Why limiting it to just sacking of towns and cities? Did you not say Its an easy question. Are you holding Confederate generals to the same accountability for the actions of their troops? But, if you need examples of troops ransacking and looting houses Im sure you came across some by Confederate troops in the Gettysburg campaign, among other crimes committed by them..

Wilber, of course I hold them accountable especially if they took part in, or stood by and watched. We're talking about Fredericksburg, and using 'you did it too', is an attempt to distract.

Since we know that there was gross disobedience of orders by Union officers and men, should they not have been punished for their crimes? Fredericksburg had been the home of George Washington, James Monroe and John Paul Jones, is it not disgusting that artifacts, memorabilia, etc. dating back to their time, was destroyed or stolen?
 

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