Revelations that detainees at
How far our country has strayed from its founding ideals! George Washington, after capturing a thousand Hessians at Trenton, commanded his subordinates to “Treat them with humanity, and let them have no reason to Complain of our Copying the brutal example of the British Army,” who were notorious for maltreating POWs aboard their prison ships.
As Chair of the Board of War and Ordnance, John Adams complained of hearing “continual accounts of the barbarities, the cruel murder in cold blood, even by the most tormenting ways of starving and freezing, committed by our enemies” and advised a policy of “Yankee virtue” toward captives in American hands. During the War of 1812, President James Madison called torture an “outrage against the laws of honorable war and against the feelings sacred to humanity.”
Sentiments like these were codified in Lincoln’s administration under the “General Orders No. 100” which affirmed that “Military necessity does not admit of cruelty—that is, the infliction of suffering for the sake of suffering or for revenge, nor of maiming or wounding except in fight, nor of torture to extort confessions.”