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Old August 9th, 2011, 05:27 PM   #41

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Richard, you make an excellent point. Regardless of where or when, war means killing, plain and simple. That is the essence of it: organized killing. Civilians have ever been caught in the middle, and when they are also workers producing war material, they become legitimate targets as well.

There was a thread not too long ago where someone took the odd position that killing in any context other than direct, immediate combat was a "war crime". Guy throws his hands up and gets shot...war crime. Guy spends 3 hours shooting men from a concealed position then surrenders when his ammo runs out, gets shot...war crime.
Thank God people have such revulsion at killing, and Thank God we don't depend on them when the metal meets the meat.
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Old August 9th, 2011, 05:55 PM   #42

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Yes, I was in no way condoning the Fort Pillow massacre. But in context of the violence of the Civil War, it was just another day.

And we must remember that this was before the Geneva Conventions, or the Hague Conventions. And so, there just wasnt a lot of thought given to what an atrocity was. It was just up to the individuals on the scene (commanders) to decide what was going too far.

I remember reading about the Battles of Lexington and Concord, and the fighting along the British retreat to Boston during the American Revolution. It seems that there were little pockets of dead or wounded British soldiers left strewn about on the road after the main British force had passed.

It was at one of these places on the road, that there lived a young American youth who had some unspecified mental handicap of some sort. Anyway, for some inexplicable reason, the youth picked up an axe from his home, and began to butcher and dismember a British soldier.

And some of the American troops thought that this was going too far, and kind of walked away shaking their heads.

So, the question of "what is going too far" was very much an open question, and very subjective, in the Civil War Years.

Individuals had thier own ideas, but no governments had yet said much about it in anything official, like a policy.
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Old August 10th, 2011, 07:28 AM   #43
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Yeh, interesting to talk about all the bad stuff that went on, and either side can complain about the other. However, kind of naive to talk about war crimes.

After WWII, German officers were prosecuted for having newly captured prisoners shot. However the similar incidents happened with the US killing prisoners. The prosecutions were only possible due to Nazi leaders. They couldn't let those guys go free, but the Allies committed similar "atrocities" and invaded neutral countries.

If you understand anything about history or combat, there are times when enemies may be trying to surrender, but it is difficult to take prisoners. At Fort Pillow, the Union garrison was entirely Tennessee troops, white and black unionists, so they were probably viewed as traitors to the Confederacy and runaway slaves. However, there were black soldiers taken prisoner, which is different from some other late war battles.
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