Jon E. Dougherty is a Missouri-based political science major, author, writer and columnist. Follow him on Twitter.
A southern heritage group is planning to petition Congress to conduct “a thorough, non-partisan” review of what it says are “neglected injustices” committed by Union troops and generals in the South during the 1861-65 American Civil War.
The League of the South said in a statement released Thursday that many of the acts committed by Union forces and, by default, President Abraham Lincoln, were little more than “war crimes … in violation of the Constitution, the Law of Nations” and other rules of conduct that were widely accepted and practiced in war in the mid-19th century.
In the statement, league president Dr. Michael Hill said that during the war, “the private property of non-combatants was ravaged, burned, stolen and destroyed as a deliberate policy of an unconstitutional war of invasion, conquest and occupation.”
“The Union war policy was based on something called the ‘Lieber Code,’” Hill told WorldNetDaily, “which was developed about 1863 and issued to the Union armies as ‘Executive Order 100′ by Lincoln. Basically, it laid out the type of warfare that was to be carried out against the South, and it was based to some degree on the Law of Nations,” he said. “Obviously it was violated left and right almost immediately after it was issued.”
Among other provisions, the Law of Nations required nations to recognize each other’s “natural right” to sovereignty, peace and the desire to govern themselves. Under guidelines, nations were not permitted to arbitrarily change the rules “by agreement, nor individually or mutually release themselves from it,” according to “Law of Nations: An Introduction.”
For this reason, many pro-South organizations have often called Lincoln’s actions to prevent the Confederacy from seceding illegal.
“And in fact the degree of violence against the civilian population of the Confederacy by the Union Army leads Adams to conclude that the orders of the Northern generals ‘made their behavior criminal by the laws of nations. … In fact, it will be hard to not call what he [Lincoln] did a crime against the laws of war and nations, making Lincoln, as painful as it may be, a war criminal,’” said a review of the book by Richard M. Ebeling, the Ludwig von Mises Institute Professor of Economics at Hillsdale College and vice president of academic affairs for The Future of Freedom Foundation.
“We anticipate a thorough and impartial congressional investigation will reveal the necessity for a long overdue compensatory program of justice for people of all races in the South,” the statement said, “who were subjected to treatment during and after the War Between the States that resulted in little less than the barbaric dispossession and destruction of the Southern people and their way of life.”
The group’s request for Congress to examine its charges, along with consideration of a suit to force the payment of reparations to people of historic Southern ancestry, comes alongside the issue of paying reparations to blacks for years of slavery, which was declared illegal by Lincoln in 1863.
“The shame of war crimes and acts of vengeance against southern Americans in action [is] perhaps best described by [Union] Gen. William T. Sherman, who said: ‘… about 20 percent of our effort (in Georgia and South Carolina) was against military objectives. The rest [80 percent] was sheer waste and destruction.’”
“Sadly, such unconscionable depredations were all too common across the South during both the war and Reconstruction,” the statement said.
“The League of the South now seeks reparations from the United States … for all Southerners and their families who suffered atrocities during the war and the years of military occupation that followed,” said the statement.
Hill said hundreds of people have already signed the group’s online petition. He also told WND he had yet to receive any negative feedback.