Friday, November 9, 2012

Stonewall Jackson and the Black Flag

Regardless of one's views on the War Between the States, an interesting historical fact is that the great Confederate General, Stonewall Jackson, believed that the black flag policy in the Old Testament still applies, and that it should be applied in particular to the Union army as a means to counter its brutality. This comes out in a conversation with his brother-in-law, Captain Barringer.

While Jackson does not specify any particular passages from Scripture, perhaps he had at least in mind Deuteronomy 20:10-15. While some Old Testament war passages were commands unique to the promised land (as they dealt specifically with waging war with non-Israelites who lived in the promised land), this particular passage gives the Israelites conditions for implementing the black flag when involved in a just war with nations outside the promised land. As such, it is worth considering whether the principles of this passage do in fact apply today.

General Stonewall Jackson's comments to Captain Barringer:
I recall, Captain Barringer, the talk you and I once had at my table in Lexington in the heated party struggle of 1860. Though differing in politics, we happened to agree as to the character of this war, if it once began. We both thought it would be internecine in its results. Neither of us had any special concern for slavery, but both agreed that if the sword was once drawn, the South would have no alternative but to defend her homes and firesides, slavery and all. 
I myself see in this war, if the North triumph, a dissolution of the bonds of all society. It is not alone the destruction of our property (which both the nation and the States are bound to protect), but it is the prelude to anarchy, infidelity, and the ultimate loss of free responsible government on this continent. With these convictions, I always thought we ought to meet the Federal invaders on the outer verge of just right and defence, and raise at once the black flag, viz., "No quarter to the violators of our homes and firesides!" It would in the end have proved true humanity and mercy. The Bible is full of such wars, and it is the only policy that would bring the North to its senses.
But I see now clearly enough the people of the South were not prepared for such a policy. I have myself cordially accepted the policy of our leaders. They are great and good men. Possibly, too, as things then stood, no other policy was left open to us than the one pursued by President Davis and General Lee. But all this is now suddenly changed by the cruel and utterly barbarous orders of General Pope, who is not only subsisting his army on the people of Culpepper, and levying contributions upon them, but has laid whole communities under the pains and penalties of death or banishment; and in certain cases directed that houses shall be razed to the ground, and citizens shot without waiting civil process. ...
General Lee is now considering certain special features of my war policy as applicable to the present emergency, and as the only way to check Pope's dastardly system of warfare and plunder. Unfortunately, the Confederate authorities are fully committed to a different policy — in fact, to a very stilted style of waging war. In every aspect the situation is embarrassing. McClellan is nominally in command, and his mode of warfare is in strict conformity to the usages of civilized nations. 
But here is Pope, right under the eye of Mr. Lincoln, violating all the so-called principles of modern warfare, and manifestly expecting to supersede McClellan and desolate the South. With McClellan on one side of Richmond, and Pope on the other, each with a vast army, and with their apparently opposing policies, it is impossible to choose your own special plan of campaign or to change your general military methods. But General Lee is equal to whatever emergency may arise, and I trust implicitly to his great ability and superior wisdom. All I can say is that he has (as I told you) heard certain suggestions of mine, and has promised me to consider their force and application, if circumstances permit.[1]


[1] Cited in Mary Anna Jackson, Life and Letters of General Thomas J. Jackson (Stonewall Jackson) (New York, Harper & Brothers, 1892), 309, 310, 312, 313. Comments are according to Barringer.


Anonymous said...

No quarter policy? If implimented, I believe the US civil war would have ended up like most. When the south surrendered, the north would have went on a rampage. Not endorsing that, but I believe that would have happened.


The Schaubing Blogk said...

Deu 20:10 When thou comest nigh unto a city to fight against it, then proclaim peace unto it.
Deu 20:11 And it shall be, if it make thee answer of peace, and open unto thee, then it shall be, that all the people that is found therein shall be tributaries unto thee, and they shall serve thee.
Deu 20:12 And if it will make no peace with thee, but will make war against thee, then thou shalt besiege it:
Deu 20:13 And when the LORD thy God hath delivered it into thine hands, thou shalt smite every male thereof with the edge of the sword:
Deu 20:14 But the women, and the little ones, and the cattle, and all that is in the city, even all the spoil thereof, shalt thou take unto thyself; and thou shalt eat the spoil of thine enemies, which the LORD thy God hath given thee.
Deu 20:15 Thus shalt thou do unto all the cities which are very far off from thee, which are not of the cities of these nations.

Dave said...

The North did go on a rampage. Do you recall Sherman or Reconstruction? It took my family three generations to recover.
Anyone whose family fought and died for the South would know these things. Thats the whole point of this article and General Jackson's statement, throughout the war the South maintained a "civil" war. I can name countless examples of acts of cruelty that would not conform to what was considered acceptable by a professional military in 1860, committed by the Union. Yet Davis and Lee would not "unleash the hounds of hell" as Lincoln did.
I do not think we will repeat that mistake should a second one occur.
One of our main enemies, Islamic fundamentalist, already have a black flag, literally, that they display proudly and they intend nothing less than the complete subjugation of western liberty, by any means.
We will not surrender to evil again nor will we compromise further.

Jimmy the Saint said...

The black flag isn't "no quarter". It's "no quarter *IF* you resist." An army under the black flag will accept a surrender before the battle begins.

The red flag is straight up "no quarter". An army flying the red flag will kill everyone regardless of whether or not they fight.

KeithE said...

Dave, I could not agree more. The so called "civil war" was not about the Confederate States takeing over the United States government, but to seperate and form their own confederation of states. It was never a war in the terms we know as a civil war. Gen. Lee and cohorts understood the term "civil" differently than we do. No, I'm afraid the next one will not be so civil. I do hope I nor my grandsons see it, but to be honest, it could began any day. Maybe it will not be a single day, but speaking for myself, the day U.N. troops are stationed on my countries soil, the same country I took took an oath to defend and still consider that oath to hold true. That is the day I won't be back at work. There will be work to be done, for sure. Just of a different nature.

Ken said...

Sherman's tooth picks dot the rural South to this day.
For any that don't know those are brick chimneys, all that was left of the homes burned by Sherman's rampaging, thieving, raping hordes. Then there was "reconstruction" further decimating the South who wanted nothing more than to be left alone with self government. . .

Ron Patton said...

..Absolutely brother. I have my Northern friends ask me all of the time, why is it that you southerners never forget? My answer is very simple. This war took place on our land. It happened in our communities and in our front lawns and pastures. It took the lives of our women and children. It was our people who were disenfranchised and had their homes destroyed the cattle killed and their crops burned so that they were left Starving in the winter. That is why we do not forget. When I was a child I was entertained and horrified at the same time by first hand accounts by members of my own family who had lived through the raping and the murder ofthe innocent by the marauding bands of Union troops that swarmed through our land under the orders of men like Sherman to the northerner this is something that happened long ago to a
Foreign people