War of the Rebellion: Serial 008 Page 0822 OPERATIONS IN MO., ARK., KANS., AND IND. T. Chapter XVIII.

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I have no desire, general, to prolong this correspondence, nor do I intend to resume it. I have thus far given to you the fullest confidence, and will do to you, and every other officer in my command, full and entire justice. At the same time I do not intend that you shall misunderstand my own position. I am acting under orders from my superiors, which I intend to obey, but which I am not at liberty to communicate to others. I hope, therefore, you will extend to me that charity and consideration which I extend to those placed over me. I am not always at liberty to adopt the suggestions of others even though I may approve them. Other circumstances, not known to the party making the suggestions, may and often do, prevent their adoption. Nevertheless I shall always be happy to receive them and will give them due consideration.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Major-General, Commanding.

SAINT LOUIS, December 31, 1861.

Brigadier-General POPE, Otterville:

GENERAL: I send herewith the proceedings of a military commission ordered by Colonel Deitzler, First Kansas Regiment, for the trial of certain prisoners at Tipton, Mo., within the limits of your command.

In the first place, a military commission can be ordered only by the General-in-Chief of the Army or by a general commanding a department, consequently all the proceedings of the commission ordered by Colonel Deitzler are null and void. The prisoners are therefore in precisely the same position as if no trial had taken place.

In the second place, military commissions should, as a general rule be resorted to only for cases which cannot be tried by a court-martial or by a proper civil tribunal. They are, in other words, tribunals of necessity, organized for the investigation and punishment of offenses which would otherwise go unpunished. Their proceedings should be regulated by the rules governing courts-martial, so far as they may be applicable, and the evidence should in all cases be fully recorded.

Prisoners of war, properly so called-that is, men duly enrolled and commissioned in the service of an acknowledge enemy -are, so far as the military authorities are concerned, to be treated in the manner prescribed by the usages and customs of war. They are entitled to the rights of war; but this facts does not exempt them from punishment by the civil tribunals for treason to the Government. But treason in an offense technically defined by the Constitution, and is not triable by a military commission; nor will such tribunal try or punish a soldier duly enrolled and mustered into the enemy's service by proper authority for taking life in battle or according to the rules of modern warfare. But it is a well-established principle that insurgents and marauding, predatory, and guerilla bands are not entitled to this exemption. Such men are, by the laws of war, regarded as no more nor less than murderers, robbers, and thieves. The military garb and name cannot change the character of their offenses nor exempt them from punishment. Moreover, if a prisoner of war has committed acts in violation of the laws of war, such as murder, robbery, arson, &c., the fact of his being a prisoner of war does not exempt him from trial and punishment by a military commission. In such cases the charge should be "violation of the laws of war," and not violation of the "Rules and