Were Confederate soldiers tried for treason? (It’s complicated…)

krkey1

Private
Joined
Oct 5, 2021
So, then: how would you define treason?
I would define treason this way-the crime of betraying one's country, especially by attempting to kill the sovereign or overthrow the government.

Let's look at this.

If you openly renounce your allegiance to someone or an institution you cannot betray it. You have in no uncertain terms declared your new stance.

The Confederates wrote Declaration of Independences clearly stating they were leaving. Army Officers in the US Army resigned their commissions then went back to their respective states.

Well the Confederacy did not seek to kill Lincoln as a policy. The fact he was assassinated after the war does not disprove that.

The Confederates did not try to overthrow the US Government. They simply said they were no longer it's jurisdiction. Do you think the UK betrayed the EU with Brexit??

How do I define a traitor to the US.

From the Constitution-

Article III, Section 3, Clause 1: Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

Well it seems reasonable in my book that in order to classify someone as a traitor to the US then they have to be convicted of it. Not a single Confederate was.

None of this includes of course the many other points that I made about mid 19th century political theory in the US and how many people sincerely supported secession as Constitutional. Truth be told people would support it today if something truly extreme happened. For example let's say for whatever reason the Federal Government decided to commit genocide against all Californians. I for one would maintain California has every right to secede if that happened. Do you disagree?

I think the Confederates declared Secession for petty and stupid reasons; mainly to defend slavery ( you know like they said they did). But that doesn't make them traitors or even insurgents; it just makes them crummy people.

Now if you want to tell me the Confederates were crybabies over the 1860 election who declared Independence to protect slavery when they knew their was a deep growing consensus against this in Western Civilization then I would completely agree with you.

I simply do not agree with the treason argument as I find it to be unconvincing for reasons I already stated.

Isn't enough that I think the Confederates were oppressive crybabies who engaged in slavery without requiring me to add traitor also to the litany of curses I would use to describe them?
 

RedRover

Corporal
Joined
Dec 16, 2019
Treason conviction carried the death penalty from 1790. In 1862 the US Govt. enacted a treason act allowing for confiscations of property, etc., and up to 10 years imprisonment. This act was predicated on the War Powers of the Constitution, not on the treason clause evidently. The oaths of allegiance during the war and later Presidential pardons relieved people in the Confederate States of the confiscatory elements of this act...

One of the interesting things about those times was, if you were a Southerner in 1861, if you did NOTHING but mind your own business, you were alternatively declared a citizen of the Confederate States by your seceding State, and in a state of insurrection against the US Government by President Lincoln's August, 1861 proclamation. You were subsequently subject to the Confederate conscription which declared all free white men in service, and maybe declared a "deserter" for not enrolling/reporting. And at war's end if enrolled in the CSA or even the required State militia service you were subject to receiving a US parole, and afterward to being pardoned by another presidential proclamation...

If they were in Union occupied areas during the war, still doing NOTHING (as in not subscribing to the oath of allegiance to the US), the same fellows were potentially subject to being expelled from their property, etc.
 

krkey1

Private
Joined
Oct 5, 2021
Treason conviction carried the death penalty from 1790. In 1862 the US Govt. enacted a treason act allowing for confiscations of property, etc., and up to 10 years imprisonment. This act was predicated on the War Powers of the Constitution, not on the treason clause evidently. The oaths of allegiance during the war and later Presidential pardons relieved people in the Confederate States of the confiscatory elements of this act...

One of the interesting things about those times was, if you were a Southerner in 1861, if you did NOTHING but mind your own business, you were alternatively declared a citizen of the Confederate States by your seceding State, and in a state of insurrection against the US Government by President Lincoln's August, 1861 proclamation. You were subsequently subject to the Confederate conscription which declared all free white men in service, and maybe declared a "deserter" for not enrolling/reporting. And at war's end if enrolled in the CSA or even the required State militia service you were subject to receiving a US parole, and afterward to being pardoned by another presidential proclamation...

If they were in Union occupied areas during the war, still doing NOTHING (as in not subscribing to the oath of allegiance to the US), the same fellows were potentially subject to being expelled from their property, etc.
In fairness to Lincoln on this one it would be kinda tricky to declare insurrection on a name by name bases of people with the Confederate States. I suspect that survey would have taken longer to make and then read aloud than the war....
 

RedRover

Corporal
Joined
Dec 16, 2019
In fairness to Lincoln on this one it would be kinda tricky to declare insurrection on a name by name bases of people with the Confederate States. I suspect that survey would have taken longer to make and then read aloud than the war....
1633747600501.png


Lincoln had earlier mobilized troops and militia to overcome a "combination" offensive to the operations of the laws of the Union in the Southern States. Per the above, employed authority (via a federal law enacted in July) to proclaim who was loyal to the Union and the Constitution, and who was an insurgent.

All free white men in the Southern States, just as in all the States, were subject to the militia laws therein, with the governors their commanders-in-chief. Failure to muster on order incorporated a fine. Adhering to the enemies of ones' State would bring arrest and conviction for treason. Practically the same in any State...

Massachusetts:
1633749099440.png


Indiana, 1861:
1633749368144.png


Virginia, 1860.

1633750135939.png


Confederate Florida, February, 1861:
1633748932892.png
 

Fairfield

Sergeant Major
Member of the Month
Joined
Dec 5, 2019
If you openly renounce your allegiance to someone or an institution you cannot betray it. You have in no uncertain terms declared your new stance.
There is no provision in the Constitution for unilateral secession. Should I declare my independence from the State of Maine, my "new stance" would have no legal standing.
The Confederates wrote Declaration of Independences clearly stating they were leaving. Army Officers in the US Army resigned their commissions then went back to their respective states.
Do you mean articles of secession? Many stated directly and most others declared implicitly that they were motivated by a desire to preserve slavery.
Well the Confederacy did not seek to kill Lincoln as a policy. The fact he was assassinated after the war does not disprove that.
Doesn't disprove what? That it wasn't part of a policy? I think you're inaccurate: I don't believe there was a policy--CSA had ceased to exist. The assassins were hotheads acting on their own. In fact, they did a tremendous disservice to the South because their deed opened the door to a flawed Reconstruction.
The Confederates did not try to overthrow the US Government.
Fort Sumter (and the similar incidents that preceded it) was not a violent attempt? Sending slaver agents into New England (as well as other northern states) wasn't an attempt to nullify state's rights and a violent provocation (why weren't they willing to leave New England alone?)?
Do you think the UK betrayed the EU with Brexit??
Out of bounds.
Article III, Section 3, Clause 1: Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.
I'm afraid that you seem to believe that, since no Confederate was convicted of treason, none were guilty of it. But I counter than none were ever prosecuted in the first place. They bore arms against their government and tried to kill its leaders and representatives. That is treason.

Why didn't the U.S. prosecute? The reasons are myriad but the outcome was wise. Practical reasons, first. Had Robert E. Lee been hanged, is it likely that his nephew (Fitzhugh Lee) would have done service for his country during the Spanish-American War? Mosby did invaluable service as a government agent after the War (his service would have been lost had he been hanged). In my research for the piece I did on ACW and my town, I found that one of the greatest complaint that Union vets had is that the population turned too soon to other matters--that the North was too weary of war.

And was prosecution necessary? Look at what had happened to those people: the "peculiar institution" (the one they wanted so hard to preserve) was completely overthrown; their lands were in ruin; their sons were dead for naught. Why make martyrs when having to observe daily the misery that they had visited upon the land was enough? .
 

krkey1

Private
Joined
Oct 5, 2021
Unless something really new is stated I am done commenting on this issue as I have stated my views and it is time for me to move on. We have simply reached an impasse. We don't agree on basic premises. I view secession as legitimate under the political theories of the mid 19th century. Others simply don't. There is no way to change each others mind on it.

To me saying someone is a traitor to the US requires a very specific procedures which I laid out already. To other's it doesn't. Again this is an impasse which we cannot overcome.

I thought about saying more but in this would be endless point and counterpoint. I would for example note the attack on Sumter did not seek to overthrow the US Government and clearly it did not. Someone invariably would argue though if the Confederates won the war which started at Sumter that in the long run threatened the notion of the remaining US states remaining unified. Of course then someone else could point out those states could choose to remain in Union. It's simply an endless discussion.

So enjoyed the discussion but for me I want to use my time more fruitfully so my part is done. Thanks though for the discussion.
 

Claude Bauer

First Sergeant
Forum Host
Joined
Jan 8, 2012
A pardon is not a trial

Secondly that was not the pardon that was offered to about 99.9 of all Confederates. This was. https://millercenter.org/the-presid...oclamation-pardoning-persons-who-participated





That pardon did not mention treason. You can read it forever and not find that word.

The later pardon mentioned treason and that was offered to high ranking ones some of which declined it. They were not put on trial after that though. Lastly accepting a pardon did not confer accepting guilt until 1915.

The case for treason is pretty slim in my book.

There is no such thing as mass trial or kinda trial. It's a trial or it isn't.

Not a single Confederate was put on trial for treason period. Obviously no Confederate was convicted of it.

They knew how to do trials after the Civil War. They knew where the Confederates were. They executed one, Henry Wirz for war crimes. So they could have done all that. They didn't. My explanation for that would be they knew it legally wouldn't hold up.
So, there were two pardons--thanks for pointing that out. I didn't know that, and I learned something today! As the subject line for this thread notes, "It's complicated."

I came across an article that shed some more light on this issue: "Historian explores how Civil War Northerners reconciled treason with leniency."
https://news.psu.edu/story/319621/2...-how-civil-war-northerners-reconciled-treason

"Northerners took a pragmatic approach to the war's end. They realized the impracticality of trying thousands of Southerners for disloyalty in states where juries were unlikely to deliver guilty verdicts, and that continued cries of treason would interfere with the more important task of nation-building."

Although Confederates weren't individually charged and convicted of treason in a court of law according to the Treason Clause of the Constitution (https://constitutioncenter.org/interactive-constitution/interpretation/article-iii/clauses/39) that doesn't mean that their acts weren't treasonous, i.e, "levying war against the United States; or "adhering to [the] enemies [of the United States], giving them aid and comfort," only that they weren't formally charged with the crime for the reason cited by Bezilla above.

Regardless, this is an interesting and educational debate--I'm learning a lot from comments made by everyone in this discussion!
 
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