Question about rules of war regarding prisoners

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#1
I have been reading a biography of Thomas where he used black troops to guard prisoners, and the prisoners objected. Appearatly Thomas went up to them and explained that black troops were all they had left to guard them. their bad luck. Einhof, the Biographer, seems to feel that Thomas had them guarded by black troops deliberately. And bad cess to them.

Question... there were no Geneva conventions back then. How much back chat would the troopers be obliged to tolerate before getting out the bayonets and/or shooting the prisoners? Or were there other ways of quelling aggravating prisoners?

This is not to excuse the behavior at Ft Pillow by any stretch, but obnoxious and recalcitrant prisoners need some chastisement, I am sure
 

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Hussar Yeomanry

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#4
I have been reading a biography of Thomas where he used black troops to guard prisoners, and the prisoners objected. Appearatly Thomas went up to them and explained that black troops were all they had left to guard them. their bad luck. Einhof, the Biographer, seems to feel that Thomas had them guarded by black troops deliberately. And bad cess to them.

Question... there were no Geneva conventions back then. How much back chat would the troopers be obliged to tolerate before getting out the bayonets and/or shooting the prisoners? Or were there other ways of quelling aggravating prisoners?

This is not to excuse the behavior at Ft Pillow by any stretch, but obnoxious and recalcitrant prisoners need some chastisement, I am sure
To be entirely accurate the first Geneva Convention was 1864 and covered rules for fair treatment of enemy prisoners of war. The US was not a signatory and would not be until 1955 (and is still only a partial signatory - Conventions 1-4 in 1955 and the 3rd Protocol c.10 years ago. It has chosen not to sign the 1st or 2nd Protocol).
 
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#5
During the 1st battle of Saltville, 400 or so men from the 5th USCC took part in the final charge of Chestnut Ridge. The rebels, severely outnumbered, are reported to have been so enraged at the sight of colored troops carrying weapons through their homeland that they were able to withstand the assault for another few hours before being forced into the town. The battle was ultimately a confederate victory, but it's better know for what happened after the battle. A group of Confederate regulars and home guard under the command of Champ Ferguson, went out onto the battlefields and began executing wounded and captured prisoners. There seemed to be a concentration on the colored soldiers and finals numbers are between 45-48 colored soldiers outright murdered. Ferguson was eventually tried and executed for this and other crimes, but at the time, it was celebrated in his camp. One of the Generals (I've forgotten the name off hand) is quoted as saying he "killed nearly half the negroes himself". It didn't appear that confederates had much tolerance for colored prisoners :-/ I would imagine tensions were incredibly high whenever colored troops and confederate captured were forced to coexist.
 
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#7
off topic, but....Einhof argues that seeing how well the colored troops performed at Nashville that he did a 180 on his feelings toward colored troops. He originally put them in a place where they wouldn't be a danger if they ran, instead they did an attack on a position nearly impregnable and nearly carried it
 

USS ALASKA

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#8
Madison Historical Review
Volume 2
2004

Recollection, Retribution, and Restoration : American Civil War Prison Policy in Union and Confederate Prisoner-of-War Memory
by John F. Chappo

This Article is brought to you for free and open access by the Graduate Publications at JMU Scholarly Commons. It has been accepted for inclusion in Madison Historical Review by an authorized editor of JMU Scholarly Commons. For more information, please contact dc_admin@jmu.edu.

Because former as well as recently emerging literature on the American Civil War prison system has bent toward specific case studies of individual camps and conditions, the objective of this study includes the institutional perspective of prison policy in order to form a combined recollection of the system. By combining the soldier’s perspective with that of the policy-makers, a more transparent image emerges and enables us to better differentiate myth from reality. Results indicate that late-war camp conditions were more of a by product of inconsistent early war policy directives, including friction between central and state governments, and less the result of inadequate care or intentional mistreatment as maintained by some veterans, preachers, and politicians.

https://commons.lib.jmu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1038&context=mhr
94

Cheers,
USS ALASKA
 

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wbull1

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#9
I think the treatment of black prisoners of war by the Confederacy is illustrated by Lincoln response to it.

On July 30, 1863, President Lincoln issued General Order No. 252:

"It is the duty of every Government to give protection to its citizens, of whatever class, color or condition, and especially to those who are duly organized as soldiers in the public service. The law of nations, and the usages and customs of war, as carried on by civilized powers, permit no distinction as to color in the treatment of prisoners of war as public enemies. To sell or enslave any captured person on account of his color, and for no offense against the laws of war, is a relapse into barbarism, and a crime against the civilization of the age."

"The Government of the United States will give the same protection to all its soldiers, and if the enemy shall sell or enslave any one because of his color, the offense shall be punished by retaliation upon the enemy's prisoners in our possession. It is therefore ordered, that for every soldier of the United States killed in violation of the law, a Rebel soldier shall be executed, and for every one enslaved by the enemy or sold into slavery, a Rebel soldier shall be placed at hard labor on the public works, and continued at such labor until the other shall be released and receive the treatment due to a prisoner of war."

Jefferson Davis authorized the killing of captured officers who commanded black troops and send blacks to the states for state law punishment. Some were killed others were sold as slaves. At Fort Pillow and other places, blacks trying to surrender were killed on the spot.
 

jackt62

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#10
Considering that those confederate prisoners were probably ending up in a prison camp like Point Lookout or Johnson's Island, I would say that the least of their problems was who was guarding them.
 

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