Burrus M. Carnahan

in Lincoln on Trial

Published by University Press of Kentucky

Published in print January 2010 | ISBN: 9780813125695
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780813135380 | DOI:

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This chapter explores the general policies Abraham Lincoln adopted toward enemy civilians. It also analyzes the possible reasons for his reluctance to widely disseminate these policies, and suggests some insights these explorations may give into Lincoln's character. Under the standards of his time, President Lincoln did not authorize or condone any violations of the laws of war against enemy civilians. Beyond this generalization, the record suggests additional conclusions that may be drawn on Lincoln's policies toward Southern civilians and how those policies reflect his leadership style and personality. Instead of issuing general guidance, President Lincoln tended to wait until specific abuses were brought to his attention by individual petitioners. He may have been reluctant to issue general guidelines for the treatment of Southern civilians for the same reason he was reluctant to join the abolitionists. To restore the Union, Lincoln would tolerate strong measures that brought injustice to some white civilians because he was convinced that these measures placed the rebellion on the course of ultimate defeat.

Keywords: Abraham Lincoln; policies; enemy civilians; laws of war; Southern civilians; Union

Chapter.  3924 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas

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