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Southern Heritage <br>News and Views: Union Army Code of Conduct

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Union Army Code of Conduct

The Civil War, 1861-65

Compiled by Lewis Regenstein



1) Be Humane to civilians. After shelling cities, but before burning them, try to give the surviving women & children time to escape if this does not interfere with your schedule of advance. Allow them to take their most treasured possessions; this will facilitate subsequent requisitioning of valuables.

2) Do not be overly hasty in burning the homes of enemy civilians. Try to take time to first remove the silver, gold, jewelry and other transportable booty of war.

2-b) Civilians should not be wantonly subjected to torture and mock executions unless the purpose is to ascertain the location of hidden valuables.

3) Any officer who permits or commits atrocities against civilians can expect to have his promotion to general – by President Lincoln -- held up until after his court martial is completed (the “ Col. Turchin” rule).

4) Show compassion when occupying enemy cities. Respect the rights of civilians, especially the privacy of women. When forcing a female to have sexual relations with you, separate her from her children first; never molest a woman and her daughter in the same room.

5) If you have to shoot a father or husband trying to protect a woman with whom you are forcibly having sexual relations, try to refrain from openly laughing about it in her presence, as this might cause additional and unnecessary stress. But afterwards, as a morale booster, you may want to prop up the dead body in a comical position for the amusement and entertainment of your comrades,[as Potter's Raiders so effectively did in Sumter, S.C.].

6) Be kind to animals. Shooting enemy livestock, horses, & pets between the eyes provides the quickest & most humane death, unless you are short on ammunition. If you nail a pet dog to a family's front door, first make sure the beast is dead, or at least dying. This display of a beloved pet could be considered gruesome by sensitive individuals, and may result in temporarily upsetting enemy civilians. But remember the importance of boosting the morale of your troops through whatever spontaneous recreational opportunities may arise.

6-b) Take good care of your own draft animals in enemy territory. Churches can effectively be used as stables, and overturned pews make excellent feed troughs, and can later be used for firewood. Churches can also be used as slaughterhouses, and this will help impress the enemy as to the seriousness of our purpose.

7) Restrictions on the shooting of civilians and on firing indiscriminately into crowds of rowdy people do not apply to draft riots and other civil disturbances in New York and other cities in the United States of America, especially if they involve newly-arrived immigrants.

8) Reassure your religiously and morally observant soldiers not to be dismayed by the utter destruction we are inflicting on the South and its civilian population. After the War, we will institute a major “Reconstruction” program.


9) If you have men under your command who are especially skilled at and delight in openly and wantonly killing women & children, immediately have them transferred to the West, where they are needed in our war against the Indians.

9-b) The war-like tribes of brutes and savages in the western U.S. are never to be referred to as “Native Americans” but rather as “Indians” or “Redskins.”

10) There are extra opportunities available for troops who have excelled at warfare against civilians and who are desirous of engaging in post-War genocide in the cause of Freedom and Union. They may be eligible to apply to generals Grant, Sherman, Sheridan, or Custer for extensions of tours of duty and eventual transfer to the Western Theater’s Indian Wars, which these officers will be leading. Experience in killing helpless women and children, without hesitation, preferred.

11) By using Colored Troops (“Buffalo Soldiers”) whenever possible to wipe out the Indians, you can accomplish this objective while avoiding the appearance of “racism” and “imperialism.”


12) Anyone observing a Union soldier engaging secretly in the looting of valuables shall report to his superior officer the name and unit of the perpetrator and the types and number of valuables being taken. This will allow for a proper appraisal, distribution and sharing of the goods.

13) Be ethical when appropriating silver & other valuables from homes. Try to minimize the anguish of the family involved. For example, if silver service is being requisitioned, promise to return it after it is used for that evening’s meal. Remember to treat these valuables with care and respect, and that they must be shared with your commander and other officers.

14) Do not requisition or remove hard-to-transport valuables such as paintings, books, historical documents, family Bibles, furniture, or large antiques. These categories are generally not to be looted, but should be burned instead. In the case of bales of cotton, check with your quartermaster.


15) Treat your Confederate POW’s with respect. After they surrender, shooting just a few prisoners should suffice to intimidate the rest. It may not be necessary, in most circumstances, to shoot them all, even though they are guilty of the capital offense of treason. Such restraint will also aid in the conservation of ammunition.

16) POW’s can be useful in maintaining the morale of your troops under difficult circumstances. Be creative in utilizing such entertainment for your men. Consider the fact that a large number of your Rebel POW’s will be hungry, shoeless, and in tattered uniforms, and many will be young boys and old men. Calling attention to the plight of the Rebels in a scornful and derisive manner can elevate the self-esteem of your men. This may also provide important recreational opportunities for your troops, such as engaging in humiliation and derision of your prisoners and their quaint devotion to “honor” and ‘country.”

17) Every prison administrator and guard should familiarize himself with and closely adhere to the rules governing the care and treatment of POW’s, which should meet or exceed “Point Lookout” standards. For example, it is strictly required that one blanket be issued for every sixteen prisoners. No more than forty prisoners may be placed in Sibley tents designed to hold 16 men.

18) It is our duty to ensure that prisoner deaths from starvation, malnutrition, disease, and shootings not exceed 25%, and incidences of diarrhea and malaria be held to under 50%. If the prison is located on a swamp or shoreline, be alert for possibilities to supplement prisoners’ diet with dead seagulls and rotting fish on the beach. And while infestations of lice and rodents may be considered by some to be a nuisance, it can also be an important source of protein when other nourishment is scarce or unavailable.

19) Proceeds from the sale of food and clothing diverted from POW’s must be properly accounted for and shared with superior officers.

20) Keep in mind that the high incidence of malnutrition and disease among POW’s, while regrettable in some respects, serves to weaken the prisoners, lessen the chances of escape, and ultimately mean fewer mouths to feed.

21) The aforementioned rules on POW’s do not apply to The Indian Wars, as we do not take Indians prisoner. Policy in this regard is governed by General Philip Sheridan’s dictum, “A good Indian is a dead Indian.”


22) When burning cities, libraries, courthouses, hospitals, churches, and other such institutions and structures in the South, always blame retreating Confederates .

23) Do not worry that burning crops & farms will deny food to Union POW's held by the South, whom Union policy prevents from being exchanged for Rebel POW’s. We must think long-term, and be aware that starving Union prisoners will provide us with good propaganda, and after the War, an excuse for war crimes trials.

24) Do not be too eager to attack the enemy; remember that our manpower reserves are virtually unlimited. Wait for your reinforcements & until you outnumber the enemy 5 to 1, or even better, 10 to 1. Consider having your units of Colored Troops lead the charge and take most of the casualties.

25) When shooting retreating U.S. Colored Troops, try to place the blame on the Confederates for such “massacres.”


26) If you or some of your men, or your families, own slaves, do not be concerned about The Emancipation Proclamation, it does not apply to you, only to the States in Rebellion.

26-b) Likewise, President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address (“Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation…dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal…”) applies only to White Males, not women, Blacks, or, most emphatically, Indians.

27) If your unit is being followed and bothered by liberated slaves, the best way to get rid of this nuisance is to cross a river and burn the bridge. Do not delay your advance by trying to save freed slaves who appear to be drowning while trying to cross the river. They may just be exuberantly enjoying a dip in the water. In any event, our mission is to free the Southern slaves, not feed and take care of them.

28) Do not worry about the temporary state of lawlessness and chaos among freed slaves. President Lincoln has promised to send most of them back to Africa (“Colonization”: “Send them to Liberia, their own native land”), and has assured that those who remain will never be treated as the equal of Whites.

29) The lynching of uncooperative freed slaves is discouraged when done openly, except when helpful to morale or to set an example for others, or when a slave refuses to leave his home and remains loyal to his or her former owners.

30) In order to expedite our War being fought for Human Rights and against the oppression of the Negro, all military units are to be kept strictly segregated, and salaries for U.S. Colored Troops are to be calculated at approximately 50% those of whites.


31) Orders to “Live off the land” when conducting operations in enemy territory shall be liberally interpreted, as virtually unlimited permission to loot, pillage, burn, rape, kill, and destroy.

32) Always remember, we are fighting for freedom and liberty. That is why it is necessary to close any Northern newspaper and jail anyone that opposes our cause; to abolish numerous civil liberties guaranteed by the Constitution, such as the right of Habeus corpus; to shoot antiwar demonstrators in New York; to burn the cities of enemy civilians; to expel “Jews as a class” from conquered territories (General Grant’s general order # 11); and to extirpate the Native Americans from their homelands.

33) Troop morale can often be improved by permitting limited and appropriate interaction with Rebel POW’s. This can also benefit the prisoners by providing opportunities for exercise and play. Some recommended activities (which have been successfully employed at Point Lookout) include: having prisoners kneel and pray for President Lincoln, and carry prison guards around on their backs. However, care must be observed in such interactions as many if not most prisoners suffer from diarrhea, typhoid fever, malaria, and other diseases.

34) In some cases, it has been found that shooting prisoners randomly at night while they sleep has effectively raised morale and self-esteem among guards while increasing discipline among the POW’s.

35) Humor, properly utilized, is an excellent way to boost and maintain morale under stressful circumstances. Try to start off the day by giving your troops a good laugh, such as announcing, at breakfast, “Today, men, we’re going to go out and fight fair, and obey the internationally-accepted rules of warfare.”
35-b) When in enemy territory, it has been found that digging up coffins, splitting them open with an axe, and standing them on end can provide an attentive “audience” for impromptu concerts or other such entertainment events.

36) Since our troops have been indoctrinated with the view that the enemy consists of evil racists and traitors fighting for slavery , be prepared for your men to become confused when they encounter among enemy soldiers large numbers of Native Americans, Jews, Hispanics, Asians, and poor Irish, German, and Italian immigrants, even black Confederates, and almost no owners of slaves -- all of whom think they are fighting for their families and homeland against an invasion from the North.

37) Respond to inquiries from your troops who wonder what they are doing in the South by repeatedly emphasizing that “the War is being fought to end slavery and free the slaves.” If asked about the slaves owned by General Grant's family and other Northerners, deny they exist.

38) If any of your men ask about Rebel claims that the U.S. Constitution permits states to secede from the Union, see # 37 above. Above all, do not permit any copies of the Constitution to be laying around that might be seen or read by your troops.

39) It is strictly forbidden to call The Commander in Chief, even jokingly, a “tyrant,” a “dictator,’ a “warmonger,” “mentally ill,” or more commonly, “an ape.” President Lincoln is rather to be referred to as “The Great Emancipator,” “The Great Conciliator,” “Honest Abe,” or in other such laudatory terms. He is unaware of and not responsible for any atrocities that have occurred (such as the burning of cities), even if he ordered them.

40) President Lincoln is to be portrayed in all writings as “wise”, “kind,” “compassionate,” “a healer,” and pictured whenever possible with his arm around his young son, Tad. Southern leaders, including Robert E. Lee, are to be described as cruel and evil, and fighting to defend not their homeland but slavery, even if they oppose the institution.


To summarize, the honor of the Union soldier and the vindication of our cause, as reflected in this Code of Conduct, are of paramount concern in our waging of this War. It is therefore of the utmost importance that the story of this conflict be properly and accurately recorded.

That is why any erroneous accounts -- those that contradict our version of events -- should be eliminated or discredited, through the burning or other destruction of cities, libraries, homes, courthouses, and any other Confederate repositories of historical documents and records.

History, as we write it, will be our judge.

The Truth – as we tell it – shall prevail.

(These rules of conduct, unwritten until now, were compiled, satirically, based on actual, documented policies, behavior, incidents, and activities undertaken by the United States Army and government during, and for a few years after, The War Between the States. Some were based on the recorded experiences of members of my extended family ( the Moses’ of Georgia and South Carolina, about two to three dozen of whom fought for the Confederacy), who were subjected to death in battle, execution, imprisonment, and occupation of their home by the Yankees.
This document can be reprinted and posted with permission and only in its entirety, as long as the copyright and credit at end are included

Copyright 2003 Lewis Regenstein


Blogger Val Proto said...

It would take a long time to do, I'm sure, but this "list" would have been far more effective if sources and verifiable examples had been placed within it. In one instance, this was done [the "Potter raid in S.C."] but this is not really enough. Maybe a person seeking to use this list effectively against Union supporters might be able to dig up something on Potter, maybe not. Hard and fast source material such as "Potter's raid found in this record or that book by this author" would be more useful. As noted, it would be a very large undertaking but it would certainly curtain charges that the list is fiction or at least only represents a very few unfortunate instances which are then excused with the statement: war is hell.

3:22 PM  

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