The American Civil War: Law


Figure 1.-- Soon after artist George Bingham retuned to America from Germany, he joined the Federl Army. He was a Union man. Bingham was, however, no longer a young man, however, and did not have front-line duty. Bingham was appointed State Treasurer of Missouri. Missouri ws a border state. Slavery was legal, but the state did not seceed. Bingham wa apauled by a Federal commanddrs Order No. 11 issued aftr Confederate irregular calvalry coomabder raide Lawrence Kansas. Order 1 was one of many legal issues that rose during the Civil War. This Bingham's depiction of Feferl soldier ebforcing the order.

At the same time the Europeans megan to codify the laws of war which emerged as the Geneva Conventions, something similar occurred in America during the Civil War. President Lincoln's military advisers pulled together a group to draft a code of military law to govern Federal soldiers in the procecution of the War (late-1862). There was a range of legal issues that were never addressed in the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, and Mexican War. Fighting in 1861 had been limited, but major battles with huge losses had been fought in 1862 and it was clear that there were many more terrible battles to come. The basic issue addresses and one that Lincoln agonized over was the often elusive bondary beteen the legitimate application of military power and what in the 20oth cntury became known as crimes against humanity. Many of the issues involved have been dealt with by Federal commanders in an ad hoc manner, often with major differences on the part of different commanders. President Lincoln issued the resulting code (spring 1863). The new military code covered a range of issues, including torture, prisoners of war, assasination, and many other issues. Along with the Geneva Convention, Lincoln'Code became the foundation of the modern laws of war. [Witt] Many of the rules that emerged in Lincoln's Code were not applied in what kight be called insirgencies, both the Indian Wars and the Philippines Insurection.

American Militry Law

At the same time the Europeans megan to codify the laws of war which emerged as the Geneva Conventions, something similar occurred in America during the Civil War. President Lincoln's military advisers pulled together a group to draft a code of military law to govern Federal soldiers in the procecution of the War (late-1862). There was a range of legal issues that were never addressed in the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, and Mexican War.

The Civil War

Fighting in 1861 had been limited, but major battles with huge losses had been fought in 1862 and it was clear that there were many more terrible battles to come. Given the intensity and cope of the War, a range of legal issues were developing and Federal commanders were not equipped to deal with many of them.

Lincoln's Code (Spring 1863)

The basic issue addresses and one that Lincoln agonized over was the often elusive bondary beteen the legitimate application of military power and what in the 20oth cntury became known as crimes against humanity. Many of the issues involved have been dealt with by Federal commanders in an ad hoc manner, often with major differences on the part of different commanders. President Lincoln issued the resulting code (spring 1863). The new military code covered a range of issues, including torture, prisoners of war, assasination, and many other issues. Along with the Geneva Convention, Lincoln'Code became the foundation of the modern laws of war. [Witt] Many of the rules that emerged in Lincoln's Code were not applied in what kight be called insirgencies, both the Indian Wars and the Philippines Insurection.

Order 11 (August 1863)

One of the many legal issues arising during the War occurred in Kansas. Confederate irregulary calavalry commander William Quantrill conducted an attack on the town of Lawrence in Kanss (August 11, 1863). (Bleeding Kansas hd been one of the events that led to the War.) It was one of the notable attrocities of the Civil War. The Quantrill Raiders killed 150 civilian inhabitants and destroyed more than 180 buildings. The Larence Raid is well known. What followed afrwars is less well known. The Federal commander in the district , General Thomas Ewing, was incensed when helearned what had happened. He issued Order No 11 (August 25, 1863), This was esentially an eviction notice to all people in the area (Jackson, Cass, Bates and Vernon counties) who were unable to prove their loyalty to the United States. It was intended to deny Quantrill and other irregilars supplies from Confederate supporters. Ewing's decree esentially depopulated the entire region. The population of Cass County, for example, was reduced from 10,000 to 600 people. Larence was close to Kansas City in Missouri and Bingham was appalled when he learned of Order 11. He wrote to General Ewing saying: “If you execute this order, I shall make you infamous with pen and brush". After the War, Bingham did just that, painting a picture in 1868 depicting Ewing's action (figure 1). It was his last historical painting. Notorious train robber, Frank James, who had taken part in Quahntril raid commented when he saw the paintinf, This is a picture that talks." Ewing's action was intended to deprive pro-Confederate guerrillas of material support from rural supporters. Many historians believe that the severity of the Order's provisions and the sometimes savage enforcement alienated large numbers of civilians. This may have actually generated support for Rebel bushwhackers. The order was repelled when a new Federal commander wasappointed (January 1864).

Sources

Witt, John Fabia. Lincoln's Code: The Laws of War in American History (2012), 512p






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Created: 8:06 AM 9/20/2012
Last updated: 8:06 AM 9/20/2012