Union Army Code of Conduct, The Civil War, 1861–65

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  1. Be Humane
    to civilians. After shelling cities, but before burning them,
    try to give the surviving women & children time to escape
    if this does not interfere with your schedule of advance.
    Allow them to take their most treasured possessions; this
    will facilitate subsequent requisitioning of valuables.

  2. Do not
    be overly hasty in burning the homes of enemy civilians. Try
    to take time to first remove the silver, gold, jewelry and
    other transportable booty of war.

  3. Any
    officer who permits or commits atrocities against civilians
    can expect to have his promotion to general held up until
    after his court martial is completed.

  4. Show
    compassion when occupying enemy cities. When raping women,
    separate them from their children first; never rape a woman
    and her daughter in the same room.

  5. If you
    have to shoot a father or husband trying to protect a woman
    with whom you are forcibly having sexual relations, try to
    refrain from openly laughing about it in her presence, as
    this might cause additional and unnecessary stress. However,
    afterwards, as a morale booster, you may want to prop up the
    dead body in a comical position for the amusement of your

  6. Be kind
    to animals. Shooting enemy livestock, horses, & pets between
    the eyes provides the quickest & most humane death, unless
    you are short on ammunition. If you nail a pet dog to a family’s
    front door, first make sure the beast is dead, or at least
    dying. This display of a beloved pet could be considered gruesome
    by sensitive individuals, and may result in temporarily upsetting
    enemy civilians. But remember the importance of boosting the
    morale of your troops through whatever spontaneous recreational
    opportunities may arise.

  7. Restrictions
    on the shooting of civilians and on firing indiscriminately
    into crowds of rowdy people do not apply to draft riots and
    other civil disturbances in cities in the United States of
    America, especially if they involve newly-arrived immigrants.

  8. Reassure
    your religiously and morally observant soldiers not to be
    dismayed by the utter destruction we are inflicting on the
    South and its civilian population. After the War, we will
    institute a major "Reconstruction" program.


  1. If you
    have men under your command who are especially skilled at
    and delight in openly and wantonly killing women & children,
    immediately have them transferred to the West, where they
    are needed in our war against the Indians.

  2. There
    are extra opportunities available for troops who have excelled
    at warfare against civilians and who are desirous of engaging
    in post-War genocide in the cause of Freedom and Union. They
    may be eligible to apply to generals Grant, Sherman, Sheridan,
    or Custer for extensions of their tours of duty and eventual
    transfer to the Western Theater's Indian Wars, which these
    officers will be leading. Experience in killing helpless women
    and children preferred.

  3. By using
    Colored Troops ("Buffalo Soldiers"), whenever possible,
    to wipe out the Indians, you can accomplish your objectives
    while avoiding the appearance of "racism" and "imperialism."


  1. Anyone
    observing a Union soldier engaging secretly in the looting
    of valuables shall report to his superior officer the name
    and unit of the perpetrator and the types and number of valuables
    being taken. This will allow a proper distribution and sharing
    of the goods that are appropriated.

  2. Be ethical
    when appropriating silver & other valuables from homes.
    Try to minimize the anguish of the family involved. For example,
    if silver service is being requisitioned, promise to return
    it after it is used for that evening's meal. Remember to treat
    these valuables with care and respect, and that they must
    be shared with your commander and other officers.

  3. Do not
    requisition or remove hard-to-transport valuables such as
    paintings, books, historical documents, family Bibles, furniture,
    or large antiques. These categories are generally not to be
    looted, but should be burned instead. In the case of bales
    of cotton, check with your quartermaster.


  1. Treat
    your Confederate POW's with respect. After they surrender,
    shooting just a few prisners should suffice to intimidate
    the rest. It may not be necessary, in most circumstances,
    to shoot them all, even though they are guilty of the capital
    offense of treason. Such restraint will also aid in the conservation
    of ammunition.

  2. POW's
    can be useful in maintaining the morale of your troops under
    difficult circumstances. Be creative in utilizing such entertainment
    for your men. Consider the fact that a large number of your
    Rebel POW's will be hungry, shoeless, and in tattered uniforms,
    and many will be young boys and old men. Calling attention
    to the plight of the Rebels in a scornful and derisive manner
    can elevate the self-esteem of your men. This may also provide
    important recreational opportunities for your troops, such
    as engaging in humiliation and derision of your prisoners
    and their quaint devotion to "honor" and u2018country."

  3. Every
    prison administrator and guard should familiarize himself
    with and closely adhere to the rules governing the care and
    treatment of POW's, which should meet or exceed "Point
    Lookout" standards. For example, it is strictly required
    that one blanket be issued for every sixteen prisoners. No
    more than forty prisoners may be placed in Sibley tents designed
    to hold 16 men.

  4. It is
    our duty to ensure that prisoner deaths from starvation, malnutrition,
    disease, and shootings not exceed 25%, and incidences of diarrhea
    and malaria be held to under 50%. If the prison is located
    on a swamp or shoreline, be alert for possibilities to supplement
    prisoners' diet with dead seagulls and rotting fish on the
    beach. And while infestations of lice and rodents may be considered
    by some to be a nuisance, it can also be an important source
    of protein when other nourishment is scarce or unavailable.

  5. Proceeds
    from the sale of food and clothing diverted from POW's must
    be properly accounted for and shared with superior officers.

  6. Keep
    in mind that the high incidence of malnutrition and disease
    among POW's, while regrettable in some respects, serves to
    weaken the prisoners, lessen the chances of escape, and ultimately
    mean fewer mouths to feed.

  7. The
    aforementioned rules on POW's do not apply to The Indian Wars,
    as we do not take Indians prisoner. Policy in this regard
    is governed by General Philip Sheridan's dictum, "A good
    Indian is a dead Indian."


  1. When
    burning cities, libraries, courthouses, hospitals, churches,
    and other such institutions and structures in the South, always
    blame retreating Confederates.

  2. Do not
    worry that burning crops & farms will deny food to Union
    POW’s held by the South; starving Union prisoners will provide
    us with good propaganda, and after the War, an excuse for
    war crimes trials. .

  3. Do not
    be too eager to attack the enemy; remember that our manpower
    reserves are virtually unlimited. Wait for your reinforcements
    & until you outnumber the enemy 5 to 1, or even better,
    10 to 1. Consider having your units of Colored Troops lead
    the charge and take most of the casualties.

  4. When
    shooting retreating US Colored Troops, try to place the blame
    on the Confederates for such "massacres."


  1. If you
    or some of your men, or your families, own slaves, do not
    be concerned about The Emancipation Proclamation, it does
    not apply to you, only to the States in Rebellion.

  2. If your
    unit is being followed and bothered by liberated slaves, the
    best way to get rid of this nuisance is to cross a river and
    burn the bridge. Do not delay your advance by trying to save
    freed slaves who appear to be drowning while trying to cross
    the river. They may just be exuberantly enjoying a dip in
    the water. In any event, our mission is to free the Southern
    slaves, not feed and take care of them.

  3. Do not
    worry about the temporary state of lawlessness and chaos among
    freed slaves. President Lincoln has promised to send most
    of them back to Africa ("Colonization": "Send
    them to Liberia, their own native land"), and has assured
    that those who remain will never be treated as the equal of

  4. The
    lynching of uncooperative freed slaves is discouraged when
    done openly, except when helpful to morale or to set an example
    for others, or when a slave refuses to leave his home and
    remains loyal to his or her former owners.

  5. In order
    to expedite our War being fought for Human Rights and against
    the oppression of the Negro, all military units are to be
    kept strictly segregated, and salaries for U.S. Colored Troops
    are to be calculated at approximately 50% those of whites.


  1. Orders
    to "Live off the land" when conducting operations
    in enemy territory shall be liberally interpreted, as a virtually
    unlimited right to loot, pillage, burn, rape, and destroy.

  2. Always
    remember, we are fighting for freedom and liberty. That is
    why it is necessary to close any Northern newspaper and jail
    anyone that opposes our cause; to shoot antiwar demonstrators
    in New York; to starve and burn the cities of enemy civilians;
    to expel "Jews as a class" from conquered territories;
    and to extirpate the Native Americans from their homelands.

  3. Troop
    morale can often be improved by permitting limited and appropriate
    interaction with Rebel POW's. This can also benefit the prisoners
    by providing opportunities for exercise and play. Some recommended
    activities (which have been successfully employed at Point
    Lookout) include: having prisoners kneel and pray for President
    Lincoln, and carry prison guards around on their backs. However,
    care must be observed in such interactions as many if not
    most prisoners suffer from diarrhea, typhoid fever, malaria,
    and other diseases.

  4. In some
    cases, it has been found that shooting prisoners randomly
    at night while they sleep has effectively raised morale among
    guards while providing increased discipline among the POW's.

  5. Since
    our troops have been indoctrinated with the view that the
    enemy consists of evil racists and traitors fighting for slavery
    , be prepared for your men to become confused when they encounter
    among enemy soldiers large numbers of Native Americans, Jews,
    Hispanics, Asians, poor Irish and Italian immigrants, even
    black Confederates, and almost no owners of slaves –
    all of whom think they are fighting against an invasion from
    the North.

  6. Respond
    to inquiries from your troops who wonder what they are doing
    in the South by repeatedly emphasizing that "the War
    is being fought to end slavery and free the slaves."
    If asked about the slaves owned by General Grant and other
    Northerners, deny they exist.

  7. It is
    strictly forbidden to call The Commander in Chief, even jokingly,
    a "tyrant," a "dictator,' a "warmonger,"
    "mentally ill," or more commonly, "an ape."
    President Lincoln is rather to be referred to as "The
    Great Emancipator," "The Great Conciliator,"
    or in other such laudatory terms. He is unaware of and not
    responsible for any atrocities that have occurred (such as
    the burning of cities), even if he ordered them.

  8. President
    Lincoln is to be portrayed in all writings as "wise",
    "kind," "compassionate," "a healer,"
    and pictured whenever possible with his arm around his young
    son, Tad. Southern leaders, including Robert E. Lee, are to
    be described as cruel and evil, and fighting to defend not
    their homeland but slavery, even if they oppose the institution.


To summarize,
the honor of the Union soldier and the vindication of our cause,
as reflected in this Code of Conduct, are of paramount concern
in our waging of this War. It is therefore of the utmost importance
that the story of this conflict be properly and accurately recorded.

That is why
any erroneous accounts – those that contradict our version of
events – should be eliminated or discredited, through the burning
or other destruction of cities, libraries, homes, courthouses,
and any other Confederate repositories of historical documents
and records.

as we write it, will be our judge.

The Truth
— as we tell it — shall prevail.

12, 2003

Regenstein [send him
, a Native Atlantan, is a writer and author.


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