Friday, August 7, 2015

Violating the Lieber Code: The March From the Sea

 Columbia SC Ruins

On April 24, 1863—-just three months after the cruel and retaliatory Emancipation Proclamation–Lincoln issued an order drafted by Columbia University law professor Francis Lieber that codified the generally accepted universal standards of warfare, particularly as it related to the lives and property of civilians. Among the actions it deemed to be criminal and prohibited were the “wanton devastation of a district,” “infliction of suffering” on civilians, “murder of private citizens,” “unnecessary or revengeful destruction of life,” and “all wanton violence…all robbery, all pillage or sacking…all rape, wounding, maiming, or killing.”

It is true that it also provided, in its articles 14 and 15, a slippery provision called “military necessity,” under which “destruction…of armed enemies” and of “other persons whose destruction is incidentally unavoidable” was completely permissible, and allowed “the appropriation of whatever an enemy’s country affords” by the conquering army. But it is clear that the overall intent of the Code was to rein in atrocities by the Union Army, particularly toward civilians.


  1. Sow the wind reap the whirlwind. It's interesting to note that early on in the war Stonewall Jackson stated that some men should be sent north to do the same kind of damage to yankee towns and cities. He believed that the northern troops would eventually get around to it and he wanted to beat them to the punch - bring the war home to them so to speak.
    He was over ruled by those who believed the north would not stoop to such uncivilized behavior. He saw what was coming.
    Red in OleVirginny

    1. Yes, he wanted to raise the Black Flag.

      General Lee:

      8. "The commanding general considers that no greater disgrace could befall the army, and through it our whole people, than the perpetration of the barbarous outrages upon the unarmed and defenceless and the wanton destruction of private property, that have marked the course of the enemy in our own country...

      It must be remembered that we make war only upon armed men, and that we cannot take vengeance for the wrongs our people have suffered without lowering ourselves in the eyes of all whose abhorrence has been excited by the atrocities of our enemies, and offending against Him to whom vengeance belongeth, without whose favour and support our efforts must all prove in vain."

  2. Northern cities should have been torched. Saboteurs should have lit up NYC, Boston, Chicago & every other Northern City at night to increase the likelihood of civilian casualties.