The Fate of Liberty: Abraham Lincoln and Civil Liberties

By Mark E. Neely Jr. | Go to book overview

5

The Dark Side of
the Civil War

Though military arrests of civilians increasingly brought Southern citizens into the infamous bastilles of the North, throughout the war some of the prisoners, of course, came from the North as well. Among the Northerners were businessmen, entrepreneurs, and peddlers who fell victim to the Lincoln administration's policies, not because they dissented from the war effort but because they appeared to be trying to profit from it by shady exploitation. These Northerners sometimes suffered as harsh a treatment as any civilian, and, indeed, one group of Northern civilian prisoners received the harshest treatment meted out officially to any prisoners, civilian or military, Southern or Northern. To look at these arrests is to see a dark side to the Civil War rarely glimpsed in the numerous military histories of the conflict.

The soldiers charged with overseeing prisoners beheld warfare at its least heroic. Associate Judge Advocate Levi C. Turner, for example, seized a rare moment from routine duties on February 6, 1863, to describe some of the underside of the war effort:

Claim Agents, who advise and aid in the manufacture of false & fraudulent amounts against the Govt. and present them for payment -- and obtain payment -- violate no existing Law of Congress, and cannot be punished unless they have violated some state Law to punish forgery & forging.

A military officer makes out a false account for subsistence . . . and certifies to it -- if he has no vouchers and it gets the approval of the Adj General, it is paid. The officer takes his money (from $500 to $10,000) and then resigns. There is no law of Congress or of any State authorizing the arrest & punishment of such plundering. And citizens cannot be punished for presenting fraudulent accounts, unless in so doing they violate some State law against forgery & forging.

A Fraudulent & plundering military or civil officer can be reached and punished, while in the public service, by Laws now existing -- but having filled their pockets, they resign, and are then beyond the reach of military or civil Laws

-93-

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The Fate of Liberty: Abraham Lincoln and Civil Liberties
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Contents ix
  • Introduction xi
  • 1 - Actions Without Precedent 3
  • 2 - Missouri and Martial Law 32
  • 3 - Low Tide for Liberty 51
  • 4 - Arrests Move South 75
  • 5 - The Dark Side of the Civil War 93
  • 6 - Numbers and Definitions 113
  • 7 - The Revival of International Law 139
  • 8 - The Irrelevance of the Milligan Decision 160
  • 9 - The Democratic Opposition 185
  • 10 - Lincoln and the Constitution 210
  • Epilogue 223
  • Notes 237
  • Index of Prisoners of State 269
  • Index 273
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