is no infraction of the law of war to omit thus to inform the enemy. Surprise may be a necessity. "
These selections from the code will sufficiently discriminate the two classes of doctrine and the opposing systems that our enemies have presented in the same instructions. the war that the United States is carrying on against the Confederate States is a war opposed to the fundamental principle of their won Constitution. The overthrow of the principle of self government, as recognized in the Declaration of Independence, and as embodied in the State and Federal Constitution of the States composing the Federal Union, which existed until 1860, is the principle which lies at the foundation of the military operations of the Federal Government. The subjugation of the Confederate States is the illegitimate object they propose to accomplish by the war.
To accomplish it they have established a military despotism upon the ruins of the Constitution of the United States and have adopted a barbarous system of warfare on the pretext of a military necessity. It is in this code of military necessity that the acts of atrocity and violence which have been committed by the officers of the United States and have shocked the moral sense of civilized nations are to find an apology and defense.
The history of this war exhibits frequently the murder in cold blood of unarmed and unresisting citizens; the destruction of small towns and villages as a pastime; the removal to distant places of a large number of citizens who at no time have been engaged with the army; the spoliation of farm-houses of their food, furniture, libraries, pictures, and family apparel by soldiers and in some cases by officers highest in command in the department. Men, women, and children have been expelled from their homes in the inclement weather of winter or in the darkness of night. It is shockingly true that our enemy does not carry on war alone by arms. It is not true that any military necessity excuses systematic and habitual departure from the laws of war first enunciated and justifies the adoption of rules contrary to them to regulate military operations. Military necessity as a legislator has a supreme authority; but the range of its jurisdiction is limited. The necessity must be present, urgent, and overruling, and the acts done under it must afford probable means of escape from an impending danger.
In such a case ordinary rules are suspended and what is fairly and reasonably done is sanctioned. Even justice and right in such cases withdraw their censorship and sway and submit temporarily to this more imperious authority; but no country, no government, is justified in deducing a rule of practice from rare and extreme instances of inexorable or unreasoning necessity. The judgment and conscience are alike perplexed in forming conclusions when measures of violence under such prompting are prescribed for their consideration, and the historian and publicist content themselves with narrating the facts and suggesting the extenuating circumstances in such occurrences without venturing to afford them countenance or approval.
The rulers or commanders who use them as precedents and indicate to their subordinates that there is some law of military necessity which it is competent for them to adopt as an habitual standard of conduct become particeps criminis in the atrocities that may follow and are worthy of the same degree of infamy and punishment. They cannot frame mischief into a code or make an instituted system of rules embodying the spirit of mischief under the name of a military country that adopts as allies murder, rapine, cruelty, incendiarism, and revenge is condemned by the voice of the civilized world.