Lincoln on Trial: Southern Civilians and the Law of War

Overview

In light of recent controversies related to the treatment of enemy prisoners in Afghanistan, the Middle East, and Guantánamo Bay, the regulation of government actions in wartime has become a hot-button global issue. By today's standards, Lincoln's adherence to the laws of war could be considered questionable, and his critics, past and present, have not hesitated to charge him as a war criminal. His apologists, however, defend his actions as reasonable and humane. Is it possible that Lincoln could be condemned as ...

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Lincoln on Trial: Southern Civilians and the Law of War

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Overview

In light of recent controversies related to the treatment of enemy prisoners in Afghanistan, the Middle East, and Guantánamo Bay, the regulation of government actions in wartime has become a hot-button global issue. By today's standards, Lincoln's adherence to the laws of war could be considered questionable, and his critics, past and present, have not hesitated to charge him as a war criminal. His apologists, however, defend his actions as reasonable and humane. Is it possible that Lincoln could be condemned as a war criminal based on the accepted standards and customs of warfare of his time?

Noted scholar Burrus M. Carnahan resolves this question in Lincoln on Trial: Southern Civilians and the Law of War, examining the president's reactions to the treatment and mistreatment of Southern civilians by Union forces. This stylishly written work departs from previous studies by framing the issue from Lincoln's perspective. Carnahan's thorough examination of the president's war policies offers new insights regarding his wartime behavior and his character.

Developing an intimate portrait of the American president, Carnahan allows other questions to surface. What information was available to Lincoln, when did he receive it, and how did he react to the knowledge? Carnahan's perceptive analysis of critical issues such as the bombardment of cities, collateral damage to civilians, and the execution of hostages places Lincoln's decisions in their proper context. Carnahan also investigates a wide range of historical materials, from accounts of the Dahlgren raid to the voices of Southern civilians who bore the brunt of extensive wartime destruction.

Instead of issuing the late president a verdict of guilty or not guilty, Carnahan carefully considers the differences in historical and modern standards of war. Lincoln on Trial documents President Lincoln's policies toward Southerners, offering readers a unique glimpse of nineteenth-century warfare as well as the greatest president.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Carnahan amply illustrates the legal, political, and moral difficulties that Lincoln and the military forces of the Union had in dealing with Confederate rebels." — books, etc.

"This is a book to delight the legal mind in all of us.... Carnahan focuses on the President's reactions to the treatment of Southern civilians by Union forces and explores the law and usages of war accepted in the mid-nineteenth century." — Northern Kentucky Heritage

"By providing context, background and corresponding examples about various (and often tragic) events, the author produces a good source for those seeking a better understanding. This book would interest those who enjoy lively debates about Lincoln-providing ammunition to both sides." — Matthew Rector, Bits and Pieces (Hardin Co. Historical Society)

"The problems of determining how to deal with civilians in enemy territory abs irregular enemy combinations will resonate with students and should lead to lively discussion." — H-Net Reviews

"Covers Lincoln's policies as they affected Southern civilian property, his attitude toward Union counter-guerrilla tactics and his views on the bombardment of Confederate cities." — Journal of Military History

"This useful and insightful book addresses some very pertinent issues in the mid-19th century. As an introduction to the legal issues of the Civil War, Carnahan's work is advanced in its arguments yet simple enough for novice readers to understand." — Choice

"As an introduction to the leagl issues of the Civil War, Carnahan's work is advanced in its arguments yet simple enough for novice readers to understand." — Choice

"[A] readable, interesting, and compelling book." — West Viginia History

"Carnahan provides us with quality research and a provocative and stimulating interpretation of these sources, and this helps him both clarify Lincoln and the nature of the war." — Law and Politics Book Review

"Burrus M. Carnahan's short Lincoln on Trial nicely extends the consideration of Lincoln as a wartime president and an international lawyer. Carnahan insightfully discusses Lincoln's interpretation of the nineteenth century's emerging law of war and this interpreation's impact on civilians." —

"Of particular interest are Carnahan's explanations of Lincoln's approach to governance of southern churches, his directives about foraging and the capture of private 'property,' and his doctrines on guerilla fighters and Southern sailors. Readers will also find enlightening Carnahan's explanation of Lincoln's failure to codify for his officers clear policies for their war-time decions-making when dealing with non-combatants in the South." — Studies in American Culture

"Lincoln on Trial offers readers a fresh insight into a long discussed issue and also allows for a greater understanding of the character and values of one of America's most revered presidents." — Lone Star Book Review

"An authoritative history of a subject that was an almost completely undeveloped part of the Civil War research agenda just a few years ago—namely, that of the formation, development, and application of the international law of war during the Civil War by Lincoln, his cabinet, and his officers." — Journal of Southern History

"Demonstrates how the Lincoln administration's use of law helped to bring about defeat of the so-called Confederacy. This significant work should be read by professional historians and non-historians for the insights it brings into Lincoln and his administration's policies." — Journal of East Tennessee History

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813134598
  • Publisher: University Press of Kentucky
  • Publication date: 7/15/2011
  • Pages: 176
  • Sales rank: 958,558
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.70 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Burrus M. Carnahan, a retired Air Force officer, professorial lecturer at George Washington University Law School, and foreign affairs officer in the U.S. Department of State, is the author of Act of Justice: Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation and the Law of War.

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