The Arkansas in the Civil War Message Board

Martial Law-Spies-Guerrillas

Batesville, Ark., January 11, 1864.

General Orders, No. 6.

For the information of the inhabitants of this district and for the guidance of the troops of this command, the following regulations, based upon the laws of war, are republished, and will govern in all cases where they are applicable:

I. MARTIAL LAW.—A place, district, or country occupied by an enemy stands, in consequence of the occupation, under martial law of the invading or occupying army, whether any proclamation declaring martial law or any public warning to the inhabitants has been issued or not. Martial law is the immediate and direct effect and consequence of occupation or conquest. The presence of a hostile army proclaims its martial law. Martial law is simply military authority exercised in accordance with the laws and usages of war. Military oppression is not martial law; it is the abuse of the power which that law confers. As martial law is executed by military force, it is incumbent upon those who administer it to be guided by the principles of justice, humanity, and honor—virtues adorning a soldier even more than other men, for the very reason that he possesses the power of his arms against the unarmed.

II. SPIES.—1. Any person in the service of the enemy coming within the lines of military occupation in disguise, or under false pretenses, for the purpose of obtaining information, and not with a view of surrendering himself to the military authorities, will be considered and treated as a spy.

2. If a citizen obtains information in a legitimate manner and betrays it to the enemy, be he a military or civil officer or a private citizen, he shall suffer death.

3. Under the law of war, any person in a district under martial law who, unauthorized by the military commander, gives information to the enemy of any kind whatever or holds intercourse with him, will be treated as a war traitor or spy.

4. All unauthorized or secret communication with the enemy is considered treasonable by the law of war, and parties guilty of this offense will be dealt with in accordance with the sentence of a military commission.

5. The law of war, like the criminal law regarding other offenses, makes no difference on account of the differences of sexes or the age of guilty parties, concerning the spy, the war traitor, or the war rebel.

6. Spies, war traitors, and war rebels are not exchanged, according to the common law of war.

7. A successful spy or war traitor, safely returned to his own army, and afterward captured as an enemy, is not subject to punishment for his acts as a spy or war traitor, but may be held in more rigorous confinement.

8. Persons sending, carrying, assisting in carrying, or receiving correspondence other than that authorized by the military commander, and all persons connected with clandestine acts of a disloyal tendency, being peculiarly dangerous by making hostile use of the military protection which by the modern law of war the victor extends to the property and persons of the conquered, will be punished in accordance with the customs and usages of the service.

9. The inhabitants of a country occupied by the forces of the United States must render obedience to the occupying military authority. If they take up arms in insurrection or render aid and assistance to the enemy, they become military insurgents or war traitors, and thereby forfeit their lives and property. Every one who was not in arms at the time of the occupation, and who has not continued in arms, but who subsequently takes up arms within the territory militarily occupied by the forces aforesaid, is not to be regarded as a prisoner of war, but shall be punished as a war traitor. Thus every one who comes within our lines as a non-combatant and afterward takes up arms is a military insurgent and war traitor. Officers or men sent by the enemy within our lines to recruit, thereby inciting insurrection, become themselves military insurgents, and shall suffer accordingly. Of this latter class are Knights of the Golden Circle, and members of other secret organizations, who secretly work to oppose the laws of the United States and encourage insurrection.

III. BRIGANDS AND GUERRILLAS.—1. The brigand is, in military language, the soldier who detaches himself from his troop or command and commits robbery, murder, and other crimes, and subjects himself to the awful punishment of death, even at the hands of his own Government, but more surely at those of the enemy.

2. The guerrilla is the self-constituted robber, who has no authority for his acts, whose name does not appear on the pay-rolls of either army, who lays down his arms, resuming the duties of the citizen, and again after a lapse of time taking up his arms at intervals for the purpose of carrying on a petty warfare, chiefly by raids, extortion, destruction, and massacre. Whoever shall be convicted of being a brigand or guerrilla shall suffer death.

IV. TRANSGRESSIONS OF THE LAWS OF WAR.—1. Whoever shall relieve the enemy with money, victuals, or ammunition, or shall knowingly harbor or protect an enemy, shall suffer death or such other punishment as shall be ordered by a court-martial (56th Article of War). All persons harboring, aiding, and succoring guerrillas are of this class, and will be punished accordingly.

2. All persons not in the military service who shall be convicted of uttering disloyal sentiments, oral, written, or printed, favoring the rebellion, shall be punished therefor by sentence of a military commission.

3. No law of Congress or restraining order revokes the laws of war which apply to confiscation of property to weaken the foe and strengthen ourselves. Property can and will be confiscated or assessed for transgressions as the occasion may justify.

4. Commanders are charged to see that the strictest punishments are inflicted not less rigorously on the enemy than on those of our own men who transgress the laws of war. All wanton violence committed against the persons or property of the inhabitants of a country militarily occupied, and all robbery, pillage, sacking, rape, wounding, maiming, or killing are prohibited under the penalty of death, or such other punishment as may, in the opinion of a military commission, be deemed adequate for the gravity of the offenses. A soldier, officer or private, in the act of committing such violence and disobeying a superior ordering him to abstain from it, may be lawfully killed on the spot by such superior.

5. General Orders, No. 86, Headquarters Department of the Missouri, series 1862, provides that every citizen shall give active and earnest co-operation with the military authorities in putting down guerrillas, who are the common enemies of mankind. The commanding general of the department demands of every citizen the full discharge of his duty in this particular. Those who neglect it will be held responsible in their persons and property for the damage that may result from this neglect, and will be punished at the discretion of a military commission. If milder means fail, the commanding general will order the destruction or seizure of all houses, barns, provisions, and other property belonging to disloyal persons in those portions of the State which are made the haunts of guerrillas.

6. All enemies wearing the uniform of the U.S. Army are liable to be killed on the spot for the act of perfidy which tends to deceive the U.S. soldier and sacrifice his liberty or life.

By order of R. R. Livingston, colonel First Nebraska Cavalry, commanding district,
Assistant Adjutant-General.