Pickett Justice or Atrocity: Gen. George Pickett and the Kinston, NC Hangings.

Waterloo50

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I definitely need to read this, I’d like to know what conclusion the author came to, in-fact (it doesn’t matter if you’ve read the book) I’d be interested to hear what people think. Was Pickett right to hang those deserters, he certainly claimed that he had the right to execute those men under military law or was it an atrocity or as we say these days...a war crime.
 

jackt62

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Haven't read the book, but the interesting question relates to the status of the Confederacy. If in fact, the "deserters" had been conscripted into the Confederate forces, they could legitimately claim that they technically remained US citizens and were compelled to join against their will, a movement that was considered a rebellion against the lawful authority of the United States. So from that perspective, Pickett's hangings would be another unlawful act.
 
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I guess Pickett himself must have questioned the legality of the hangings, especially as he did a midnight flit to Canada.

One very well may fear kangaroo courts from the other side seeking unfair retribution. However I wouldn't equate that into believing what you did was wrong, do you have a specific law in mind against hanging deserters?
 

Bruce Vail

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One very well may fear kangaroo courts from the other side seeking unfair retribution. However I wouldn't equate that into believing what you did was wrong, do you have a specific law in mind against hanging deserters?

Any US military court, then or now, would have convicted Pickett.

He was wise to flee the country when he did. He was very lucky to be treated so leniently in the end.
 
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Any US military court, then or now, would have convicted Pickett.

He was wise to flee the country when he did. He was very lucky to be treated so leniently in the end.

Really, the union as well hung and shot deserters during the war. From Lieber code and articles of war 1806 which were applicable during the CW

Art 48
Deserters from the American Army, having entered the service of the enemy, suffer death if they fall again into the hands of the United States, whether by capture, or being delivered up to the American Army; and if a deserter from the enemy, having taken service in the Army of the United States, is captured by the enemy, and punished by them with death or otherwise, it is not a breach against the law and usages of war, requiring redress or retaliation.

Article 23. Any officer or soldier who shall be convicted of having advised or persuaded any other officer or soldier to desert the service of [page 363] the United States, shall suffer death, or such other punishment as shall be inflicted upon him by the sentence of a court martial.

Article 22. No non-commissioned officer or soldier shall enlist himself in any other regiment, troop, or company, without a regular discharge from the regiment, troop, or company, in which he last served, on the penalty of being reputed a deserter, and suffering accordingly.

Article 52. Any officer or soldier, who shall misbehave himself before the enemy, run away, or shamefully abandon any fort, post, or guard, which he or they may be commanded to defend, or speak words inducing others to do the like; or shall cast away his arms and ammunition, or who shall quit his post or colours to plunder and pillage, every such offender, being duly convicted thereof, shall suffer death, or such other punishment as shall be ordered by the sentence of a general court martial.

The Confederates likewise passed laws authorizing death as a punishment for desertion, not aware of any law Union or Confederate that actually prohibitted it. To call it a war crime, would require some actual law wouldn't it?
 
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leftyhunter

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Really, the union as well hung and shot deserters during the war. From Lieber code and articles of war 1806 which were applicable during the CW

Art 48
Deserters from the American Army, having entered the service of the enemy, suffer death if they fall again into the hands of the United States, whether by capture, or being delivered up to the American Army; and if a deserter from the enemy, having taken service in the Army of the United States, is captured by the enemy, and punished by them with death or otherwise, it is not a breach against the law and usages of war, requiring redress or retaliation.

Article 23. Any officer or soldier who shall be convicted of having advised or persuaded any other officer or soldier to desert the service of [page 363] the United States, shall suffer death, or such other punishment as shall be inflicted upon him by the sentence of a court martial.

Article 22. No non-commissioned officer or soldier shall enlist himself in any other regiment, troop, or company, without a regular discharge from the regiment, troop, or company, in which he last served, on the penalty of being reputed a deserter, and suffering accordingly.

Article 52. Any officer or soldier, who shall misbehave himself before the enemy, run away, or shamefully abandon any fort, post, or guard, which he or they may be commanded to defend, or speak words inducing others to do the like; or shall cast away his arms and ammunition, or who shall quit his post or colours to plunder and pillage, every such offender, being duly convicted thereof, shall suffer death, or such other punishment as shall be ordered by the sentence of a general court martial.

The Confederates likewise passed laws authorizing death as a punishment for desertion, not aware of any law Union or Confederate that actually prohibitted it. To call it a war crime, would require some actual law wouldn't it?
The Confederacy us not a legal entity under US law it is not worthy of respect and had no legal right to commit violence against anyone.
Unfortunately Puckett got away with cold blooded murder

Leftyhunter
 

John Hartwell

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His actions were doubtless legal and proper by Confederate laws and regulations -- but, should that impress a U.S. court? They were uniformed U.S. soldiers at the time of their capture and execution. What they may have been before is no concern of U.S. authorities.

If the C.S.A. had won, everything it would be a different story altogether.
 
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The Confederacy us not a legal entity under US law it is not worthy of respect and had no legal right to commit violence against anyone.
Unfortunately Puckett got away with cold blooded murder

Leftyhunter

Noted you've provided no law US or Confederate specifying a death penalty for desertion is illegal, which is what the thread about. It is rather absurd to keep claiming something is illegal without being able to specify the law...…the thread isnt about seccession.....or treason.....or anything else you wish to use to deflect from the OP, but whether hanging deserters was illegal...…it wasnt to either side or people would cite the relevant law from either side.........

In fact I've provided several examples where if anything it was accepted as legal to the US,which is who it was alleged would convict him...…..which they obviously didn't despite the claims it would have been easily done

Obviously you ignore General orders 100, to be against US law, the US law wouldn't in fact excuse it. If an enemy deserter enters the service of the US, and is captured and executed by the enemy it clearly says it is NOT a breach of law. You apparently think the United States isn't worthy of respect if you wish to ignore the US law and orders
 
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His actions were doubtless legal and proper by Confederate laws and regulations -- but, should that impress a U.S. court? They were uniformed U.S. soldiers at the time of their capture and execution. What they may have been before is no concern of U.S. authorities.

If the C.S.A. had won, everything it would be a different story altogether.

It was obviously legal under US law also has they had foreseen the specific possibility with "and if a deserter from the enemy, having taken service in the Army of the United States, is captured by the enemy, and punished by them with death or otherwise, it is not a breach against the law and usages of war, requiring redress or retaliation." nor was it vice versa. Any claim of it being illegal would suggest General Orders 100 was obviously meaningless..... Which is a seperate argument i wouldn't necessarily disagree with...… As it seems to have been used as cover when convenient and ignored when convenient….....
 
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John Hartwell

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It was obviously legal under US law also has they had foreseen the specific possibility with "and if a deserter from the enemy, having taken service in the Army of the United States, is captured by the enemy, and punished by them with death or otherwise, it is not a breach against the law and usages of war, requiring redress or retaliation." nor was it vice versa. Any claim of it being illegal would suggest General Orders 100 was obviously meaningless..... Which is a seperate argument i wouldn't necessarily disagree with...… As it seems to have been used as cover when convenient and ignored when convenient….....
Interesting. Was this an opinion, or did it have the force of authority?

I was actually addressing Pickett's wisdom in fleeing to Canada. As you say, the argument was "used ... when convenient and ignored when convenient…...."

It was one of those hard, distasteful decisions a commander is often faced with in war. Had he held back and found some alternative to execution, I would have admired his forbearance. That he did not, given conditions at the time, and the rising tide of desertions in the Confederate ranks, I cannot, in justice, fault him.
 

JPK Huson 1863

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I can't read any of these accounts without holding my nose. Was it Elmira Spencer who wrote of men sitting on their own coffins, in wagons, on the way to being executed as deserters.What a barbaric waste of life no matter whose order, ' legal ' or illegal and which side.

You apparently think the United States isn't worthy of respect if you wish to ignore the US law and orders

That's a stretch. This country was founded on some pretty strong principle about being able to disagree with anyone, about anything at all and say so. When we can't, we're not the United States any more.
 
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I can't read any of these accounts without holding my nose. Was it Elmira Spencer who wrote of men sitting on their own coffins, in wagons, on the way to being executed as deserters.What a barbaric waste of life no matter whose order, ' legal ' or illegal and which side.



That's a stretch. This country was founded on some pretty strong principle about being able to disagree with anyone, about anything at all and say so. When we can't, we're not the United States any more.
He's the one who wants to throw not worthy of respect out in relation to the ACW with his usual partisan nonsense..... yet the only law he seems to be ignoring with his statements is actually US law
 
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Waterloo50

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I think the key to the legality of the hangings depended very much on the definition of ‘Deserter’, the second military board of inquiry searched the muster rolls in an attempt to clarify exactly which units the hanged men belonged to, the first and second board of inquiry came to the conclusion that soldiers enlisted in the confederate army prior to their service in the union army could be legitimately charged with desertion by the confederacy, the problem was that some of the men that were hanged were from bridge guard companies and the local defence service and as such were not subject to confederate military law.

The judge advocate general argued that service within the confederate military was in itself a crime and as such, ‘it was every persons duty to escape at the first opportunity’, having fled and taken refuge in the United States service, the individuals in question were entitled to that country’s protection and vengeance’.

It looks to be the case that for those men that were executed under confederate military law, the board deemed the hangings to be legal and acceptable providing that those found guilty were indeed enlisted men. For those men that were not enlisted but were found guilty of desertion the board found that those responsible for the hangings could be charged with murder. The problem for the board however was lack of evidence, the letters which were exchanged between Pickett and Peck provided some evidence of Pickett’s clear intentions to hang the deserters but they also served as proof that Pickett believed the guilty men to have been enlisted men and that was Pickett’s saving grace.

I’m going to see what others have to say but I believe that the execution of enlisted men was not illegal, I do believe that Pickett should have been charged with murder for the hanging of those whom were not enlisted. Pickett was extremely fortunate to have Grant as an former associate otherwise I’d imagine that Pickett would have found himself on the end of a rope charged with numerous counts of murder, he may well have believed that those men whom he hung were enlisted men but equally he had a responsibility to check the facts.
So, in response to my own post, I’d say Pickett carried out legal justice in some cases and war crimes in others.
 
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This was G
Interesting. Was this an opinion, or did it have the force of authority?

I was actually addressing Pickett's wisdom in fleeing to Canada. As you say, the argument was "used ... when convenient and ignored when convenient…...."

It was one of those hard, distasteful decisions a commander is often faced with in war. Had he held back and found some alternative to execution, I would have admired his forbearance. That he did not, given conditions at the time, and the rising tide of desertions in the Confederate ranks, I cannot, in justice, fault him.
This was general orders 100, which many in other threads have argued was military law. It was issued by Lincoln to circumvent Congress which is supposed to set military law by the constitution
 

Waterloo50

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Any US military court, then or now, would have convicted Pickett.

He was wise to flee the country when he did. He was very lucky to be treated so leniently in the end.
Agreed, When things were looking uncertain for Pickett, Grant jumped to his defence, he wrote a letter to the president stating that Pickett was an ‘honorable man’, of course Grant was also concerned that pursuing a murder enquiry would look like retribution and would unsettle the peace process.
 

CSA Today

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Haven't read the book, but the interesting question relates to the status of the Confederacy. If in fact, the "deserters" had been conscripted into the Confederate forces, they could legitimately claim that they technically remained US citizens and were compelled to join against their will, a movement that was considered a rebellion against the lawful authority of the United States. So from that perspective, Pickett's hangings would be another unlawful act.

Unlikely, by 1863, North Carolina wasn't in the habit of conscripting able-bodied men of military age into reserve units such as the 8th Battalion Partisan Rangers (Nethercutt's Battalion) whose purpose was to guard railroads and bridges and to fight only if attacked. 28 men the deserted the battalion to the enemy only after the six company battalion along with four companies from the 13th Battalion (another reserve unit) were combined to form the 66th NC infantry – a combat regiment in October 1863.
 
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Agreed, When things were looking uncertain for Pickett, Grant jumped to his defence, he wrote a letter to the president stating that Pickett was an ‘honorable man’, of course Grant was also concerned that pursuing a murder enquiry would look like retribution and would unsettle the peace process.

I would agree it would look like unfair retribution as no one has provided any law broken in relation to executing deserters, in fact the Lieber code specified it wasnt illegal......it would look like a kangaroo court because it would have been one
 
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