Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Excerpts from the Articles of War

The Articles of War were to be applied to every member of the US Armed Forces, Officer and Enlisted.

Military personnel were encouraged to attend a “divine service.” If an enlisted man misbehaved at church, the penalty was forfeiture of 1/6 of a dollar for the first offence. Additional offensives were penalized by forfeiture of 1/6 of a dollar plus 24 hours confinement. Officers were penalized one dollar for such offensives.

For the offense of “contemptuous or disrespectful words” against the President, Vice-President, Congressmembers, or State officials, the officer was stripped of his commission and made to leave the service. Enlisted soldiers were court-martial.

For disrespect to a superior officer, both officers and enlisted were court-martialed.

For mutiny and sedition, the prescribed punishment was death.

For witnessing mutiny and sedition, and failing to attempt to stop it by either reporting it or suppressing it, the prescribed punishment was death.

For striking a superior officer, and/or disobeying a direct order from same, the offender could receive any penalty up to death.

All enlisted personnel had to have the Articles of War read to him within six days of enlistment.

No one was to be released from the Army without a written discharge in his possession.

The Regimental commander had the authority to issue furloughs as needed. Such furloughs were limited to 20 days within a six month period.

False furlough certificates were punished via a court-martial.

The penalty for a mustering officer receiving money for mustering troops was dismissal from the service and disqualification from holding any Federal office. The same penalty applied for making up muster rolls without having the actual bodies.

The Regimental commander had to provide a report of manning levels at the end of every month.

The penalty for desertion was death, or other prescribed punishment. The same punishment was prescribed for anyone who tried to get others to desert.

The penalty for dueling was dismissal for officers, court-martial for enlisted.

Sutlers were prohibited from selling from 9:00 p.m. to Reveille, as well as Sundays during services. They were also held responsible for the quality of their goods. Failure to do so resulted in banishment from the camp.

Officers were required to resolve all problems within the unit. It reflected badly on an officer if higher ups had to deal with it.

Supply personnel who either sold, lost, or allowed damage to the supplies they were responsible for were required to pay back the cost of the involved items. Officers were dismissed while enlisted were court-martialed.

Any soldier who either sold, lost, or allowed damage to the equipment he was issued had ½ of his pay docked until the value of the equipment was realized, as well as confinement.

Officers found drunk on duty were court-martialed.

Soldiers found asleep on duty were sentenced to death.

Soldiers who “misbehaved before the enemy” were sentenced up to and including death.

Revealing the sign/countersign to unauthorized personnel could result in death.

Helping enemy personnel evade capture could have resulted in death. (Kind of tough on families with sons on both sides.)

Army Engineers were not authorized to perform duties outside their specialty without approval.

If a soldier died while on duty, the Commanding Officer, with two other officers, had to gather the effects of the deceased, arrange for their transport home, and any pay sent to the deceased member’s family.

The proscribed sentence for spying was death.


The board for a General court-martial consisted of five to thirteen officers.

Courts-martial were authorized as low as the Regimental level. The board convened had to consist of at least three officers. If the unit was short of officers, other units could be asked to provide such.

For capital cases, or cases involving officers, the lowest level that could hold the court-martial was at Brigade level.

The Judge Advocate was the prosecutor in the case.

If the defendant remained silent, the court was to go on as he had pled not guilty.

The court had to conduct themselves with decorum. The same court had the power to administer penalties for abusive behavior within the court.
All who gave testimony had to swear to the truth before the court.

Testimonies in non-capital cases were allowed to be sworn before a Justice-of-the-Peace.

Officers could not be tried by those of inferior rank if possible.

Officers charged were confined to barracks, quarters, or tent and made to surrender his sword. Enlisted were confined to the guardhouse. Neither could be held longer than eight days.

If an officer was convicted of cowardice or fraud, information about the incident, charge, and punishment was to be published in the newspapers of the offender’s home state.

It required a vote of 2/3 of the board to issue a sentence of death or 50 lashes.

The court did have the authority to pardon or lessen a sentence.

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